Guglielmo Olearo, Director of Première Vision’s international shows: “Emerging Chinese brands constitute a real reservoir in terms of business.”
As the head of Première Vision’s international trade shows, Guglielmo Olearo occupies a unique vantage point from which to observe all the world’s markets. At the close of our series of conferences, he shared with us his views on the geopolitics currently being redrawn, a valuable overview for rethinking strategies and development.
How would you assess the current state of the fashion industry?
Without question, the pandemic has had a very negative impact. No tourists, no consumption, etc. Suppliers – like brands – have been hit hard. According to the most recent studies, brands are showing a 25 % to 35% decline in turnover, and of course the upstream side of the industry is seeing the same thing. The industry has to rethink itself, and innovate while waiting for the first positive signals, which will not come before we get back to business and our normal lives.
We know the pandemic has brought serious difficulties, but also opportunities – what are they?
Some companies have taken advantage of the crisis to come up with new strategies in terms of product development, innovation and market access – all while harnessing the full power of digital technology. Even if, in our world, the ability to physically touch is paramount, you still have to exploit the immense potential of digital. Many exhibitors still need to take this step to keep up their dialogue with brands. Our Marketplace supports them in this process by working more specifically on the combination of physical and digital, a dual approach that is proving to be a very creative source of opportunity. Here we are talking about the famous omni-channel strategy, which brings together both worlds to develop a global strategy
Asia, and especially China, seem to have benefited from this crisis. Why is that?
China seems to have a better handle on the pandemic, which has allowed consumption to pick up again. Actually it’s even looking quite strong – the famous “revenge shopping” following months of confinement. The Chinese want to indulge themselves and the figures look very encouraging. In an overall context, China is somewhat alone, and will drive global growth. According to 2019 estimates, the country was headed towards becoming the largest fashion market in 2025, this will clearly happen sooner. The Chinese market offers extraordinary potential – because of its size, and because of the emergence of a generation Z with a huge appetite for luxury and a desire to flaunt it.
How can companies capitalize on the new geopolitics?
First of all, they have to learn how to address these markets, which have become very demanding. The Chinese are more and more susceptible to the message conveyed by brands and it is essential to develop very specific guidelines. The Chinese want modernity, inspiration and strong values, particularly in terms of eco-responsibility. Sustainable development is now a central focus, part of the overall philosophy unique to their country. Unlike other populations, the Chinese trust in the future. They want to regain their rightful place in history and are campaigning for a future that harmoniously unites people and nature. And all of this is set against the omnipresence of technology, though physical experiences remain important.
Taking all these transformations into account, how can companies today create or strengthen their ties with Asia?
It’s critical that a company share these values and fully understand how these markets are evolving. In the 2000s, China was the world’s factory. Today, we are seeing the emergence of local brands that are growing incredibly quickly, and are seeking European know-how, excellent raw materials and sustainable development. For several years now, we have been advising our exhibitors to look to this incredible reservoir as a place to do business.
What role does Première Vision play in helping to conquer these markets?
We play a facilitating role. We have a year-round local office that keeps in touch with their institutions and promotes dialogue throughout the industry. The Chinese market is very promising but it’s also very challenging, and it requires a long term investment. It’s absolutely indispensable to rely on local contacts who understand the way business is done, and thinking from a Chinese point of view. Our ties with this country are quite strong, as demonstrated by the first edition of our show in Shenzhen show last fall, which had 20,000 visitors and 60 exhibitors. And we’re going to further its development in 2021 with two new editions, in April and October.
What have you learned from your experience with China?
The biggest lesson is related to the digital world, in particular how to create digital events in parallel to a physical experience. And for this we can capitalize on the power of our Marketplace. Our digital show this past February 15 to 19 was powered by the traffic on our platform to encourage even more interaction. In addition, digital will increasingly dictate the calendar of our operations, which will no longer remain rigidly based on two events a year. More than ever, we’ll be fostering an ongoing dialogue with the fashion community, and for this China is a valuable laboratory, thanks to the power of its social media platforms and the speed of its growth. It’s up to us to transpose this know-how, to adapt ourselves and be inventive…
Are there other markets to be exploited, apart from China?
I think the US will pick up again as soon as the pandemic is over, because the country has always shown an incredible ability to bounce back. The situation will be more difficult in Europe and will depend on the investments made in each country. Last, while China remains the biggest asset, you can’t ignore the rest of Asia, especially Japan and Korea. One thing is certain, all markets deserve our attention!
More from our special report on The New Situation of the Markets:
Read our interview with Dario Querci, a Senior Textiles and Sustainability Advisor for the US market