Fashion First debuts in Europe

25 February 2005

The first event ever for competitively priced footwear and related fashion Accessories took place at Brussels Expo in Belgium from January 31 to February 2, 2005. Fashion First presented a cross-section of stylish, innovative and uniquely affordable products from 23 countries and regions. Michael Duck, director of Asia Pacific Leather Fair Ltd, the organisers, says: 'This new exhibition has set a landmark, by creating the first ever platform for the promotion of competitively priced footwear and related fashion accessories, at a centrally located and very accessible venue, in Brussels, the heart of Europe. More than 150 exhibiting companies have shown the commitment and trust necessary to establish a brand new exhibition - Europe's only specifically targeted event for multiple retailers and distributors of fashion accessories - and with this firm foundation in place, many more exhibitors will now join for the next edition in June 2005, to reap the rewards of a presence at the centre of a market worth more than 40 billion euros for footwear alone.' Fashion First in Brussels proved to be a particularly convenient and readily accessible showcase event for buying groups arriving from Benelux, France, Germany and the UK. It also demonstrated considerable appeal for buyers travelling from Greece, Scandinavia, the Baltic states and even from as far away as Canada, Japan, Kuwait, South Africa and the US. Michael Duck adds: 'The inaugural edition of Fashion First attracted an impressive selection of high quality buyers and apart from meeting new suppliers for the first time we understand that some substantial orders were made on site with the exhibitors.' Exhibitors acknowledged the great potential of the fair. David Wang, chairman of Golden Dragon International Shoes & Leather Industry Trade Plaza (China) says: 'The fair is well organised and has great potential. It is in the best location, at the centre of Europe and the buyers I meet here are quality buyers. We have already expanded our exhibition space at the June edition by booking eight stands.' Mr Wang is also deputy president of the Association of Guangdong Shoes Manufacturers. According to Martha Felix and Cassia Teixeira of Studio TMLS (Brazil), they made new contacts with the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Denmark at Fashion First and received an on-site order of 4,080 pairs. Wilburn Huai of Zhejiang Shiner I & E Co Ltd (China), manufacturers of small leathergoods, says: 'Being a first time exhibitor at Fashion First, I am pleased to meet the quality buyers who are new to us and even better, they have placed orders too!' General manager of Merit Trading Co (China), Daniel Ko, who is also the president of Guangzhou Chamber of International Commerce: 'I met many new buyers at Fashion First. I am happy with this new chance of developing a new market and surely I will rebook.' Buyers were pleased with the pricing levels and positioning of the products available from Fashion First exhibitors and keen to take up every opportunity. Comments from the show floor highlighted the geographical diversity of the attendees: Jacob Abisch of Goodshield (UK) remarked: 'We came to source children's footwear from Asia and were very pleased with the new suppliers we found from China and Hong Kong, which have very good quality products at low prices. Fashion First is ideal for this purpose and we look forward to returning in June', whilst Anton Llewelyn of 21st Century GB Ltd (UK) was 'very impressed by the Brazilian footwear'. Marta Tadeo Casas of Out-Stock (Spain) added 'We were amazed at the very high standard of new suppliers, made a lot of new contacts, found the show excellent and are already looking forward to visiting in June to place further orders', whilst if for Goele Zels of NV Zels (Belgium), Fashion First provided the chance to 'find suppliers to produce belts and bags in China', for Kenneth Engdahl of Argos I & C Leather AB (Sweden) the fair enabled us to make many new contacts particularly for handbags', a sentiment echoed by many like Corinne de Haas of Viva la Donna (Netherlands) who found Fashion First 'a great source of fashion accessories from Asia'. Alfred Magnus of Magnus and Warren (UK) 'picked up some new Chinese footwear manufacturers', Ake Stjernstrom of Have 2 Have (Sweden), also a footwear buyer, found a good supplier and remarked 'an event of this kind in the heart of Europe, in Brussels, is a great advantage', a view shared by others like Jean Beesters of Belizia Shoe (Belgium) who also placed orders for footwear and agreed that the Fashion First concept was 'very good and promising for the future.' 1,246 visitors from over 50 countries visited this debut event. A variety of trade commissioners, key industry and trade association directors also made a point of visiting, including Krisada Piampongsant, minister of the Thai Commercial Office in Brussels, who accompanied H E Don Pramudwinai, Thai Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Communities. Piampongsant commented 'Fashion First is an ideal platform for the promotion of Thai fashion accessories to a wider European audience and we look forward to a bigger Thai pavilion at the next fair in June.' Diana Fiveash, chief executive of the British Luggage and Leather Goods Association, who was visiting, summed up by saying: 'The fair has great potential and I am confident that it will be very attractive to my members as a good venue to meet potential new buyers.' Needless to say, Fashion First also got a thumbs-up for its timing, standards of service and accessibility, which for buyers of competitively priced goods represented an absolute first. With exhibitors from 23 countries and regions, the highlights at Fashion First were many, from the sports casual shoes offered by Merit Trading Co to the startlingly glamorous ladies' fashion boots by Studio TMLS, from the superb detailing of Kente Design's colourful footwear and accessories to the immaculately finished ranges of Indian leathergoods, from the functional and innovative Taiwanese travel goods to the stylish leather garments from Pakistan, from Toni 2's trendy footwear ranges to Kidderminster's eye-catching bestsellers, from Mike Mike's 'hip' accessories collection to Ravazzoli's highly contemporary shoe designs, from Xti's young fashions to Chauss-Europ's casual footwear ranges, from Bical's snappy children's footwear to the diversity of Ming Shi Shoes - not to mention countless other ranges from some of the world's most qualified and competitive manufacturers and suppliers. In addition to launching an unprecedented selection of innovative products into the European arena and allowing buyers to meet face-to-face with a host of new suppliers, Fashion First enabled market newcomers to finalise distribution agreements and fostered discussion on partnerships in design and production. This networking forum included an extensive programme of seminars, chaired by renowned industry figures such as: Peter Mangione, president of Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, who delivered a highly informative presentation on footwear distribution in the US; Lucien David Langman, director of Compagnie Nationale Des Experts M C T H who examined intellectual property rights issues; J L Chaverot of CTC who surveyed consumer expectations and testing methods; Brice Luang who looked at data management systems; Maira Bernardi of Walking Fashion who forecast upcoming design trends; Michelle Wan of APLF who detailed sourcing channels in Asia - not to mention a workshop, conducted by representatives of several Asian industry associations, which outlined the astounding potential of Asian manufacturing bases. Another attraction was the eye-catching Trend Forum, dubbed 'Forest of the Fashion', created by Parisian style consultants Olivier Guillemin, president of the French Colour Authority, and Olivier Vedrine of the [o,o] agency, which highlighted the remarkable scope of the Fashion First exhibitors, with an imaginative display of the most original styles and models on offer at the exhibition. Michael Duck, director of APLF Ltd, concludes: 'We would like to thank everyone in the industry for supporting Fashion First and for showing the courage and commitment necessary to make Europe's first and only specifically targeted event for multiple retailers and distributors of fashion accessories a reality. On the basis of the encouraging response to this first edition, Fashion First can look forward to increasing substantially in size and importance in the immediate future at the June show. The next edition of Fashion First will be held in Brussels, June 20-22, 2005.

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