Womenswear trade show Pure London returned to the English capital from July 17 to July 19 for the first in-person, standalone edition since the beginning of the pandemic.
Despite being set against a harsh backdrop of extreme heat across the London capital and elsewhere in the country, the event celebrated an upbeat edition, with brands, buyers, and other fashion professionals happy to reunite after a two-year hiatus.
“It’s fantastic to be back after a few really difficult years - it feels like a real celebration,” Pure London event director Gloria Sandrucci told FashionUnited. “It’s so important to be able to do business again face to face, especially in the fashion industry which is a visual industry, a tactile industry, where people need to touch, feel, and try clothing.”
Immediately noticeable when entering Pure was its downsized floor plan. The trade fair was contained within just one of the vast halls that make up London Olympia, rather than previous editions when it filled two halls, and their accompanying balconies.
Sandrucci said the decision was made as there was still much uncertainty about how the pandemic would develop when organisers were given the green light to host the July edition, and didn’t want to risk having to scale down plans if new restrictions were introduced at the last moment.
But she also said the next edition of Pure, which will take place from February 12 to 14, will once again be scaled up, and also revealed a number of new dedicated sections, which we’ll get onto later.
A long-awaited return to London Olympia
Many brands enjoyed successful editions of Pure London this season, saying they had a nice and busy show with a mix of returning buyers and new faces.
“It has been a really good show for us,” said Helen Townsend, a distributor and agent of French label Humility, which has been attending Pure for six years. “I made a lot of appointments, mostly with existing customers who I invited here, as well as with a few new faces,” Townsend said. “It's great to be back and to see we’ve kept our loyal customer base through the pandemic.”
However, some brands noted they would have liked it to have been a bit busier during the three-day event, and said there was an absence of some of the bigger brands.
“We have picked up a couple of new contacts and hope we can get some new accounts, but footfall has been a bit lower than hoped,” said Olivia Mulhall, the head of Northern Europe wholesale at Austrian lingerie brand Wolford, which was attending the show for the first time. “In terms of trade fairs in the UK, Pure is probably the most relevant for us,” Mulhall said. “It’s just a case of whether the show can get the footfall up again.”
Attendees spoke of a number of contributing factors that likely impacted footfall, not least being the sweltering temperatures that in some parts of London surpassed 40C for the first time in history on Tuesday. That being said, the inside of the event was lovely and cool, offering much-needed respite from the heat for those attending.
Another potential factor that impacted attendance was the decision by some brand’s to cut down on costly trade shows amid widespread supply chain disruption and the rising cost of raw materials and broader inflation. On top of that, you have ongoing flight disruption across Europe; a reduction in Chinese visitors due to Covid restrictions; and a drop in Russian and Ukrainian attendees.
Despite all those contributing challenges, and without providing exact figures, director Gloria Sandrucci did confirm visitor density was higher for this edition than it was for the last standalone, in-person Pure show, which took place in February 2020 just prior to the first lockdown. She also noted that 31 countries were exhibiting at Pure this season, which was also above pre-pandemic figures.
Sustainability still key focus
While the reduction in size of Pure this season meant there was no dedicated sustainability section, the focus on more environmentally-friendly fashion options was still at the heart of the show, with sustainable brands out in full force and a roster of sustainable-focused talks taking place as part of the show’s content programme.
Sandrucci also revealed that the sustainability section will return for the upcoming February show, but would be renamed Purely Sustainable, and would have a focus not only on showcasing more eco brands, but also on educating and guiding brands on how to improve their sustainability credentials through “collaboration and community”.
That notion is important to Manuela van Vloten-Sabarez, the founder of premium sustainable brand Kan, which was showing for the first time at Pure. “When it comes to sustainability, I think it’s so important to be around like-minded brands so you can communicate ideas and learn from each other,” van Vloten-Sabarez said, referring to the importance of a dedicated sustainability section at Pure.
Launched four years ago, Kan creates timeless pieces from Oeko-Tex certified linens and cottons. The brand is European made and is carried at retailers including Zalando, About You, and Wolf & Badger.
“I think the event has been lovely,” van Vloten-Sabarez said. “It has been so nice to connect with people, shake hands, and learn more about the industry here in the UK, and the needs of our consumers. I’ve seen a lot of interest in sustainability here at Pure.”
Another sustainable-focused brand attending for the first time was underwear label Pantee, which creates its garments out of deadstock t-shirts. In fact, it was the first ever trade show for the brand, which was launched during the pandemic by sister co-founders Amanda and Katie McCourt.
“This is our lockdown baby,” said Amanda, who is also the brand’s CEO. “We are predominantly a DTC brand, but we’re in a discovery stage so we’re really trying to work out what works for us and what doesn’t.”
She added: “It’s been great to showcase the collections in real life and have real in-person connections after launching our brand online. The response to our product has been really great, so we’re glad to have come. Hopefully we can close some deals too, but that’s yet to be seen.”
Menswear takes smaller role
While Pure London has pulled back on its efforts to expand into menswear - the show used to have a dedicated Pure Men section - there were a small handful of men’s labels at the event, such as Polish shirt brand Socks & Sandals. Sales manager Hubert Ordyłowski said: “Overall it has been a really positive experience, with a good number of visitors - a nice mix of networking and taking orders.”
While event director Gloria Sandrucci didn’t completely rule out a reintroduction of more menswear further down the line, she made it clear what the priority is for now. “Pure london is known for being a womenswear show, and we are absolutely focusing on that. It just doesn’t feel like the right time to grow the menswear area right now.”
So what’s next?
As well as the already mentioned new sustainability section that will be introduced in February, the show will also debut a section called Pure Edge, which will be “rooted in inclusivity and diversity and offering innovative, creative collections”.
The new platform will be created alongside Carole Hunter, who created LondonEdge, a dedicated platform for alternative lifestyle fashion, back in 2000. Hunter said: “Having worked with the alternative lifestyle fashion for 25 plus years, it’s difficult to express how happy I am to be continuing to provide a platform for this special sector.
She added: “With the support and significant resources of Pure London alongside us, I see this as an unbelievable opportunity to grow and develop our marketplace yet further.”
Premium womenswear show Scoop, which runs concurrently to Pure London and for this edition took place in an adjacent venue, will in February return to its usual home of the Saatchi Gallery.