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Top 5 Highlights from the 2019 Functional Fabric Fairs

Performance innovation drove the apparel conversation in 2019, and the two Functional Fabric Fairs served as proving grounds for much of it.

To be sure, it was a year of growth for the show, which not only saw attendance and exhibitor increases at its New York location, but also welcomed a brand-new event in Portland, Ore. All of this combined to establish the Functional Fabric Fair as the leading event in the United States where the industry comes together to learn and share best practices regarding responsible sourcing and manufacturing.

“We are amazed by the response from the industry, grateful for the support of our customers and partners, and eager to expand on all we’ve learned in two short years,” said Chadaé Chang Bowler, marketing director at Reed Exhibitions, producers of the Functional Fabric Fair. “It is a great honor to be part of this community, and I look forward to continuing our work to strengthen and grow the industry in all the years to come.”

Stephen McCullough, event manager, Functional Fabric Fair, echoed this sentiment, noting that the company was humbled by both who exhibited and who attended.

“To have had this group attend, and have been satisfied with the experience we executed in New York and Portland, is the ultimate achievement for our team and our partners at Performance Days in Munich,” he said. “Our timing and the current market situations create a multitude of opportunities to bring relevant information to the audience we have captured. This is what is so exciting about our events in 2020 and beyond. We can be a voice for the industry and bring to the forefront issues that will shape not only our industry, but the global landscape.”

Here, find the top factors that helped make these events so successful.

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1. An event to remember

The 2019 shows featured double the number of exhibitors over 2018, with a 93 percent increase in total space sold. Attendance was also up 61 percent in New York, reaching 1,861. The inaugural Portland show, meanwhile, welcomed an impressive 1,161 attendees.

What’s more, high exhibitor and attendee loyalty and satisfaction rates demonstrated the shows’ extreme value: 

New York 2019:
Exhibitor Satisfaction/Loyalty: 71 percent/73 percent
Attendee Satisfaction/Loyalty: 86 percent/86 percent

Portland 2019:
Exhibitor Satisfaction/Loyalty: 71 percent/80 percent
Attendee Satisfaction/Loyalty: 86 percent/96 percent

As part of the Trees for the Future initiative—in which 10 trees were planted for every attendee—10,000 trees were planted in the driest parts of East and West Africa. This helped farmers and their families plant Forest Gardens in these areas to improve poverty and better the environment.

2. A platform for innovation

Sustainability played a crucial role in the fabric trends moving the needle at the shows, with biodegradability, recycled and alternative downs, and performance hemp all playing prominent roles.

Fabrics with cooling properties were also front and center, with natural cooling minerals keeping wearers cool while remaining soft to the touch.

3. A map for diverse sourcing

Thanks to predetermined criteria set by the show’s organizers, the Functional Fabric Fair has percentage capacity of 50 percent for the U.S., Asia, Europe, Pacific and Central/South American regions, ensuring that a variety of sourcing locations are available. Also, shows are organized so that companies are placed randomly, rather than clumped by location, to provide attendees with the chance to see something fresh as they navigate the floor.

4. A forum to educate

The Functional Fabric Fairs laid claim to a baker’s dozen of unique talks, including presenters from Utah State University, Portland Fashion Institute and the University of Oregon. Subjects included color trends, performance technology, fabric sourcing and sustainability initiatives.

A new university partnership welcomed regional university students, some of whom presented during the talk “Four Sides and a Zipper? How Performance Sport Bag Design can be Revolutionized through Intersectional Creative Thinking.”

5. A space to connect

The feedback about the shows was overwhelmingly positive from both attendees and exhibitors, with many agreeing that it provides opportunities not readily found elsewhere within the industry. For Dave Bywater, vice president of sales, commercial and military at Cocona 37.5, it gives him the ability to “interact with some of the biggest fashion brands in the world,” something that he wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.

“Our experience has been super positive,” said Chase Anderson, industry relations/marketing and PR for outdoor product design, Utah State University. “We loved being here at the show and being connected to designers and materials innovators…From the material development to the designers using those materials, that’s where it’s a good fit for our programs because we’re so focused on training the next generation of product designers and developers.”

“It’s really one of the best destinations we have to show our products and to be in an environment of other makers of performance fabrics,” David Karstad, vice president of marketing at Polartec, added. 

The 2020 Functional Fabric Fairs will be held July 20-21 in New York and Nov. 18-19 in Portland. Click to learn more.