Editor’s Letter
”Trade shows and fashion weeks are media brands — whether they like it or not”
On the future of physical shows
17 Feb 2021

The Nordic fashion and design weeks have come to an end, the first time as full-on digital operations. The summer edition of Stockholm Design Week was cancelled last August, and Copenhagen Fashion Week pulled off a semi-physical hybrid the same month. Now, a year into the pandemic and four months into the second wave, it’s time to analyze how the shift to digital is affecting the traditional show setup. 

What can we learn from the recently completed digital industry gatherings?

Well, the biggest shift is that the trade shows and fashion weeks are now media brands in their own right, whether they like it or not. The organizations that previously had a business model to provide space and schedule for exhibitions and shows are now hosting their own television talks shows. They are distributing films and other content on their websites that ultimately competes for the same attention as any other media platform. 

(The running joke is that we used to go to a fashion or design week to look at products. Now we are in a never-ending panel talk about sustainability.)

I’m not here to review how Stockholm Fashion Week and Stockholm Design Week fared as digital talk shows. If anything, I think they have done a good job pivoting to an online only format compared to many international counterparts. But it is obvious that this shift has put enormous pressure on organizations that aren’t used to creating content, moderating conversations, and maintaining editorial balance and structure. 

Long term, if trade shows and fashion weeks won’t get their physical groove back, arguably their most unique and relevant selling point, they will see competition coming from the media space. 

”The running joke is that we used to go to a fashion or design week to look at products. Now we are in a never-ending panel talk about sustainability.”

The international design platform Dezeen recently launched a digital showroom as a ”ideal launchpad for furniture and lighting companies, designers and retailers”. The streetwear authority Highsnobiety is organizing its own version of Paris fashion week, called Not in Paris, a “bi-annual digital exhibition celebrating creativity in the age of remote interactions”, held during the “time period formerly known as Paris Men’s Fashion Week”. 

If a trade show with a few thousand people on their email list will need to compete with media platforms with millions of followers, it will be a tough fight. 

My hot tip: find innovations in immersive technologies like AR and VR to heighten the digital experience, something we see much to little of. (To learn more, listen to this week’s podcast episode with Emma Ridderstad.)

For Scandinavian MIND, the jump to digital has made us busier than ever. We are currently producing content and moderating talks for both PROJECT Show in New York City and Pitti Uomo in Florence. Expect to see more of this content in our channels in the coming weeks. 

Finally, I just want to thank everyone that listened in on the Scandinavian MIND room on Clubhouse last Friday, where we discussed this very topic. Daniel Lindström, the host of Stockholm Fashion Week, and Sanna Åkerlund Gebeyehu, responsible for Stockholm Design Week, weighed in with frontline insights. 

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated on upcoming Clubhouse sessions and digital panel talks. 

Until next time.