Recently Œ Magazine met up with Kristian W. Andersen Fashion and Design Director of the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair while he was in town with some of his latest men’s wear exhibitors. Chatting at SOHO House Berlin, Kristian told me all about his future plans for the growing trade show. For four years now Kristian has been running CIFF, bringing new wind into the conservative business of trade shows.
How did you come to be Fashion and Design Director of CIFF?
I’ve been in the fashion industry for the last 22 years and I met the former CEO of the entire company during fashion week in 2011. There he told me, “we need to do something completely different.” He heard that I was very good in doing things in a different way. So we actually had 4-5 Interviews and agreed to work together, it was also very interesting for me because I was a brand and exhibitor for the last 20 years. I was very motivated for this job, because after starting my own fashion brand I could now say, “If I had help this or that some things might have worked better.” So this was a good opportunity for me to be part of how the trade show should develop. This is my 4th year in this position but it feels far less because we were so busy. The first couple of seasons were very difficult. The trade show business in general is very conservative so I wanted to change the setting and curate the different areas into smaller destinations so buyers and brands could feel more comfortable and don’t have to walk through shows they are not so much interested in. I’m still here so I think brands and buyers are pleased.
What did you personally want to change about the fashion fair when you first started? Where could one see your personal touch?
Often designers try to overdo themselves from season to season, so the collections are amazing but then what most trade shows offer is not a very nice area and surrounding—often it is just a hangar and some racks. We tried to customize things for them with individual installations. We tried to create a more personal touch more like a showroom than a trade show. I think this is where one can see my personal touch. Brands are very concerned about what the buyers see and think, also it is about who you are positioned next too. Of course, they are all competitors but we try to create a nice and friendly feeling and often we see people helping each other out, so we I guess we also create a nice atmosphere.
Under which criteria do you select Designers showing at the CIFF?
We run a very big commercial show, because we are also a very dedicated sales platform for all kinds of brands. In the more curated areas like SLEEK, LAB and the new menswear show called RAVEN, it’s more like curating an art gallery. You have to see who is the designer, what they are doing, what their campaign looks like, and whether they have followers on Instagram, etc. You do not necessarily have to have a lot of shops around the world but you need to work with one of the best shops to show with us. You can meet buyers from all over the world, but you have
to understand, that these buyers have slightly more time then when you go to New York or London. So it’s not a big interview but it’s based on dialogue—how both the show and the brand can have a good experience. It is easier for me to invest in the brand when I see they are active. We need a dialogue and to know what their expectations are.
Is there a special theme or something you lay more focus on varying from season to season?
First of all, Denmark is one of the biggest fur productions with mink fur, so there is no anti-fur theme at CIFF, we do respect anti-fur organizations through. In my view it is very interesting how sports fashion is getting more and more fashionable. So the whole crossover between sportswear and fashion is really important for us, we are also opening a sports fashion destination in August to be able to accommodate the growing sportswear market. I mean they have their platform in Germany at the ISPO, but we are not trying to be the next ISPO. We do want to focus on sportswear that tries to focus on fashionable clothing. That’s a big thing for the future.
What’s in store for us next season? SS16
If you take the business side, it will be the biggest CIFF since my time. We have the new men’s show RAVEN which is a really interesting project, the new sports show, and you’ll meet LAB which is a unisex area from brands all over the world. The big showrooms from London and Paris are joining us with their brands this year as well. And you’ll see SLEEK which is a womenswear destination. Basically we have 4 or 5 individual destinations and all have their different focus.
In which ways is the Scandinavian market similar to the German/ Berlin market, are there differences in terms of the target group?
In general Danes have a big love for Berlin because it is a similar life. Berlin is like a oversized Copenhagen in many ways. A lot of Danes came to Berlin but now it is time that young people from Berlin come with their fashion to Copenhagen. There has always been a fascination on both sides. Berlin and Copenhagen are one of the only markets with unisex fashion.
What do you forecast will be a strong focus for Scandinavian fashion?
The beginning of a separate destination for men’s fashion, which we already started is one of the main business decisions. Also, possibly that fashion week in Copenhagen will be earlier in the future. The younger designers have been my focus since my beginning because I think it is not enough to offer the young designers a free space. It is a positive nightmare for many many years and no one wants to hear from you till you are famous.I think it would very interesting to be a part of that way. Good things can also happen between shows so we try to be a good partner all