(Footwear News, July 2004)
Hip, Trendy and Young - Bread & Butter Berlin Booms
A unique concept, an exceptional selection of brands, a great party mood - everything was perfect at Bread & Butter Berlin (BBB) for the young, hip, and trendy fashion biz visitors. That is if they actually made it to the show, considering traffic jams and hour-long lines reflecting BBB's popularity.
The obvious organizational and infrastructure problems are the only and maybe inevitable downside of BBB's still young and upcoming charm. Hip and trendy, but a bit chaotic - truly unique for a trade show in Germany.
The first Bread & Butter took place in Cologne in 2001. Last year it moved to Berlin, the new fashion capital of Germany. While big business is still made in shows like the GDS in Dusseldorf, Berlin has now passed the phase of being a place only for small start-up labels and has become a hot location for the international fashion scene. So BBB made the right move at the right time. Its motto "Berlingold" shall reflect the optimism and avant-garde of Berlin fashion in the roaring 20ies.
The show has been very successful for the last three years and it continues to boom. From July 16 to 18, 600 brands showed their collections to over 40,000 visitors, with more than half from abroad. The fair location breathes industrial charm: the area covers 55,000 square meters housed in five old Siemens factory halls on a little island in a canal. BBB calls itself a "Tradeshow for Selected Brands" from urban wear, street couture, sports wear, casual wear, designer & high fashion, and footwear. The shoe portion has stayed the same. Also the footwear segments at BBB have not changed much during these three years. It's still predominantly sneakers.
"The respected brands must be here," says Karl-Heinz Mueller, one of BBB's three initiators and heads. "We want to select them. They have to fit to us. They have to bring the right image, not to get it through us. We will even cut exhibitors, if they don't fit to our concept." He likes to stress the idea that BBB is not all about big biz. "This is like a high school meeting of people who like and accept each other."
Apparently, he hits the right tone with the vendors. "The resonance is super as always. The concept works perfectly. Here you truly live what you sell," rejoices Peter Frericks, sales manager of Converse. "This is a great show: concept, feeling what this is all about, energy, even the low height of the walls," praises Charles Dallain, vice president of GBMI, which does the marketing for Pony at BBB.
The recent ispovision show for sports inspired fashion in Munich gets lower grades by exhibitors. "It's too quiet and separated. It almost has the character of a museum, but we sell emotion," notes Frank Beier, sales manager at Pony. "You can't compare the two shows," says Tobias Carl, sales manager at Urban Supplies for DC Shoes. "We have more contact with customers here. Many exhibitors have to decide if they go to Munich or Berlin and most prefer Berlin."
One of them is Nike. It was present at BBB from the very beginning on. "In former shows we were strong in retro styles and running. Now we show more basketball shoes like Jordan Style, Nowitzki Style, Air Force, and Dunk, which you can sell in department stores," says Ariane Massmann, communications manager at Nike. "The collections are mostly from European lines, which are partly unavailable in the US."
Exhibitors noticed two trends at the show. "Many labels now sell shoes as accessories: flip flops, sneakers, and imitations of our Chuck Taylor style," says Frericks from Converse. And Beier adds: "Sneakers remain strong, but you can see a certain fatigue in the German market. Next trend for women's footwear will be sexy and open shoes with heels and sneaker sandals."
Since BBB has been mainly geared towards street wear for men, the show makers decided to expand their concept. From January 21 to 23 in 2005 the new "milk & honey" trade show will be held along with "bread & butter". Additional spaces will be constructed to present a refined assortment of feminine-oriented brands. "We want to unite modern clothing culture for men and women. We also plan a kids' area. The brands will fit to us - no typical kids' brands," says Mueller.