Brisk business at biggest-ever Harrogate Fashion Week

A giant purple bow was once again wrapped around the entrance to the Harrogate Convention Centre this weekend.

The emblem of Harrogate Fashion Week welcomed visitors to the spring/summer 23 edition of the Yorkshire trade show, which was the biggest in its seven-season history. Directors Wendy Adams and Sarah Moody added a third hall for the first time, and the event hosted 136 brands in total.

Sunday’s visitor numbers were also up by just under 50% compared with July 2021, Adams told Drapers, though wouldn’t share exact numbers: “The show has gone very well. We finally feel we made up for having the break for Covid [Harrogate Fashion Week was forced to postpone two seasons under the restrictions].

Adams continued: “We’re finding that people are coming from a lot further afield. We’ve had a lot of buyers from Scotland – the Isle of Aran, Falkirk and Inverness – and from Ireland: Belfast, Dublin and Galway. We were worried that we’d have only northern buyers but that hasn’t been the case. We’ve had people travelling up from Bournemouth and Southampton.”

Similarly, Penny Callaghan, founder of womenswear brand My Mother’s Garden and Colmer’s Hill Fashion Boutique, reported speaking to buyers from Essex, North Wales and Ireland.

Callaghan said the cost of living crisis was forcing buyers be “thinking through things very carefully and making careful decisions”.”

However, she added: “People who are buying from us are feeling very buoyant. Some boutiques are saying it’s not even a factor. It depends where [the store] is located – with the the upmarket boutiques, it’s not going to affect their customer base.”

Adams concurred, saying that the cost of living crisis “hasn’t seemed to stop people spending at the minute – everyone’s reporting good orders, especially occasionwear”.

Jill Campbell, owner of Solo Boutique in Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, told Drapers her store has had a good year, thanks to a focus on occasionwear and its bounceback after pandemic restrictions, and wedding guest looks for a “mature” market.

“It’s a price sensitivity thing at the minute. I expected prices to go up, and some suppliers have put them up and some haven’t.

“For the store, you have to accept that pries are going up, so it’s even more important to find brands and pieces that offer versatility and style.

“We don’t sell wedding outfits above £450 because we’re not specialists. What my customers are looking for is an outfit they can wear again. Customers will come in and buy one nice piece, rather than going to the high street and buying two.

“Everyone has been wanting new outfit. Everyone who sells weddingwear has had a good season.

Stephen Joseph, country manager for women’s wholesale footwear brand Caprice, felt Harrogate Fashion Week was “well attended”, and said he had opened many new accounts: “There has been a lot more confidence in buying, and those brands that are strong are getting stronger. Some [buyers’] budgets are diminishing, but we’re getting a larger chunk of that budget.”

Caroline Wardell, owner of womenswear brand The Bamboo Wardrobe, said the show was “definitely bigger than it’s ever been”. Buyers she had spoken to were from Scotland and the north of England, and she reported “a lot of new customers and new accounts , which is what you need at the end of the day”.

Marc Querol, exhibiting at Harrogate Fashion Week for the first time with Saint James womenswear, said his experience had been “positive, with great attendance from the north and also a few customers from Ireland”: “It is an order-writing show and has a great opportunity for us to open new accounts.”

In February, there was a traffic jam of UK trade shows – with Harrogate Fashion Week, Scoop x Pure, Moda and Just Around The Corner showing in the same week.

Organiser Adams was pleased that the shows have once again spread out this season, and noted that Just Around The Corner’s Manchester edition, which runs on 2-3 August at Freight Island, will not drawn buyers’ away from her own event because of the more casual brands on offer there.

She predicted that for the autumn/winter 23 edition in February 2023, Harrogate Fashion Week will continue to grow.

Keep up to date with upcoming trade shows with the Drapers SS23 trade show calendar here.

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