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Anita Tillmann from Premium Group on challenges facing the industry, sustainabilty and Gen Z

Translated by
Jan 2, 2023

Anita Tillmann launched the Premium trade show concept 20 years ago, which will celebrate its anniversary at the upcoming edition from January 17 to 19. In an interview with FashionNetwork.com, Tillmann talks about the challenges faced in past years, new opportunities and the power of the young generation. 

Anita Tillmann - PREMIUM GROUP

FNW: The first edition of Premium took place in 2003. How has the trade show evolved since then? 

AT: Trade shows are the perfect venue, especially for newcomers. The list of brands that have developed and evolved with us is long. Today, trade shows are still platforms where new things are presented to the industry, be it through collections, new concepts or the repositioning of already established brands. 20 years ago, retail was very consistent in all cities, everything looked the same. We changed that back then. This development has been accelerated even more by globalisation and digitalisation, and retail is much more diverse today than it was back then.

FNW: In the summer, the trade show celebrated its physical comeback. The excitement around the return was clearly noticeable on site. On the other hand, there was criticism on the subject of clarity. Are there any changes here?

AT: The first kick-off event in the summer was different for many different reasons, mainly due Covid-related uncertainties that resulted in planning at short notice. That was tough. Nevertheless, we took the feedback very seriously and followed up on the requests for improvement from last season. The trade show in January will be more compact and will be clearly and structurally divided. This time we will be at the Messe-Süd entrance and occupy halls that allow for a different structuring of the stands. Womenswear, menswear, footwear and accessories will be presented and among other things there will also be a beauty lounge.
FNW: Sustainable brands also wanted a holistically sustainable hall - after the discontinuation of Neonyt. Will this be the case?

AT: We are working on it. There will be close to 100 more sustainable brands presented, most of them at Seek. But Premium is also showing some promising more sustainable brands. The portfolio is something to be proud of.

FNW: How has the sustainability theme evolved since the show began?

AT: We have been supporting sustainable brands and social companies since 2006. Back then, we started with a Green Area, which we have continued to develop until today. Symposia, expert lectures and other innovative projects and initiatives were added. Today, all activities are bundled under the Premium Group Conscious Club, which we relaunched last season. I also find it interesting to observe that brands and designers who are new in the market are positioning themselves as sustainable.

FNW: How has retail changed in this area? 

AT: Large retailers now allocate about five to ten percent of their purchasing budgets to sustainable brands. In our conversations with both brands and retailers, we've found that while a lot of them want to address the issue of sustainability, they don't really know where to start. Sustainability is a very complex and multi-layered topic and individual companies need individual solutions. We want to offer these in cooperation with Studio MM04. To this end, we will show Role Model Brands that have already successfully implemented sustainability in their corporate strategies. We invite retailers to take a look at this modern and well curated portfolio.

FNW: The Ground festival, dedicated to the end consumer, was held for the first time during the summer. What were retailers and brands able to take away from this?

AT: We announced back then that we were going to test the Gen Z-focused festival for the first time in the summer. We invested a lot, learned an insane amount in the process, and we will continue to do so in order to get a better understanding of Gen Zs. The goal is to encourage brands to do brand activations and engage in a direct dialogue with the end consumer. In addition, brand activations are also very interesting for brick-and-mortar retailers. We show which event formats and activations can be used in different areas to address new customers, to win them over or to entertain already existing customers.

FNW: How has the next generation influenced the industry?

AT: This generation is more comfortable with change, which means they are much more realistic. Traditional roles and ideals are being challenged, and as a result, values are changing. Gen Z is very purpose-driven and purpose-oriented. This will bring many changes to our industry for sure. In conversations with exhibitors and retailers, I also notice a longing for lightness and lightheartedness; everyone is looking back. I think it is much more interesting and constructive to look at the now and the future.

FNW: In January, Premium will again take place parallel to Berlin Fashion Week. Do you anticipate any synergy effects?

AT: There are clearly overlaps and synergies, that was also the purpose of it and everyone is happy that it's back. We work very closely together, especially with the German Fashion Council, of which I am a co-founder, and the Premium Group is a founding member. The new show location in the Kant Garages is only 10 minutes away from us. We coordinate dates with each other as much as possible and there are various joint events. 

FNW: The industry is suffering from the aftermath of the Corona pandemic, the current energy crisis and inflation. What does this mean in terms of new tasks and challenges for the Premium Group as an organiser?

AT: Many exhibitors and dealers are not doing well economically at the moment. Corona aid has to be paid back, and then there is the Ukraine war, the energy crisis, delivery problems, inflation and the associated existential fears. The challenge, of course, is to keep people happy, to keep the industry happy. No one questions an organized industry meeting and a face-to-face get-together. The feedback from the industry speaks for us. The DACH market is also still stronger than any other market in Europe. Nevertheless, we all face the same challenges. How can we manage together to get the industry back into a positive flow? Everyone has to join in, see the times of change as an opportunity, even if it's hard.

FNW: These challenging times must also be reflected in trade show planning?

AT: The trade show reflects new trends on the one hand and the market on the other. When the market is buzzing, the trade shows are buzzing, too. If it's subdued outside, then that's also reflected at our trade shows. In this respect, we can say that it will probably be 2023 or 2024 before we get back to the same level as before Corona. But 2023 will be much better than the last two years, when we couldn't hold the event at all. That's why, despite everything, we are looking ahead with confidence.
FNW: What opportunities do you see for the industry despite the current permanent crisis?

AT: After 20 years, a new cycle is beginning, that of the consumer and the community. If you look at the numbers in the market, you see that brick-and-mortar retail has suffered less than expected. Digital commerce, on the other hand, remains the same or doesn't make a big splash. E-commerce was strong during the Corona peak, but now it has leveled off again. This is benefiting brick-and-mortar retail in particular, which can now show new things and emotionalize in a different way. That offers a huge opportunity. At the same time, digital platforms also have to show a different brand mix, and where could you get a better overview than at the trade show?

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