There’s an interesting thing happening in the trade show circuit. Although traditional markets continue across the country, naysayers warn that the tried and true b2b market is dying and that “business to consumer” or b2c is the new way forward. It creates some anxiety across the grid. Breathe a sigh of relief, retailer, and have no fear, brands small and large because the hard working folks at UBM seem to have solved the dilemma. Tommy Fazio, UBM Men’s Fashion Director along with Danielle Franken, UBM Women’s Fashion Director and their respective teams are simply working longer hours to cater to both the b2b and b2c ends of the spectrum.
“We’re taking a poll with all of our brands,” says Fazio, “Social selling to consumers is extremely important but there is significant business on the b2b side. We are not going to change our b2b business. We all talk about Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Bergdorf, etc. but we can’t forget there are literally thousands of specialty stores from New York to Los Angeles and they need to be able to find brands.” In addition, Fazio and Franken know that the consumer craves the same entrée to the brands, too. To that end, UBM is taking the show on the road with carefully curated pop up shops planned throughout the country that allow the consumer an entertaining shopping experience that either beats or enhances any shopping done online.
The first of these ventures is UBM’s Coterie Pop Up in Miami. Housed in the 10,000 square foot, four floor space left by the city’s Museum of Ice Cream, the Coterie Pop Up needs no tickets and is open to anyone and everyone. The diverse population of brands will focus on buy now, wear now options such as swim, caftans and hats. Franken says that the consumer does, indeed want to come out of the house to shop, it just has to be a bit of a special experience. “People want to buy in store but they want to bring something home as a momento,” she says. “Like gift shop moments. Since Coterie is a household name in the b2b, it’s time we expand into the b2c capacity and we’re doing it without competing with our retailers.”
Fazio couldn’t agree more. “We’ve thought about things that can bring the excitement back,” he says. “Our direct to consumer pop ups will be across the country, allowing the brands to get to the consumer.”
And as Fazio promised, the UBM trade side of things is just as enticing. Project, for instance, is debuting their collaborative exchange with White Milano. “What a great opportunity,” Fazio says. “We can bring Italian brands here and take our brands over there.” Over the coming two seasons, the exchange between shows will build to include about 20 Italian brands gaining access to the American market through Project. The partnership kicked off this season with Project’s menswear brand Abasi Rosborough showing overseas.
As a CFDA strategic partner, Fazio also plans to bring five young CFDA talents to the Tents at Project, New York. In addition, there will be space provided in New York for a graduating Parsons Design student to show their wares. The four or five lucky students become a sort of “ones to watch” during the show, leading to opportunities the designers would not usually have access to.
Project is also upping its streetwear game by getting together with hip digital publication Highsnobiety. The show’s media partner will be present at the Commune section of the Vegas show. “We are going to build that area,” says Fazio. “We’re showing contemporary streetwear that is trend driven and on point. It’s what fashion is now and the recent runways have proven that.” Speaking of trends, Project has not forgotten about the golf look that’s so hot on the street right now. Men’s Project Golf will showcase brands like Psycho Bunny, Travis Matthew and Lacoste.
Meanwhile, the champagne will be flowing at The Tents at Project, which will expand to elevate and refocus attention on luxury brands like Vince and Baldwin. Never forgetting the little guy, Fazio speaks, also, about The Foundry, which exemplifies what he calls “artisanal, farm to closet brands.”
Over at Magic, UBM is pairing with FashionGo, the online b2b marketplace, to provide access to Magic’s wholesale brands. Working together, the two industry platforms will bring sought after face-to-face engagement mixed with FashionGo’s speed and ease.
The teams at UBM are not slowing down, feeling that the excitement comes only when the vast b2b market is satisfied and the consumer is also engaged. And that can be done separately, carefully and in experimental ways. “Both New York and Vegas have come to life,” says Fazio. “New York is high profile and fast while Vegas represents three days of hard shopping. All the while, direct to consumer pop ups mean significant business.”