The growth of digital trade shows in the past year has given rise to more frequent communication among fabric buyers and suppliers, and one platform is dedicating itself to facilitate transactions year-round.
The online PERFORMANCE DAYS LOOP, in partnership with Functional Fabric Fair, is enabling designers, product purchasers and material managers to digitally source goods and access the latest trends and innovations in the functional fabric industry 365 days per year. The LOOP is hosting its first Digital Fair Week from May 17-21 and includes more than 180 exhibitors from 30 countries.
The move to digital started in 2020. Reed Exhibitions’ Functional Fabric Fair worked closely with Germany’s PERFORMANCE DAYS team to host three major physical events in New York, Portland, Ore., and Munich before collaborating to go digital due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Upon cancelling the summer 2020 event in New York, Functional Fabric Fair launched two all-virtual educational events in April and December, both of which featured an Expert Talks series of panel discussions and webinar sessions. The Expert Talks include well-informed subject matter experts who have been consulting for the biggest names in outdoor and performance apparel.
After the success of the two digital events, the companies wanted to extend the experiences all-year round, even as physical events popped back up.
To facilitate connections based on needs and capabilities, PERFORMANCE DAYS LOOP provides a matchmaking tool that connects sourcing professionals with a global pool of suppliers and products. Users enter their product interests into the Digital Fair Platform, which then makes recommendations based on those preferences.
Upon launching the extended experience, the teams knew that attendees anticipated more than simply “recreating in-person events just for the sake of networking,” according to Chadae Bowler, director, marketing and industry development, Functional Fabric Fair, at Reed Exhibitions.
“When speaking with our advisory board and surveying customers, it was clear that we needed to revolutionize the way the industry sources fabrics while centering sustainability and innovation,” Bowler said.
So the PERFORMANCE DAYS LOOP also will include the Performance Forum, which showcases curated trends and developments in functional fabric. The Forum spotlights exhibitor innovations across the global portfolio of PERFORMANCE DAYS and Functional Fabric Fair events.
“We wanted to create a comprehensive platform that allows suppliers to showcase their new developments, collect leads and field product requests, plus offer 3D fabric solutions that allow designers to source without the need to be face to face,” said Bowler. “The platform is designed to be intuitive, accessible on demand and available year-round, so that customers are not subjected only to trade show schedules.”
Launching a year-round platform was a high priority for all parties, especially with the recent cancellation of the New York edition, scheduled for the Javits Center in July.
But even as more physical events are returning, the Functional Fabric Fair and PERFORMANCE DAYS teams understood that two days of face-to-face business a few times a year in three locations could still be very limiting.
“2020 has shown us that people need flexibility and options,” Bowler said. “The PERFORMANCE DAYS LOOP complements the in-person events because it introduces a global audience to an already vetted group of suppliers who are ethical and sustainable by design. The platform won’t replace these in-person events, but our goal is to facilitate more meaningful interactions on site plus a well-informed industry through education and trend talks.”
The teams integrated 3D visualization into the platform so attendees can view the fabric’s design, look and feel, all while reducing physical sampling waste. X-Rite, a partner company and exhibitor within the event, provides enhanced product scans. Participating exhibitors can share the X-Rite exclusive vendor-neutral 3D files, so that customers can upload them into their preferred design software.
“The 3D scans are a great value add because they allow designers to work with virtually no product, and since the design work takes place digitally, it is more forgiving technically and also saves a lot of time,” Bowler said. Customers can order sample hangers from the exhibitors to touch and feel the fabrics, but the design aspect is all handled digitally.
Bowler also noted that plans are currently underway to add functionalities that simulate weight and transparency.
“It has always been a goal to build [year-round] content and platforms to complement our in-person events. Covid made it clear that time is now,” Bowler said. “Digital offerings give new customers an opportunity to engage with our brands prior to making the financial/time commitments to traveling to our events. Also, digital platforms know no boundaries, so it opens up our reach to a global audience.”