The stars seem to be aligning for the Ciff trade show in Copenhagen. The fashion trade event in the Danish capital concluded its winter edition on February 2, after three busy days. Ciff is successfully establishing itself as a major destination for the fashion industry in northern Europe.
“We had 400 brands a year ago and a thousand this edition,” explains Sofie Dolva, the show’s general manager, who had to validate last year’s acquisition of local historic competitor Revolver, bringing all the exhibitors together at the Bella Center, the exhibition space in the east of the Danish capital, located around twenty minutes by metro from the city centre. “We’ve learnt a lot over the last few months with this development. We’ve also listened to feedback from last year’s show, working on the clarity of the different worlds, emphasising the scenography and creating areas where exhibitors and visitors can settle in, chat and relax.”
Each universe is indeed well defined. At the entrance to the show, a large area was defined for creative brands and innovative start-ups, separated by high grey walls with a raw concrete print. One hall is dedicated to mid-range offers, another to outdoor-fashion brands, while the footwear and children’s worlds had their own clearly identifiable zones. In the main hall, where contemporary, denim and more classic ready-to-wear brands could be found, lifestyle and beauty exhibitors were placed at the heart of the aisles, easily identifiable by the large white veil above their stands.
By bringing the two Copenhagen shows together in the same venue, the organisers seem to have made the event even more attractive. Before the end of the show, they were reporting a sharp rise in visitor numbers, with between 20,000 and 22,000 people attending the fair. Above all, the event is attracting visitors from far beyond Scandinavia.
Ciff and Copenhagen Fashion Week are benefiting from the decline of Berlin’s trade fairs in recent seasons. As the German capital has seen its business events die out one after the other, players in the Germanic and Central European markets have had to look for new commercial platforms.
“We’ve had a lot of German brands join us this season, as well as companies such as DryKorn,” explained the director, who was pleased to see these new dynamics with the arrival of Essentiel Antwerp, but also the return of local players such as the women’s ready-to-wear label Masaï and the Custommade brand, which unveiled a more premium positioning. All this, despite a still tense economic climate. “We saw that over 60% of the visitors who had pre-registered came from outside Denmark. And 17% of visitors are from Germany, but we are also seeing the arrival of visitors from Asia and Canada. And the big exhibitors, like DK Company (which has around ten brands, editor’s note) are seeing more international visitors.”
And, even if buyers are cautious this season according to the majority of exhibitors questioned, activity was very brisk in the aisles of the exhibition centre. Per Biltoft, the Scandinavian agent for the label Dedicated, commented: “I think the link-up with Revolver is very good. With just one show, we don’t have to worry about whether the buyers are elsewhere.” On the visitor side, buyers from a Parisian department store conceded that they had extended their time at the show after browsing around and discovering what was on offer. Copenhagen seems to have come out on top in the competition for international trade fairs this season.
There are several factors that may explain the attractiveness of the Danish capital. Of course, the show organiser has invested heavily in order to step up its game, not only in its scenography, but also by inviting international buyers and press to discover its new developments. The company also benefits from a unique concept combining an exhibition space with permanent shows, the Ciff Village, that is well known of Scandinavian agents and retailers, and which includes local brands as well as showrooms for international labels. With almost 90% of the exhibition space filled, this activity also provides Ciff with a solid financial base, according to its general management.
Another strong factor is that Copenhagen is building on its image as a stronghold of responsible fashion. In 2023, Ciff entered into a partnership with the American CFDA to bring a dozen labels with an environmentally-friendly DNA across the Atlantic, and plans to forge new partnerships with other international players this year.
This eco-responsibility aspect is clearly a strong point, with many brands highlighting this issue at the show. “My approach is based on the use of responsible and natural materials, whether they are Gots-certified or from dormant stocks. I chose to exhibit here rather than in London because there is this understanding of these subjects. And I haven’t regretted it,” explains Camille Jaillant, founder of the upmarket French brand Olistic, who was taking part for the first time. The same is true of the premium streetwear label ISNURH, where co-founder Kasper Juhl Todbjerg appreciates visitors’ interest in responsible materials, particularly pieces made from Rodinia, a biodegradable material.
Far from the frenzy of Milan and Paris, this Danish week has by all accounts succeeded in attracting both brands and visitors from well beyond Scandinavia.
“In Paris or Milan, visitors are in a constant rush. Here, they take the time to visit, to look for new labels,” says Emma Migliorini Kristensen, general manager of the Migliorini showroom, which showcased the products of half a dozen brands, mainly French. There were a lot of visitors from Germany and the Benelux countries looking for something new.
With a different approach, one of Copenhagen’s most powerful assets is undoubtedly its accessible format and the complementary nature of its fashion week and trade show. The Bella Center, more than just a commercial venue, hosted the Munthe and TG Botanical shows, giving exhibitors the feeling of being part of the same dynamic as the brands on show. The excitement surrounding the fashion shows had a knock-on effect on the brands exhibiting at the show. Indeed, many of them, including Henrik Vibskov, TG Botanical and Han Kjøbenhavn, were on the calendar to present their designs for autumn-winter 2024.
“For us, it was a return to Copenhagen Fashion,” explains the J. Lindeberg stand. And it’s true that we had a lot of interest after the show. The same can be said of Won Hundred, who exhibited but didn’t show last season, and who were even more successful after presenting their show.
Ciff also had access to the large Oksenhallen hall in the Meatpacking district of Vesterbro in the centre of Copenhagen, where Henrik Vibskov, one of the creative figures of Danish fashion, graced the enthusiastic audience with a show combining dance and fashion.
“We are very easily connected to the city and have events in Copenhagen,” explained Sofie Dolva, who organised a dinner for a thousand guests in the Great Hall, the capital’s former livestock market. Visitors appreciate the ease of getting around the city and having everything on offer under the same roof.
This is an argument that the manager is keen to put forward to attract new brands next season… Ciff still has several thousand square metres available to develop its offer.