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Fairs CEO-INTERVIEW

Anita Tillman: “Our industry needs a change”

By Ole Spötter

Jun 12, 2020

On Monday, it became clear that the German trade shows Premium and Seek would bid farewell to Berlin and move to Frankfurt as part of Frankfurt Fashion Week. For the fashion community that got used to meeting in Berlin twice a year, this departure raised many questions and speculations. Anita Tillman, founder of Premium Group and one of the most preeminent faces for the German fashion industry, spoke about why it was time to move after almost 20 years, the city of Frankfurt’s commitment to the new event and trade fairs in the post-pandemic era.

Trade fairs and conferences will be held under the name Frankfurt Fashion Week, but events and fashion shows are also planned throughout the city. Will Frankfurt’s fashion show outdo its Berlin counterpart?

Anita Tillmann: No. I think it’s difficult to constantly compare Frankfurt and Berlin since each city has its advantages and strengths. Our decisions and our strategic alliance with Messe Frankfurt were made as a result of an entrepreneurial decision. We all face the same challenges and must constantly question and reinvent ourselves in order to remain competitive. What are the challenges we face as a fashion trade fair and what affects the entire industry?

The key topics we are focusing on include sustainability and digitalization. Both trade fairs, both Frankfurt’s and our own, bring a great deal of expertise to the table. We will also match Frankfurt’s financial knowledge with our creativity. When fashion, lifestyle, digitalization and sustainability form a synthesis, something new is created. And our industry needs a change.

The comparison with Berlin is therefore misleading and what we are doing here is not in competition with Berlin or Düsseldorf. We are positioning ourselves in a new and international way, with a future perspective.

Can you explain the collaboration with Messe Frankfurt?

We have been working with the Neonyt team for a very long time. We have produced our content formats, the Fashiontech and Fashionsustain conferences, as well as staged events like Industry Insights, to which we invited national and international guests - buyers, well-known designers, entrepreneurs and managing directors. In order to continue and develop this approach, we decided to move to a new location so that we can also tell a new narrative.

New focus topics naturally emerged from this step: How can the city be involved? The concepts are aimed at a future-oriented fashion and lifestyle community from all over the world with an affinity for digital. And it must also be said that it’s not comparable with Berlin. Trade, fairs and businesses stand in the focus of Frankfurt, an international trading centre that has been well known worldwide for over a hundred years.

Frankfurt's exhibition premises seem huge. How do you intend to make the grounds come alive? How will it be divided between the three fairs?

The exhibition grounds are part of the city centre and belong to Frankfurt’s culture so to speak. When we had our first meeting with the city of Frankfurt and introduced ourselves and our vision, we encountered a lot of enthusiasm. We will rethink and redefine the premises in a new and different way. Fashion has to be made tangible and the location has to be included in this.

What will ‘Frankfurt Fashion Week’ offer and how will the city contribute?

Frankfurt Fashion Week is an umbrella term for what will take place: Twice a year, probably over a period of five or six days, fairs, catwalks, parties, brand activations and award shows will be held. B2B, B2C, B2P, P2P - everything is being considered.

The parties involved in this are the core team, the city of Frankfurt, Premium Group and Messe Frankfurt. For each topic, we will invite corresponding experts from our international industry network and connect them with players from Frankfurt’s creative scene.

The city of Frankfurt has a budget for city marketing and customer journeys for visitors. What type of feeling must be created when visitors and designers come to the city? Frankfurt wants to welcome the international fashion community and give them a good feeling. This starts at the airport and the main station and also includes restaurants, hotels and retail.

The budget is also made available above all for the operation of guest and buyer management - in other words, to fly in international buyers and media. This is something special for Germany, whereas Milan and Paris provide generous budgets for this. The city of Florence also finances the invitations of the press, influencers and buyers. Frankfurt sees itself as responsible for this, is committed to the event and provides the framework for fairs and other events to take place.

Especially now, in the coronavirus era, is digitalization being pushed more strongly? To what extent does this influence physical fairs like Premium and Seek?

Digitalization is a huge topic and we have been presenting experts, innovations and new concepts at the Fashiontech conference for five years now.

In my view, it’s not a question of either-or, but of both-and. We will launch the first digital trade show in mid-July with our strategic partner Joor. Our teams have been working on integrating a digital component into the live event, the trade show, for a good year now. Brands and retailers should be able to act before, during and after the show. For example, they can order and look things up digitally: Interim collections, stock levels, reordering and more.

To this end, we have jointly developed a completely new product - ‘Joor Passport’, which we will introduce shortly. With this platform, it’s possible to stay in contact between seasons and retailers and brands, who don’t necessarily see each other, can stay in touch. Both aspects can be well connected and integrated. We will call this a ‘blended fashion event’, which will merge the best of both worlds and will be the first of its kind. As a result, we have a very positive attitude towards digitalization.

The transformation that we are all facing requires us to rethink what concepts have proven themselves and which need to be reconsidered. This is the case for the whole fashion ecosystem. Messe Frankfurt’s expertise is very valuable here, especially in regard to the topics of transparency and sustainability.

Are you saying goodbye to Berlin with a laughing and crying eye? What did you miss in the city in terms of fashion promotion?

As Premium Exhibitions GmbH, we have not received any funding from the city for our trade fairs and we don't get any from the city of Frankfurt - that's not the point.

I am totally grateful. For 18 years we had a great time in Berlin, we learned a lot and had a lot of fun. Berlin has done a lot for us - even if not financially - and we have also done a lot for Berlin. It was always a 'love affair' and after 18 years the time has come to move on.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.DE, translated and edited.

Photo Credit: Anita Tillman/Premium Group by Neven Allgeier