Tips for attending fabric trade shows like Première Vision

Stephanie Steele Monday, 30 September 2019

Just over a week ago we visited Première Vision, the global leading fabric trade fair. It is immense in there. The whole show is dedicated fully to fashion fabric, including leather, yarns and tech. There’s also specific halls for manufacturing and accessories, so you can connect with producers of components and trims, as well as the fabric for your full production chain.

If you’re a designer, then you should visit Première Vision (PV) at least once, as it helps to understand the grand scale of all the people involved in the production of your creations. Trade fairs run year long, but are generally concentrated in Autumn and Spring, giving designers, brands, buyers and manufacturers a set timescale to work from.


In this post you'll learn:

  • What trade shows are
  • What you can find at Première Vision
  • Tips on utilising your time at trade fairs

What are trade shows?

In our ‘From Design To Product’ Masterclass, you’ll have become familiar with how the fashion design calendar works. Well, trade fairs (or trade shows) each have a significant character and you should visit the ones most applicable for your production schedule or the type of product you’re making. You can also access a handy list of worldwide fashion trade shows in our 'Where and How to Sell: Wholesale, Agents and Online Marketplaces' Masterclass.

What is Première Vision?

Première Vision runs for 3 days, and you really do need all of those days if you want to visit everything. However, making a plan of action before you go will help to ensure you don’t get sidetracked by other lovely-looking things, and visit your preferred areas first in case time dwindles. Having a plan also allows you the freedom to arrange appointments should the stand be busy, as you’ll be able to see when you’ll be back in that area. As a note, you should definitely plan in lunch stops too as your head will otherwise explode from information!

We visited for the day, hopping on the Eurostar from London to Paris, so only had a short 6 hours at the show itself. In fact, Steph had brought with her students from the London College of Fashion Short Course ‘Understanding Fabrics’. These were women aiming to further their knowledge and confidence in fabrics; they were embarking on Masters degrees within fashion management and fashion business, had worked in the industry for couture designers yet now work within finance and want to re-establish knowledge, were looking to start their own creative businesses based on a love for particular materials or wanted to further their curiosity for innovative construction.

Understanding the basics of what fibres are, where fibres come from, how fabrics are made, fibre and fabric properties, the supply chain, garment construction… getting to the nitty gritty of this, no matter where you’re placed within the fashion industry, will give you a stronger grounding to ask questions and develop your business. The students had their plans, so while they went to feel up fabrics, we went to the Smart Creation section.

How to utilise your time there?

Within the ‘Universes’ at PV are smaller sections that highlight particular trends or groupings. In relative size to the whole show, this was tiny. Unfortunate, because Smart Creation, launched in 2015, enveloped all of the more sustainable, more responsible, more innovative manufacturers and companies. That being said, the 40 or so exhibitors kept us busy for the whole 6 hours, and if you were on a mission to get everywhere, then Première Vision had at least created Trails.

The Trails highlighted pictograms you could follow e.g. organic, waterless, recycled (which we actually love as an easy infographic for product labelling) as well as a rundown on talks across the three days. It showed you that in fact eco-responsible products could also be found within the other halls, such as components, fabric essentials and tech fabrics - something to offer hope that sustainability is becoming more and more engrained. There's also a Trail for small minimum order quantities for businesses creating sample collections (see a recent post from Olivia on pricing tips where we've included capsule collections as a way to understand your market), something else that promises understanding of a changing industry.

Within the Smart Creation exhibition, we met absolutely amazing businesses striving to make change, communicate alternatives and raise awareness, and the full 6 hours was utilised with having in-depth chats. That is why planning ahead, for instance by using the PV app, can also help you meet with exhibitors knowing already a little bit about them. Of course, there isn’t anything wrong with asking “so what do you do?” as a starting point - especially if their stand is minimally dressed - though having collateral can really save you both time.

Tips for your visit:

1. Make a time plan - expect 10 minutes minimum with each exhibitor, 30 minutes if you are looking and choosing fabrics. Add on extra if you are placing orders. Expect to arrange appointments if it’s a large mill or manufacturer.

2. Use the app to do some pre-research on the exhibitors you plan to visit. Use any spare time to go back and visit the ones you didn’t have as much information on, as these will require additional time.

3. Attend a talk if you can - it can give you further collateral when later visiting or contacting exhibitors.

4. If the stand is busy, take a card and contact the exhibitor later. If you really wanted to speak with them, try to arrange an appointment or sneak in a one-liner of who you are and slip them a card.

5. Ensure you make notes on the cards themselves, as well as in a notebook so that you don’t forgot important details and feelings for the exhibitor. If you have the energy, make more extensive notes on the journey home or back at your hotel after each day.

Exhibitors at the Autumn/Winter 20/21 Show

Head to our next journal post to discover who we spotted in the Smart Creation Universe, and buff up on your eco innovators.