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Show Runner: Leslie Gallin on Creating Trade Show Experiences

Running a trade show is a lot like running a retail business. “It’s all about the consumer. If you produce a quality-rich, stylish product, the customers will respond. Just about every shoe brand I have ever seen has a passionate story to tell. It’s all right there—they just need to put it out there,” said Leslie Gallin, president footwear, UBM, which owns FN PLATFORM, WSA@MAGIC and Sole Commerce.

Gallin’s career began running the apparel divisions for Geoffrey Beene, Louis Feraud, Escada and ABS by Allen Schwartz, followed by serving as the director of the collections at World Shoe Association (WSA) and Sole Commerce before launching FN Platform in 2010. The show has since become a bi-annual shoe event drawing buyers, retailers and brands from around the world.

Pre-registration numbers for the Aug. 15-17 edition of FN PLATFORM in Las Vegas are coming in strong, Gallin reported. Highlights include an opening night concert by Wilson Phillips, an exhibition by shoe artist Chris Francis and top-notch seminars featuring NSRA, FDRA, AAFA and more.

To keep the show fresh, Gallin keeps her ears close to the ground speaking to retailers and brands, and examining other pockets of the industry. “All industries play a proving ground for new ideas and lessons of what don’t work,” she said.

VAMP: What are some brands to watch?
Gallin: Hammitt, John White, Alice & Whittles, 5yMedio, Trask, and Klik.

VAMP: Do people expect more from trade shows than just product?
Gallin: I believe it’s the takeaway. When people leave they think, ‘Did I find something new? Did I learn something? Make a new connection and have some fun?’ These are the reasons I like to think people go anywhere.

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VAMP: How important is creating experiences?
Gallin: Shopping is an experience. Retailers are like art dealers showing off the latest creations. Think about the passion from the makers whose creations are on the shelf for sale. People are attracted to eye-appealing installations. I suppose that you can consider the installation, or display, an experience.

VAMP: What’s the biggest challenge?
Gallin: Not having enough time to do all that you want or need to do.

VAMP: How do you stay motivated show after show?
Gallin: By loving what I do. There is very little downtime, going from one event into another. Learning and evolving to provide the best possible marketplaces for our customers are what I think about all the time.

VAMP: What is your most memorable trade show moment?
Gallin: There was a thunderstorm during an August show, which sparked a blackout. All of the overhead lights went out and all that was left on was the beautiful lightbox artwork and the chandeliers in the show lounges. It was so picturesque.

VAMP: How have you remained passionate about footwear?
Gallin: The footwear industry is contagious. It’s people, the passion for product, design and it’s philanthropy.

For more interviews like this, check out VAMP Magazine.