The Shows Must Go On: Trio of Fashion Events Prove to Be Stronger Together
Three was certainly company at the Orange County Convention Center when a trio of fashion shows resumed in-person events in Orlando recently. MAGIC Pop-Up Orlando, OFFPRICE Orlando Market and WWIN Orlando Showcase, held Feb. 9-11, relied on three titans of the trade show industry — Informa Markets, Clarion Events and Tarsus Group — to present a unified front to ensure safety measures were upheld while important business was conducted.
With the tactile nature of the fashion industry, many buyers and exhibitors were eager to move their networking and deal brokering back to an in-person format. To accommodate those ready to travel and meet, Informa, Clarion and Tarsus made a joint agreement to move their annual winter shows from Las Vegas — still hampered by large gathering limitations — to Orlando.
“The on-site energy was upbeat, enthusiastic and hopeful, with both fashion brands and retail buyers demonstrating eagerness to reconnect and conduct business in a live environment setting,” said Kelly Helfman, commercial president of Informa Markets Fashion.
While they knew the numbers would not match past totals, organizers felt the time was right to put on the shows.
“After careful consideration, we thought we could put-together a more intimate event for those who were ready,” said Tricia Barglof, executive director of OFFPRICE, part of the Tarsus Group. (TSNN is also part of Tarsus.)
Helfman reported that attendees took advantage of the intimate nature of this event by walking all of the showfloors and sitting in on timely education sessions. It also proved to be an effective environment to conduct business.
- Pre-event communication and on-site signage
- Requiring a negative COVID test through pre-testing or free on-site COVID testing
- Face masks were required
- Temperature checks before entrance to the exhibit hall
- Extra-wide aisles and additional space between booths for an expanded floor plan
- Deep cleaning the venue daily and extra cleaning and security staff to ensure all safety measures were enforced
On-site, wellness desks with extra masks and sanitizer were spread out across the convention center and booth spaces were expanded to provide an open-air space. The larger booths had a secondary benefit in that they proved to be a welcoming environment that was easier to display products, Helfman said.
Attendees were impressed.
"We liked that we were able to meet various suppliers in Orlando after a whole year,” said Buyer Jack Silvera, who traveled from Panama to Florida for OFFPRICE. “The show was well organized and safe."
OCCC has been a savior for many companies looking to stage a face-to-face component with their events but unable to do so in contracted venues. The convention center has hosted more than 20 relocated gatherings during the pandemic. The planning and venue were a perfect match for this time, said Clarion Events Executive Vice President Desiree Hanson, who added that everyone involved is ready to speed the recovery.
“It’s been exactly one year since we were together in person with our customers and it felt incredible to see the signs of business getting back on its feet,” Hanson said. “Face-to-face is what the fashion industry needs and we were happy we could provide a safe environment for our customers to do business in person.”
Teamwork was instrumental to ensure the trio of shows felt like a unified experience with distinct components—the underlying effort of a “strong together” theme.
Marketing and operations teams held weekly calls leading up to the collocated shows. “Where we could align on operations initiatives — security, cleaning, signage — it was important for the groups to work together so that we made it as easy as possible for anyone attending in order to enhance their experience,” Barglof explained.
The shows “delivered substantial economic impact to the region, supporting local hotels, restaurants, retailers and entertainment, not to mention sustaining revenue for the OCCC and its hundreds of full-time and contracted employees,” noted OCCC officials in a press release.
On a more visceral level, Barglof said she could feel the enthusiasm from the in-person crowd. “Although you couldn’t see the smiles behind the masks, you could genuinely see the happiness in everyone’s eyes to see one another again,” she said.
Magic, WWIN and OFFPRICE plan to conduct their summer show in August in Las Vegas, their long-standing home. And with February’s event in the books, there is momentum going forward.
“It’s going to take time to rebuild, which is why it was important to take the leap now, while the industry is asking for these opportunities to show them that we can do this safely together,” Hanson said.
Added Helfman: “Fashion is on the rebound.”
Photo Credits: Informa Markets Fashion/Hailley Howard Photography (top); OFFPRICE (middle); Orange County Convention Center/WWIN (bottom)