A Guide through Ethical & Sustainable Fashion Trade Shows
I always get questions about where to source, what trade shows are the right for new brands with an ethical focus. Then it comes the big word “budget” that always comes to mind to make that huge decision when investing for traveling to venues and trade shows. Therefore I wanted to create the Guide through Ethical & sustainable fashion trade shows to watch & join this year.
Each year, international trade shows offer a great way to get a glimpse into the industry and current trends and new developments in sustainable sourcing – new brands sit alongside some larger industry veterans and each has their own version of sustainability and responsible production.
Working freelance for various sustainable brands means that I have been able to refine my eye for both quality, design and communication. Personally, I look for a number of things when looking at sustainable production, the first being design-led product which is innovative and beautiful. But that’s not enough. Whether researching trends, building relationships for collaborations, or finding partner artisans, there are a few other key aspects that really should define any kind of partnership.
I particularly love brands that are very invested in their supply chain and using natural and local materials. This sounds simple, but understanding this in an authentic and circular way is absolutely key in relating to a brand, and some digging has to be done to really get to grips to see if this is the case. Some other things to look out for:
- Pricing: This is often the part most sustainable brands will struggle with, as ethical production and natural materials will unfortunately push prices higher. If the prices are too good to be true, it’s usually because they are.
- Materials: This is often the question I find the most interesting for brands, as the issue to find suppliers and access to these materials are quite difficult to just research online. Brands want to test the product, they want to produce small batches, create capsule collections while suppliers are probably aiming for the high volumes orders. Where do we draw the line?
- Out-sourcing: It’s a great idea to try and understand why brands may be sourcing and developing products abroad – for impact? For skill level? Or to keep costs down?
- Planning for sustainability: Can brands scale responsibly if they were to receive a huge order? What are their plans for the future and do they have a sustainability road map in place?
It is with these focussed questions I approach brands to decide if they would be the right ‘fit’. Here are some of the trade shows I have attended, and will plan to visit this year:
Neonyt – (Berlin Jan/July)
Credits: Neonyt 2019 – https://neonyt.messefrankfurt.com/berlin/en.html
The recently rebranded Neonyt (formerly Green Show room), which sits alongside Seek and Premium twice a year in Berlin, is a fantastic way to see the current trends in sustainable fashion. Not only were the talks excellent, I was excited to see a lot of passion in how many brand were approaching sourcing and development right from a grassroots level, and products from a wide range of categories. It seems that circular product design seems to be at the forefront of many designer’s approaches, which was really impressive and the brands showing were passionate about their goals and reaching new audiences.
Pure – London (Feb/ July)
Credits: Olympia London – https://olympia.london/whatson/pure-london
While not only showcasing ethical brands, the fair itself seemed to be focused on disrupting approaches to fashion and the bulk of the talks were aimed at educating attendees on sustainability. It was especially interesting to have MP Mary Creagh, as well as sustainable sourcing platform Common Objective giving daily buying trail and guided tours around the specially curated ‘concious section.’ Although small, the brands showed great commitment to their sustainability goals, and came from a wide variety of backgrounds, using innovative materials and had some very interesting stories. I hope that the conscious section of the show will grow over the coming years.
NY NOW – Artisan Resource (NYC Feb/August)
Credits: Cabana Home – https://cabanahome.com/
The famous NY Now show is on many buyers calendars due to the huge variety of product, craft and opportunities in sourcing artisanally made product. This show is fantastic for home, lifestyle and gift categories. Artisan Resource is a fantastic section of the show whereby brands can search for suppliers from all four corners of the globe. As the demand for sustainably sourced, artisanal product is very high in the US market, and I find this focus of the show a key driving force in seeing who are the main contemporary design leaders and popular materials leading the current trends.
Perú Moda – Peru (Lima, April)
Credits: Perú Moda – https://www.perumoda.com/EN/
As someone who has worked and lived in Peru, this show always feels a bit like home and mainly due to the large amounts of alpaca fibre on display! As a brand, this show is excellent to find future supplier and resources, but you may have to dig deep to find the right artisan group for your collection, and be sure and clear of what you are looking for. Peru has some of the best natural resources and textile craft in the world, and there are plenty of amazing brands working out of Peru. It’s also a great show for gift and home. I will always recommend a visit to Lima for this show as it’s a fantastic way for local suppliers to connect with brands which can have a huge impact on their communities and livelihoods and the Peruvian textile industry in general.
ExpoArtesania – Colombia (Bogota, December)
One of the highlights of the Latin America trade show circuit, Expoartesania is a feast for the eyes. Colombia’s rich textile and craft heritage is showcased here with over 700 exhibitors. While contemporary craft proved to be the most popular section, it was fantastic to see a huge spotlight on indigenous craft. The design, innovation and quality is second to none.
ReMode (LA, Oct)
Credits: REMODE – https://remode.com/
In only its second year as a trade show, this event has been set up to one of the most exciting trade shows which focuses on sustainable brands who have mission focused growth. This trade show offers some incredible support from prolific speakers and activists in the industry, alongside some very innovative and disruptive brand who are making way in developing new and exciting ways to break free of the fast fashion cycle.
I would have liked to attend the Future Fabrics Expo in London in January, but I couldn’t unfortunately make it this year. Hope you found this guide useful for you to join next time.
What are your favourite ethical fashion trade shows? Is there anything I have missed off that’s on your hit list?
Textile specialist - SFW Artisan Change-Maker
Ellen has worked in Peru for the past four years, as a Latin American textile specialist in the artisan and luxury handmade sector. She is a fibre developer and creative consultant and has worked in South and Central America with diverse artisan groups to produce responsible, hand-made collections for Piece & Co. She is a passionate about linking artisan groups to global supply chains, and uses her skills to empower women and aid cultural preservation.
We are glad to have her in SFW Change-Maker and creating projects to develop more oportunities to work with artisan groups and encourage ethical collaborations between countries.
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