The Future of Gathering

Textile Execs Explore New Ways to Communicate with Industry – and Each Other

As the “old” days of shuttling to presentations and large trade shows in early 2020 seem like just a blur, industry executives are currently doubling down on how the business of marketing and selling textiles will change. Webinars and Zoom calls have filled in a lot of in-person gaps, but can they sustain? We’ve asked executives in our business to share methods of communicating effectively.

Hyosung global marketing director for textiles, Mike Simko, sees “gathering as important to our industry for building relationships and trust.” While emails, phone calls and video conferences are important for commerce, “face-to-face meetings are unique in the multi-dimensional way you can interact with the client… read their body language, show samples and share a beer.” Trade shows are an efficient way to schedule meetings with many relevant people in a short period of time, plus “have all of our product and technical experts there in one place for better collaboration.”

Post-pandemic, Simko predicts that, “smaller, more targeted trade shows will become more important.” As a supplier, Hyosung can “be more specific in launching product innovations,” he said. For example, the brand introduced performance fibers Mipan Aqua-x nylon and Askin polyester beyond cooling yarns in 100 percent reclaimed waste versions at the digital edition of Performance Days in April. At the April online edition of Kingpins Amsterdam (Kingpins24), Hyosung launched its new creora 3D Max spandex, as well as its creora regen and creora bio-based sustainable spandex via a recorded interview. “The interview was fun and informative, and we were able to address questions from the denim community in real time,” Simko said.

Specializing in niche textile shows, The Fabric Shows’ producer Susan Power is on board with the rise of the smaller show. Power operates The Fabric Shows – DG Expo in six cities. Fortunately, the show is already in a format that can accommodate social distancing. “We spread the racks out for a browsing type atmosphere and have tables to work through the fabrics and take notes,” she said. If companies are not comfortable sending staff, there is a resource center they can contribute to, where Power’s staff can facilitate orders. “If this enables companies to be more comfortable, I’m all for it,” she said.

While Power is tentatively slated to host late summer shows this year in Atlanta and Chicago, it’s New York City that gives her pause. Beyond spatial challenges for exhibiting, there are also cost considerations. “I anticipate a problem with lots of shows trying to find space,” she commented. With that in mind, Power is exploring Philadelphia as a possible replacement for her NYC show, at least for this year. “I’m still exploring it,” she said.

Business as Usual — NOT

With summer still a big question mark for lots of shows, fall is fast and furious becoming “the show season” for industry. “I have some international travel in September that I will need to reschedule due to the fact that so many of our clients (such as Outerbike, SBT GRVL and Life Time dirt events) are moved to fall. My schedule has really changed,” Kristin Carpenter, founder of Verde Brand Communications, commented. While she hopes and anticipates that these events happen, she has also been “already pivoting quickly” to hosting successful immersion events when an in-person event (such as a camp for an event) has been cancelled.

One of the coolest things that Carpenter has seen as of late is “virtual” Spring Classic European road bike races. Several pros are participating via virtual training platform Zwift, where the watcher can “ride along with them, see their houses and their kids high-fiving them when they win… it truly makes relating with athletes you admire different, like we’re all in this together.”

“We have an opportunity to modernize through this crisis and commit to not keeping sacred cows alive for the sake of keeping something familiar – instead we need to take risks together and create the vehicle that will support where our industry community must go today.” — Kristin Carpenter, founder, Verde Brand Communications

With meetings, events and trade shows, we have an opportunity to modernize through this crisis, Carpenter explained, “and commit to not keeping sacred cows alive for the sake of keeping something familiar – instead we need to take risks together and create the vehicle that will support where our industry community must go today.”

During Kingpins24, three panel experts participated in a talk called “The Future of Seminars.” Moderator Kerry Bannigan (founder of the Conscious Fashion Campaign, which works with the United Nations to advance sustainable development goals) asked poignant questions pertaining to “business as usual.” Due to cancellations of events and shows, Alex Paredes explained how his budget at Jeanologia suddenly opened up, creating a positive for the future. In normal times, without so many in-person commitments, perhaps instead “we could put that money into research and development or into sustainability,” he commented.

When asked about the viability of in-person events in the future, panelist Simply Suzette founder and sustainable denim curator Ani Wells asked, “why do we really need to fly our whole team out to a sustainability conference to hear someone speak?”

The consensus is that denim executives travel far and often, perhaps unnecessarily. “In denim, we are in a unique position,” explained Adam Taubenfligel, creative director for Triarchy denim. “If I could look at fabrics once a year, that would be enough. Denim doesn’t change that much.” Taubenfligel explored the idea of meeting in person, albeit less frequently. “I can’t do my job if I can’t touch the fabric. I’ve tried it, it’s awful,” he joked.

“The apparel industry is really about touch and feel, which is difficult virtually,” added Kirsten Harris, VP of North America marketing for Nilit. “The workforce has gotten used to the comfort of working remotely,” noted Harris. When we do travel, it will be to segmented shows that are productive, while a “few larger, international shows will bring the global community together to share ideas and innovations,” she said.