Trade shows have never been sexy, but UBM Fashion’s Coterie is aiming to at least remain relevant amidst an uncertain wholesale market through buzzy, high-tech activations.
“We wanted to find ways to bridge technology and fashion that aren’t too far out there and that retailers will feel comfortable trying [in their own stores],” said Danielle Licata, the Coterie vp leading The Coterie Experience, which runs from February 27 to March 1 at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center.
The show, which typically draws contemporary designer labels, will boast a 5,000 square foot installation separated into stylistically themed vignettes, including “pop” and “minimalism,” brought further to life using augmented reality. After entering the space, viewers will be given an iPad which they can then use to hover over specific hot points — like images projected on the wall or a logo on a hanger — that will launch special videos, lookbooks or website tours on the tablet. They might hover over an Anna Sui dress, for instance, to find a video pop-up with the designer explaining her inspiration, or hold the iPad over a picture of the 3×1 store in New York City to initiate a tour of their custom-denim workshop.
“We feel that specialty stores can really set themselves apart with not only the pieces they select, but also the way they story-tell to the end consumer,” explained Licata. “A lot of stores don’t have that technology component covered, so we’re going to show them how even the simple projection of different scenes onto a wall can make people think about the product that they’re selling in a different light.”
A mockup of the new Coterie Experience installation.
Roughly 70 of the 1,100 brands showing at Coterie have been selected to take part in the installation — a diverse range that includes Anna Sui, Frame and Jill Stuart. “The Coterie floor is so large and incorporates so much different product,” said Licata. “It’s really about [narrowing focus] to a couple very key points of view that retailers can take with them.” She also hopes to inspire their store plans for next fall by mixing designers together in the space, rather than relegating them all solely to branded booths.
“The Coterie floor is so large and incorporates so much different product,” said Licata. “It’s really about [narrowing focus] to a couple very key points of view that retailers can take with them.”
The activewear area has also gotten a serious upgrade. Brands like Ultracore, Beyond Yoga and Koral will be on view in the new section that’s equipped with virtual reality. Models decked out in select workout gear will rock VR headsets while running in place or getting into yoga poses. Inside the goggles, and projected on a screen nearby, it will appear as if they’re running along a coast in Italy, perhaps, or doing yoga on a mountain in India.
Around 15 bloggers — lesser-knowns like North of Manhattan and To Be Bright — were selected based on their speciality in areas like activewear or jewelry, and will document the show on various channels.
Popular participating brands like Vince and Elizabeth & James, for example, are less reliant on trade shows to sustain their business — in fact, they only attend Coterie.
“It’s not just that they have a name we recognize — we want to make sure that this is a company that’s done business in the past, is already set up to ship properly, etc.,” said Licata. “The last thing we want to do is introduce new lines who can’t fulfill their orders for clients.”
This requires reaching out to past retailers brands have sold with, investigating price points for comparable lines, requesting branded collateral and ensuring that the companies are financially sound.
“It’s not our job to judge the stylistic elements, whether we like something or don’t like something,” Licata further explained. “It’s our job to fill the holes that retailers tell us they have in their stores, so we set out to fill those criteria first.” This season, for example, they received many requests for faux fur (specifically in fun, bright furs in the vein of those by Shrimps), which led them to court brands like VSP and Molli Olli.
Although this big technological push might imply that trade shows are losing relevance, Licata says that the rise of direct-to-consumer brands has been a boon of sorts for the show. Brands that launch with direct-to-consumer, she says, create great marketing collateral and a lucrative demand for their product before entering the wholesale market, making them a safer bet for interested retailers. “It’s an interesting shift that’s happening, but it’s actually putting more brands into the market that are actually successful,” she said. “If you don’t make it on your own, going direct-to-consumer, you’re not [likely] to make it in wholesale.”