Image source: www.zootmagazine.com
Bread & Butter – that’s B&B, without the ‘Air’ – is the leading trade show for everyday and streetwear clothing. Established in 2001, it has long been a forerunner of cool for the traditional trade show format – in 2011, the New York Times dubbed the fashion fair a “uniquely Berlin experience” that has played a key part in transforming a “fashion dead zone” into a burgeoning fashion capital.
B&B’s unique combination of rock-festival atmosphere and big-name streetwear brands (think Adidas, Diesel and G-Star) seemed to be a magic formula. But even the most forward-thinking of trade shows face challenges in the digital age: by the end of last year, the company had filed for insolvency, and cancelled its January 2015 show altogether.
This week, it was announced that the hugely successful e-tailer Zalando has signed a letter of intent to acquire the B&B business, hoping to secure its future and help the company climb out of insolvency by October 2015. A B&B event in Berlin Tempelhof will run from July 7-9 – but will news of the sale restore streetwear brands’ trust in a once mighty fashion trade show?
There’s a larger question mark here, as the traditional trade show industry wonders what technology-led, e-commerce companies can do for them in a digital age. With SXSW and Decoded Fashion’s own model spearheading hybrid trade show formats that can combine the best of fashion and technology, the traditional, twice-a-year, seasonal expo format is being disrupted. Today, the mission of brand building for smaller fashion start-ups begins online – for some, e-commerce opportunities and social media traction may mean they can stay there, reducing the need to showcase their items to trade buyers only, in real life.
Nevertheless, this week’s acquisition could be a win-win scenario for both brands. For Bread & Butter, its financial future has been secured, and it also stands to benefit from the resources that Europe’s biggest fashion retailer could offer, while Zalando’s “bigger, faster, better” approach to online retail could inject the show with a new relevance. For Zalando, the move forms part of a greater mission to increase its fashion credibility: the site has seen a new art direction, a campaign with influential face Cara Delevingne and collaborations with Topshop and Gap in a bid to be deemed more stylish. A new show concept for Bread & Butter could be the next stage in its reinvention.
Reported by Claire Healy