Copenhagen - A year ago, the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF) acquired its trade fair competitor Revolver. The fashion industry needs to collaborate more to shape the post-pandemic era, was the message CIFF director Sofie Dolva attached to the acquisition at the time.
The first form of collaboration was evident during the CIFF 2023 winter edition with shuttle buses that transported visitors not only between Revolver locations but also making a stop at the Bella Center [the home base of CIFF, ed.].
The SS24 edition was branded CIFF x Revolver and took place under one roof to pursue the ‘One Copenhagen’ vision. This vision takes a new shape in January 2024: The fair presents itself under one name and under one roof with the addition of various new spaces at the main location.
‘CIFF 62’ takes place at the Bella Center - Scandinavia's second-largest exhibition and conference centre, located between Copenhagen city centre and the airport. Thus, it’s easily accessible for visitors. And that's important, as the Danish fair continues to grow. For instance, the number of visitors tripled during the last edition, and brands are increasingly finding their way to the fair.
As a result, CIFF expanded its floor space by 30 percent and increased its number of exhibitors by 20 percent for the edition that ran from January 31 to February 2, 2024. To be precise, ‘CIFF 62’ features over 26,000 square metres of exhibition space where more than a thousand brands exhibit. On top of this, there are also the showrooms on the first and second floors, which together account for about 20,000 square metres.
Behind a white curtain, visitors are led into a CIFF wonderland: fairy-tale music plays through the speakers, and different blocks change colour to the rhythm of the melody. On the floor, the colours of the blocks are reflected in the form of lines that help visitors navigate between various halls: Premium & Classic Apparel, Shoes & Accessories, CIFF Kids, Outdoor Apparel, and Contemporary Womenswear & Menswear. It's reminiscent of a network of metro lines and landmarks.
For ‘CIFF 62’, the fair organisers chose a ‘Town Square’ concept where visitors can orient themselves in the realms of fashion, beauty, entertainment, snacks and drinks, and music. Thus, each hall is equipped with various eating and drinking facilities, live jazz music sounds through the speakers, and for the first time, the beauty section is located among the fashion exhibitors.
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Long silhouettes, the pinstripe, and the layered mesh skirt: the trends at ‘CIFF 62’
After about an hour and a half of making their first orientation round, visitors will notice something: FW24 is characterised by long silhouettes. The trend, highlighted by various trend forecasters, dominates the fair. For example, Mlga Studio's booth is filled with enlarged garments, such as a wine-red blouse that now falls to the ankles and a black masculine trench coat that takes on new shapes with an added train, reminiscent of a wedding dress.
Long silhouettes are also spotted at the Essentiel Antwerp booth, such as enlarged blouses with floral prints, but also a brown tunic with white elongated stripes and blue accents. Nü Denmark confirms this trend by hanging two mannequins from the ceiling that are wearing metre-long skirts.
The pinstripe finds its way back in FW24 in the form of suits for ladies and gentlemen. Notably, the vest is increasingly being added to women's suits. Another trend seen on the fair floor was the return of the layered mesh skirt in bright colours.
CIFF 62: Visitors follow the main route, exhibitors in side paths experience a calm fair
Overall, ‘CIFF 62’ appeared to be a calm edition, but as for visitor numbers, the organisers counted about 7,000 visitors on the first day, brand manager Sinem Maria Printz Basaran tells FashionUnited. In three days, CIFF registered 17,800 visitors. The number of unique visitors increased by thirty percent.
The calmness brings both pros and cons. Some brands are positioned better than others, as expressed by the exhibitors. Dutch brand Barts, for example, is positioned at the back in a side path of the second hall. “We're happy to have a spot at CIFF, but we would have preferred to be more at the front,” a representative tells FashionUnited. Barts makes its booth stand out by its height, with its signature hats towering above other booths. “At least we can show that we are here.”
The brand representatives at the booth of German brand Mandala, also located in a side path, expresses similar sentiments. The brand is making its debut at the Danish fair after closing its Scandinavian showroom. “We're looking for new customers in this region [Scandinavia, ed.]. Our first time at CIFF is exciting; it's feeling things out. I do notice that the side paths of the halls attract less public than the main route with the metro lines, however,” representative Olga Meyer tells FashionUnited.
At the Norwegian brand Hést, it's bustling. The brand, which is participating in the fair for the third time, manages to secure a larger booth with each edition, Märtha Louise, Princess of Norway and co-owner of the brand, tells FashionUnited. Hést exhibits its products along the main corridor and uses stickers on the ground to signal they are looking for international agents. “CIFF is such a key player in this industry. We always gain a lot of new customers here. This year, we're on a mission to find international agents here.” Hést now has 94 sales points in Norway and has already gained a lot of international ground, being active in Scandinavia, Iceland, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland, as well as in America.
The brand aims to expand into the Benelux, Germany, and France, but is open to expansion in all markets. Further on in the hall, we encounter CIFF veteran Cofur Denmark. The brand creates new clothing from existing Indian fabrics. Its booth showcases paisley patterns and lots of colour. A representative of the brand shares that Cofur Denmark has been present at the fair for six years. Having everything under one roof brings more traffic for the brand. “On the first day, we constantly had customers at the booth between 11 am and 5 pm. The second day was a bit calmer,” the brand expresses.
In other halls, the same sentiment is echoed: those located on the main route or an elephant path have struck gold; exhibitors inside paths might as well whistle for visitors. Participation in CIFF was disappointing for Kings of Indigo, but Essentiel Antwerp's booth was filled with potential customers for three days.
At the Neo Noir booth, representatives were busy with iPads taking orders, and at the Sommerstedt booth, customers were trying on clothing. For the Peruvian brand Sophia Lerner, it could have been busier. “But,” representative Sara Portal Paredes said, “that might also have to do with the fact that our collection didn't arrive in time for the fair.” The brand had to improvise, resulting in a booth with two black clothing racks with photos of the collection hanging from it. “Some people think it's an activist move, but it's not.”
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Beauty in fragments
Those who visited the CIFF website in advance or took a look at the map via the app were surprised to see that it no longer listed a beauty section. At the fair, it quickly becomes clear that beauty is interspersed among fashion exhibitors. In every major passageway, about five beauty booths are set up. The beauty booths can be distinguished by long white cloths hanging above the booths.
The absence of a separate space for this segment this edition stems from feedback the fair organisation received. The beauty exhibitors are also pleased with their new spot at the fair. ‘CIFF remains a fashion fair. During the previous edition, we noticed that visitors continued to focus on fashion, although it was then busy in our [beauty] hall. Now that we are located in the fashion mecca, it results in more visitors at the booths,’ they tell FashionUnited. At Woods_ Copenhagen, for example, it has been busy throughout the fair. “We're in a prime location - right in a passageway hall which means many visitors take a look, even if they're not specifically looking for beauty products,” a representative said. The Greenlandic brand Inuacare and Mantle and Nuori echoes these sentiments.
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CIFF: The fashion labyrinth not everyone can navigate
While a growing fair is often seen positively, it also brings challenges. How do you ensure everyone finds their way? CIFF pondered this by connecting all halls with coloured lines that serve as a guide to find the way and placing maps in various corners. The fair also offers an app that allows visitors to navigate to a specific brand on the map. However, this was not clearly indicated and was not yet fully understood among buyers and exhibitors.
To help the public navigate the space better, the organisation added stickers on the maps on the second day to clarify in which hall (hall A, B, C, or D) each brand is located. Yet, that still wasn't the right solution.Those looking for shoes and accessories almost need to be a maze expert to find the hall. The room appears very calm, and exhibitors confirm this, among them a representative from Börjesson Handskar.
The Swedish brand has been at CIFF for years but finds the winter edition of 2024 disappointing. “It might be due to segmentation. We notice that visitors can't find our hall. Whenever I take a walk around the fair, I mainly see a lot of people in the first space and the room where women's and men's fashion is located.
This while there are also stands with just shoes and accessories to be found. Then I understand that people don't specifically look for this stand.” At the stand of the French shoe brand Mephisto, FashionUnited hears similar thoughts. Helga Meersmans, co-founder of the Belgian bag brand Kaai, mainly attributes the calm to their location on the fair floor. “We are at the back in a side path of a hall that is barely visited. The people who enter this hall mostly follow the lines of the route, causing us to miss a lot of visitors. It would have been better to just position us among the women's fashion booths,” she tells FashionUnited
Here and there, exhibitors in the shoes and accessories space are still optimistic. The Dutch brand O My Bag, for example, had a good second day of the fair where it was able to add new customers to its list. Among the interested parties at the booth, you could hear a lot of Norwegian, Swedish, and some German being spoken. For the German brand Tamaris, which also has a showroom in the Bella Center, ‘CIFF 62’ is also stamped as a good fair. Tamaris is positioned at one of the entrances and thus still gets a lot of attention. The German brand showcases its bag collection. “Bags are relatively new in this market. We notice that they pique interest and that our customers come by for a chat. The ‘real business’, however, happens upstairs [in the showroom],” they tell FashionUnited.
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Buyers immerse themselves in everything CIFF has to offer
For the public, which also had to find its way in the ‘fashion city’, CIFF FW24 was mainly a treat. A buyer from the Dutch fashion chain Rinsma Mode Plein shares: “We have been coming to CIFF for several years. Recently, everything is under one roof, and that's fantastic for us. We have a store with more than 250 brands. At CIFF, we look for brands that stand out and are unique. Because the fair is so large, it's sometimes difficult to get a good look at everything when passing by quickly. That's why you can find us at the fair for two days: one day used to orientate, and one day to really engage with brands.”
Mie Bager, senior buyer at the Swedish Boozt, says she is also fond of the ‘One Copenhagen’ vision this edition. The fair offers everything: from good lunch hotspots to a diverse brand offering and enough space to really talk with exhibitors. “Because the fair is so large, the crowd is spread out and you're not just chased away from a booth.” Three buyers from China who are visiting the fair for the first time share the same finding. For two owners of the Danish fashion store Soho, CIFF has been the place-to-be for years to meet all their brands again. Here and there, they spot new brands they later collaborate with, although that's not necessarily why they come, they tell FashionUnited.
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All in all, it can be concluded that ‘CIFF 62’ set itself up as a fashion city that operates completely independently; from a podcast station on the ‘town square’ to lunch spots to take a quick break at every street corner and from workshop spaces to over a thousand exhibitors. CIFF continues to grow, and that brings new challenges each time.
How do you ensure the public can navigate a fashion labyrinth? That seemed not entirely successful in the winter edition 2024, due to the small number of visitors who were able to find the shoes and accessories space. Moreover, the coloured ‘metro lines’ seemed to only guide the public through the main corridors of the halls. Nonetheless, optimism resonated among the exhibitors due to the large interest from the international audience, and CIFF 62 left the beauty stands wanting more now that they are located among the fashion exhibitors.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.NL. Translation and edit from Dutch into English by Veerle Versteeg.