Making the Most of Trade Shows for your Business

Hurray...It's Textile & Yarn Expo Week in NYC!!!

This last week was a super busy week for fashion in the city. I know we tend to hyper focus on the excitement that goes hand in hand with the glamour of New York Fashion Week in the city, but did you know that it’s the expo trade shows that really kick it all off. It's the behind the scenes of the fabric, yarn, trimmings, prints, marketing and manufacturing shows that provide designers with all of the best new ideas and suppliers that can help us get our ideas made into reality. This is where we get our hands dirty and start working on the product development and putting our ideas together.

Laying out some of the many new fabric and yarn trends that I've compiled from the trade shows--the beginning of the design process.

Trade shows are a great way to make new connections, find new resources, and stay current and up to date with new technologies in your particular field. Even in the arena of fashion fabrics, it's truly amazing what is being developed in performance capabilities all the while keeping the fabrics looking more fashionable than just functional--wrinkle resist, water repellent, body cooling, thermal conducting, fabrics that look like woven but with 4-way stretch, 3-D knitting,....it's endless and sometimes overwhelming.

As a design director, I truly appreciate the ability of the industry to bring so many resources into the city in one week and really see the whole range of what exists in a very compacted time frame. On the other hand, when it’s such a busy week as this week packed 4 great shows into 3 days as well as other surrounding seminars, roundtable discussions and many valuable exhibitions—it’s difficult to see it all and still manage the day to day business of my job. One of the best ways to manage it all is to have each of my designers take on a show or a seminar and come back to report in on the key take-away ideas of the show. This helps to cover more ground effectively.

The range of shows was also well planned as it covered mass market, high end, start up, and everything in between....

Some of the shows from the past week....

My first show was Spin Expo NY which is the creme de la creme of the knitting industry. It high-lights all of the newest in yarn development as well as knitting factories who can help to make your garments if you don't already have an existing relationship with a factory. As I knew I would be going to some of these expo shows, I did make a few appointments with certain suppliers that I already know and who usually come to present their newest collections. Once they make their presentations, you can usually ask them for fabric/yarn swatches or headers. They may even have an overall book made specifically for the expo that you can take away as a high-light of their whole collection. Definitely ask for samples and take-aways. That's what these shows are for. They are catering to your needs and you need as much tangible ammunition to take back and keep on hand. Sometimes the vendors will have samples ready for you to take right from the booth and other times, vendors will make your list and prepare it to ship a week or two after the show. After you go to so many shows and booths, it's hard to keep track of everything so make it easy and take samples, business cards (staple them to the brochures so they don't get lost), take photos of everything so you can remember your contact person and also the items you were interested in. As soon as I get back to my office, I start to organize everything into folders to make it easy when I'm looking for something later.

At one of our suppliers, Winning Textile to see some new fine gauge yarns for some sexy body-con knit dressing

A gorgeous presentation of fall friendly chunky yarns from GTIG Huasheng

Sometimes the trade shows are just so busy that it's hard to get in to see the particular suppliers you really want to focus on. The best thing to do is grab a business card and make a contact so that you can touch base after the show. And other times, the suppliers and resources who may be based overseas stay in town for a few additional days after the trade shows and can make an appointment to come to your office and spend the time to really show you the full range of their products and services.

The second show I attended was Premierevision NY. This show is the high end, trend direction setting resource for textiles, trimmings and prints. Some of the most premium suppliers are at these shows--companies that supply fabrics to Chanel, Dior, and Jason Wu just to name a few high end designers. Fabrics costing upwards of $100.00 a yard, BUT don't be intimidated by shows of this nature. If you're not in the high end premium fabric business, in between some of these booths, you may just find some suppliers that are more your speed. For instance, I did find a couple of booths supplying fabrics from $3.00 to $11.00 a yard that were gorgeous and just the things I could use. It's also OK to walk into the high end booths and take a look to see what is trending--take some mental notes and keep yourself abreast of what is happening at the high end level. I know my customers are always asking for market intelligence about what I am seeing in the industry so it's a valuable tool even though I may not actually be able to walk away with anything physically tangible to use.

Checking out NY based and made faux furs from Funtastic Furs

Walking through the print supplier section of Premierevision. This is such a great way to see all of the newest directional trends happening in the world of prints--this season it looks like exploded floral prints and bold color '60s inspired simplified shapes are some of the incoming trends.

Trimmings of all kinds to finish off your designs. The multi-color pom poms are definitely a huge trend right now.

The next show I attended was Texworld. This was held at the Javits Center and is a great show for my particular customer base as it keys in on suppliers and resources that are within my main customer's price points--from mass market to slightly higher contemporary pricing. This is my jackpot trade show. This is where I spend quite a bit of time when it comes to seeking out newness in fabrics and new suppliers who are willing to help develop even newer fabrics with my company. I can make relationships with these suppliers that can really help to grown my business. I spent a good chunk of my day on Wednesday here making new contacts and setting up appointments either for later in the week in my office or potentially when I'm traveling overseas to see their facilities.

Endless amounts of fabric options at one supplier's booth

Some of the top hi-lights of fabric trends included the following...

Novelty tweed looking knits that mimic woven that you might see in a Chanel design...these have lots of stretch so you can create a very sleek look while keeping that "tailored" woven look

Eclectic muti-color knits that have a very "Gucci-esque" feel. Mixing and matching done with enough thought behind it but looking a bit haphazard.

Textures--textures--textures...we cannot get enough of them!!

Fun rib knits done in unusual multi-colors, with a bit of shine, or melange or interesting patterns incorporated--fun newness when it comes to stripes and ribs

Loving this simple monochromatic look of textured knits, pleats, ribs, crunchy textures with a bit of sheerness--a palette and feel that feels like Morocco or Greece...gorgeous for high summer and transitional time periods...

The last show that we checked out was the DG Expo at Penn Plaza. This is a show that is geared to smaller businesses. Products and services that have low minimums to help support small and start-up businesses. So even though my company is geared towards bigger accounts and much higher volume, a show like this is great for me because I can utilize these suppliers when I need something done very quickly and locally to help get something up and running without having to meet high minimum requirements that most of my overseas suppliers and factories require. I can also have it turned around quite quickly. It's just as important to think about the start-up opportunities that help turn small businesses into large businesses. They go hand in hand. This is a place where you can find local sample rooms to produce small runs and do quick embellishment (embroidery, beading, etc.). Also, because many of these services are offered in the US, the manufacturing can be done much more close to season so it gives me a lot of insight into the most current, fast turn, fast fashion fabrics that are being requested by their customers. Once again--more good insight to share with my own customers.

.....and after this exhausting but exciting and productive week, I finally had Friday in the office to start to lay it all out and really bring it all together so that I can start to utilize it in the best way for my customers. I'm anxiously awaiting for all of the great suppliers I saw to send me their headers of fabrics with their pricing so I can start to get rolling on a new season of product development.......It's the most wonderful time of the year for a designer!


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