What the Physical Fair Offers Cannot Be Replaced by Digital Tools

The Autumn edition of Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics and Yarn Expo, one of the biggest trade events in this part of the globe, has now been merged with the spring edition next year because of the pandemic situation in China. Wilmet Shea, Deputy General Manager of fair organiser Messe Frankfurt HK, talks threadbare about how trade event organisers are operating in these trying times and, of course, Intertextile Shanghai.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • At the moment, exhibitors and visitors are using the ConnectPlus business matching platform to maintain their connection to national and international trade during the autumn/winter sourcing season, until the conclusion of the Shenzhen fairs.
  • According to the national customs statistics, China’s exports of textiles, apparel and clothing accessories increased to about $189.4 billion in January–July 2022, with an overall year-on-year growth rate of 12.5%.
  • This coming November, visitors to Intertextile Shenzhen Apparel Fabrics can expect to see a wide range of fabrics, accessories and technologies that provide a response to current market trends.
Buyers essentially require trade fairs that address the latest consumer preferences as well as the seasonal trends in fashion.
Buyer Requirements Buyers essentially require trade fairs that address the latest consumer preferences as well as the seasonal trends in fashion. Messe Frankfurt / Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics
  • Postponements/cancellations are the worst nightmare that an event or an event organiser has to contend with. Intertextile Shanghai was originally meant to be held in August, and now it will be March 2023. How have you been able to cope with this?
  • Countless fairs and exhibitions have had to be cancelled or postponed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. And events keep getting rescheduled time and again, and travel restrictions remain in a number of places. What does it mean for event organisers in the future?
  • One of the reasons why industry members get drawn to big events is that there is indeed a need to meet in person, and see things first hand. After all, not everything can be done over Zoom calls. Your comments, please.

It is a very difficult decision to make, as postponing or merging the fairs would mean that the industry is missing out on seasonal in-person sourcing and networking opportunities, but at the same time fairgoers’ safety is also our priority. Therefore, after weighing the interests of all stakeholders, we decided to merge the autumn fairs of Intertextile Apparel Fabrics and Yarn Expo with the 2023 spring editions.

We had also considered other later time slots for the autumn fairs, but any date we chose would have been too close to the Shenzhen editions of Intertextile Apparel Fabrics and Yarn Expo this November, or the spring editions in March 2023. We believe that merging the autumn and spring fairs is the most suitable arrangement.  

In the meantime, the Shenzhen fairs, held in autumn, offer textile suppliers and buyers the opportunity to expand their businesses in the Greater Bay Area, a fast-growing hub for high-end fashion. The Greater Bay Area initiative is boosting economic development in the south of the country, and this is expected to further drive up demand for apparel textiles in the region. While Shenzhen is one of the most economically vibrant cities in southern China, the city stands out for its trendiness and creativity, attracting many fashion apparel designers and brands, new and old.

In times like these, when holding physical fairs is bound by factors like local government’s pandemic control measures or travel restrictions, digital tools play an important role in keeping industry players engaged in business, especially now that the industry is on the road to recovery.  At the moment, exhibitors and visitors are using our ConnectPlus business matching platform to maintain their connection to national and international trade during the autumn/winter sourcing season, until the conclusion of the Shenzhen fairs.

However, what the physical fair offers cannot be replaced by digital tools. The hand-feel of the fabrics, and face-to-face communication, for example, form part of an essential and unique interactive experience. With that being said, digital formats will remain a key part of our physical events, and they can be easily adjusted to accommodate the needs of different industries and individual trade fairs.

What the physical fair offers cannot be replaced by digital tools. The hand-feel of the fabrics, and face-to-face communication, for example, form part of an essential and unique interactive experience. With that being said, digital formats will remain a key part of our physical events, and they can be easily adjusted to accommodate the needs of different industries and individual trade fairs.

Wilmet Shea
Wilmet Shea / Deputy General Manager / Messe Frankfurt HK
This year the Trend Forum, presented by China's leading trend forecasters from the China Textile Information Centre (CTIC), has again been formed to help designers and buyers steer their designs in line with the coming fashion seasons.
Trend Forum This year the Trend Forum, presented by China's leading trend forecasters from the China Textile Information Centre (CTIC), has again been formed to help designers and buyers steer their designs in line with the coming fashion seasons. Messe Frankfurt / Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics
  • Coming to Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics. Do you see both exhibitors and visitors planning for the distant future too, because of the uncertainties of the times. Is it that earlier buyers planned 1–2 years ahead, and now they are doing it with 5–7 years in mind?
  • Production has been affected in many places (be it for COVID restrictions or energy crisis) and supply chains. How have these, in turn, affected how the industry is sourcing apparel and fabrics? What is it that you have been noticing?

I am sure that textile industry buyers would prefer to plan further in advance, and it is beneficial to be well prepared. However, it is difficult to predict fashion trends over an extended period, and therefore harder for buyers to plan longer term. Social economic factors, for example, are difficult to forecast and it’s not uncommon to see sudden shifts in consumer behaviour and buying habits. This has been made clear to us from talking to buyers at our fairs. For them, it’s essential to have trade fairs that address the latest consumer preferences as well as the seasonal trends in fashion. In general, businesses have had to be more adaptable—one shift I have noticed stemming from the unpredictability of the market is that buyers have had to diversify who they source from, which signals opportunities for a wider range of suppliers at our trade fairs.

While ensuring they remain flexible, buyers have had to be more cautious and analytical, as supply chain disruptions can, of course, cause businesses concern. But by conducting research and diversifying their supply, buyers can go some way to mitigating production risks.

We can all acknowledge that these are uncertain times, stemming first of all from the pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine and rising inflation. These and other issues have all affected the supply chain, and the cost of many raw materials has increased as a result. This has led to brands shifting their supply chains from China to other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia, where they can take advantage of lower costs and more flexible logistic arrangements. However, other producers cannot replace the technology and resources that China has at its disposal. As a country, it is still the largest exporter of textiles in the world, and numbers are improving. According to the national customs statistics, China’s exports of textiles, apparel and clothing accessories increased to about $189.4 billion in January–July 2022, with an overall year-on-year growth rate of 12.5%.

As you have mentioned, there are several global issues currently impacting sourcing in the textiles industry. One of those is climate change, which has led to sustainable materials gaining momentum. With consumers and regulators increasingly concerned about environmental issues, we have seen that businesses are more incentivised than ever to ensure they source recycled and organic products, which in turn leads to a greener supply chain.

In fact, the Chinese government has a number of initiatives and policies that address the global demand for a greener environment and technology innovation such as the dual carbon goals, the 14th five-year plan and the Greater Bay Area development plan. These polices encourage textile industry players in China to produce sustainable and innovative products that accommodate both domestic and international markets.

I am sure that textile industry buyers would prefer to plan further in advance, and it is beneficial to be well prepared. However, it is difficult to predict fashion trends over an extended period, and therefore harder for buyers to plan longer term. Social economic factors, for example, are difficult to forecast and it’s not uncommon to see sudden shifts in consumer behaviour and buying habits. This has been made clear to us from talking to buyers at our fairs.

At the moment, exhibitors and visitors are using theConnectPlus business matching platform to maintain their connection to national and international trade during the autumn/winter sourcing season.
Business Connection At the moment, exhibitors and visitors are using theConnectPlus business matching platform to maintain their connection to national and international trade during the autumn/winter sourcing season. Messe Frankfurt / Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics
  • What are the highlights of the forthcoming Intertextie Shenzhen Apparel Fabrics?

This coming November, visitors to Intertextile Shenzhen Apparel Fabrics can expect to see a wide range of fabrics, accessories and technologies that provide a response to current market trends. They can also absorb business insights that are in tune with the local market. As mentioned earlier, the fair is held in Shenzhen, which provides great geographical advantage. Dalang Fashion Town, an ongoing development project subsidised by the government, is located in the city, and is aimed towards utilising the momentum of the Greater Bay Area to build an international fashion centre. The development project builds on Shenzhen’s strong foundations in fashion, with the city already a well-known ladieswear hub, and home to an abundance of fashion designers and fashion retailers.

With such a promising market on its doorstep, the fair attracts quality suppliers, bringing their finest products. Joining this year’s fair is the Fine Japan Zone, which will feature the latest ladieswear and casualwear collections, covering a range of high-quality cotton and man-made fabrics. Japanese exhibitors are well-known for their ability to offer small order quantities, product-in-stock services, and quick delivery. Another notable attraction will be the Taiwan Pavilion, organised by the Taiwan Textile Federation, set to feature an array of jacquard, lace and embroidery, and functional fabric suppliers.

The signature Trend Forum and other seminars at the 2022 fair will add value to exhibitors’ participation, by maximising their brand exposure to qualified buyers. This year the Trend Forum, presented by China's leading trend forecasters from the China Textile Information Centre (CTIC), has again been formed to help designers and buyers steer their designs in line with the coming fashion seasons. For Autumn / Winter 2023-24, the trend forecasters have identified Harmony as its core message, with four key themes: Soft Mentality Harmonious Recycle, Spiritual Regeneration and Supreme Sensuality. (View the Trend Guide here for details)

The Intertextile Apparel Shenzhen edition is also held concurrently with Yarn Expo, as well as CHIC and PH Value. These events will bring greater synergy and offer a wide variety of raw materials and finished products on display to fulfil buyers’ diverse sourcing needs.

Visitors to Intertextile Shenzhen Apparel Fabrics will be held in Shenzhen, which provides great geographical advantage. Dalang Fashion Town, an ongoing development project subsidised by the government, is located in the city, and is aimed towards utilising the momentum of the Greater Bay Area to build an international fashion centre.
Shenzen Calling Visitors to Intertextile Shenzhen Apparel Fabrics will be held in Shenzhen, which provides great geographical advantage. Dalang Fashion Town, an ongoing development project subsidised by the government, is located in the city, and is aimed towards utilising the momentum of the Greater Bay Area to build an international fashion centre. Messe Frankfurt / Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics
 
 
  • Dated posted: September 27, 2022
  • Last modified: September 27, 2022