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Pure London enjoys positive AW23 edition despite wider retail woes

By Huw Hughes


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Image: Pure London | Credit: FashionUnited

Pure London returned to the English capital this week, taking place in its usual stomping ground at London Olympia from February 12 to 14, a three-day event that focused mainly on womenswear, but also featured menswear, footwear, accessories, and a dedicated, separate section for manufacturers.

“I am overwhelmed by the buzz, the energy, and the positive feedback that we’ve had from the brands, exhibitors, and buyers,” event organiser Gloria Sandrucci told FashionUnited. “It’s like a new world - it's amazing to see how Pure had returned and evolved from where we were last July.”

As a reminder, this AW23 edition was only the second in-person Pure London to take place following a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. The physical event returned in July, but took place in a down-sized format concurrently with premium trade show Scoop - also owned by Pure parent Hyve Group - which took place in an adjoined but different location.

The first thing to notice when entering the expansive London Olympia hall on Sunday - aside from a nice selection of mini prosecco bottles welcoming visitors - was an excited buzz and steady footfall across the trade show floor.

While there was a broad range of brands and styles on show, bright colours and bold patterns stood out throughout the trade fair. “People want colours again, which is fantastic,” Sandrucci said. “They want that chicness and sophistication; they want to go out and celebrate their freedom again after years of lockdown.”

Image: Emily & Me | Credit: FashionUnited
Image: VilaGallo | Credit: FashionUnited

Talking of trends, Pure London partnered with Paris-based trend forecaster Promostyle for this edition, giving brands and buyers more nuanced and researched-based insights into what to expect for current and future seasons. Sandrucci happily pointed out that Pure is the first fashion trade show to have secured such a partnership.

Upbeat atmosphere

More than 250 brands attended Pure London for this edition, with a broad range of them sharing their excitement to be back once again to meet new and existing business partners.

“We have had a really great show with a lot of footfall and mix of new and existing clients,” said Estelle Frelâtre, who represents French fashion labels La Fée Maraboutée and Humility, which have been attending Pure for over six years. Frelâtre said La Fée Maraboutée had a “really successful” show, securing 40 percent more orders than at its previous spring-summer season.

She said British consumers like the appeal of the brand for its versatility and ability to mix and match outfits and the fact that 95 percent of its products are made in Italy. “British customers really like that as a sign of high quality,” she said. Overall, they mostly saw returning customers, but also took orders from 12 new customers over the three-day event.

Image: La Fée Maraboutée | Credit: FashionUnited

Equally positive was Vali Cioban, the head designer and founder of Romania brand Chic, who was attending the show for the first time and said she had received a lot of orders during the event. One notable benefit she mentioned was that her products were being worn on the Pure Catwalk - a dedicated runway show taking place several times a day in the centre of the event, with models donning items from various attending brands. “We had crowds coming to us straight after the runway show,” she said.

Another brand showcasing its collection on the catwalk was Dipii Stark, a London-based brand selling luxury silk sleepwear and accessories like scarves and pockets squares. Founder Amardip Khosa-Starknoted was upbeat about the show, its selection of brands, and the overall energy, and said the decision to join the catwalk put the brand at the “forefront” of buyers’ minds, resulting in a steady stream of visitors during the event. This positivity was shared by many brands, who said they experienced a nice mix of returning buyers and new faces.

Other brands, however, noted that they were doing more networking rather than taking orders, including Loreto Martinez, a brand launched in 2020 and based in Almería on the South coast of Spain. A representative said the company has been “very successful so far in Spain, so we wanted to see how the British consumer responds to it”. While the show was overall “positive”, she said she would have hoped to have secured some more orders, but as a newer brand was hoping some might materialise later through connections made during the show.

Market uncertainty still lingers

As is the case with all current trade fairs, there were also whispers of the broader backdrop of rising inflation and cautious consumers among retailers and buyers, and while many exhibitors celebrated a strong number of orders and consistent footfall, others cited market uncertainty as to why they were mostly networking rather than taking orders.

A representative for Palme, a Paris-based brand which has attended Pure for the past six editions, said the show was a bit quieter than she had hoped, but also noted that her brand is mostly focused on summer and beachwear, so tends to do better in the spring-summer editions. While she said the company had taken a fair amount of orders, she also noted that rising inflation and broader market uncertainty was making buyers more cautious, and added that, for a French brand, Brexit made coming to British trade shows more complex and costly.

Image: Pure London | Credit: FashionUnited

Another brand owner, who asked not to be named, also noted that inflation was “having an impact on business and trade fairs in general”, but noted that Brexit red-tape was a particular frustration for UK-based events. They were also one of several attending brands to note that with the retail industry in a relatively delicate position, and buyers a bit more cautious with their budgets, networking at events followed by orders a little later on was becoming more common.

Regardless, the overall mood at Pure was undoubtedly upbeat, with attendees happy to see each other in person again, and there was a reassuring optimism that current market headwinds would soon improve.

So what’s next?

Event organiser Gloria Sandrucci said she was “proud to see the internationals coming back to Pure” for this edition following global travel disruption and uncertainty in recent years, a positive trend she said she expects to continue to improve. While Pure doesn’t provide exact attendee figures, Sandrucci noted that over 22 countries were present at this edition, from countries including Italy, Portugal, Turkey, France, and Australia.

As is the case with every trade show under the sun these days - and for good reason - sustainability also continued to take centre stage at Pure London. And that focus on sustainability will only increase moving forward, Sandrucci said. The trade show now has a dedicated Sustainability Hub, providing retailers with access to free expertise and advice on their sustainability journey.

In conjunction, Pure launched an Independent Fashion Retailer Sustainability Toolkit, a “step-by-step guide” for retailers looking for “practical and tangible information on everything from reducing carbon footprint and energy consumption to sustainable packaging, to help them embrace sustainability in their business”.

Image: Pure London Sustainability Hub | Credit: FashionUnited

Sandrucci said moving forward she wants the sustainability section to grow, as well as the number of attending brands that can be classified as “sustainable”, as “that’s the direction the industry is moving towards”. The next edition of Pure London will take place from July 16 to 18 at London Olympia.

Pure London