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A decade of showing how it’s done

Jessica Brown

It’s hard to believe it’s almost 10 years to the day that, having just joined the Drapers team, I was escorted to Cologne by the then editor Eric Musgrave and his trademark specs for my first fashion trade show experience.

It’s hard to believe it’s almost 10 years to the day that, having just joined the Drapers team, I was escorted to Cologne by the then editor Eric Musgrave and his trademark specs for my first fashion trade show experience.

True, we boarded that flight in July 2001 with the sole intention of exhausting the Inter-Jeans denim circuit, but growing whispers around the halls that season led us to cut short our visits between the Mustang and Marlboro Classics stands and risk using a precious afternoon to explore a strange new event in a derelict factory down the road.

That event turned out to be Karl-Heinz Müller’s Bread & Butter. The name had been decided, we discovered, when
Müller and his partners Wolfgang Ahlers and Kristyan Geyr held a breakfast meeting to brainstorm a title. Geyr had brought sourdough bread and fresh butter, which reminded them of how important essential basics and the highest quality are. So the German ‘brot & butter’ became Bread & Butter.

The Drapers team was hooked from the start.

I remember circling the various floors around the very simple atrium-anchored space. While it certainly wasn’t crammed, this was a fresh experience, and the 50 brands that had been brave enough to break free here didn’t need much more than a rail or two to attract attention. At B&B, product did the talking, not the square footage of your stand.

One season later, Drapers went back in force, sure that, having met Müller himself, B&B was the way forward for the European streetwear sector. This proved to be correct and it’s no exaggeration to say that its relocation to the German capital in 2003 helped transform Berlin into a cool new European fashion city, with massive ramifications for the rest of the German trade show scene.

There are too many memories to list, but a few stick out.

They include the Superdry stand in, was it, July 2004? I’m not sure I have ever seen a stand so mobbed at any trade show since. Founder Julian Dunkerton wouldn’t let me take photographs for fear of copycats and I distinctly recall standing on tiptoe trying to see over the stand walls for a glimpse of what all the fuss was about. The success of Superdry today is clear evidence that B&B is the place where global brands are born.

Who could forget the Hugo Boss floating catwalk in summer 2009 - what a way to show a collection - or the FCUKIKI Beach camper van that French Connection planted on its sand-covered beach bar stand at the crest of the surfwear movement in 2003. You couldn’t not mention G-Star and its shows either, which are phenomenal to watch. The great jeans giveaway from Pepe’s custom-build ‘laundry’ at the Luna Park in the first two editions in Barcelona had a buzz and queues almost as long as those for the burger bars, while a revolution or two on the Ferris wheel was just what was needed (or not) after a visit to the mojito bar.

In July 2005, Criminal founder Reza Dehghani, who tragically is no longer with us, masterminded what promised to be a borderline criminal party, in an actual brothel. Although few people admitted attending, it was the talk of Barcelona and reflected the hedonistic craziness of B&B.

Then there was the time that Boxfresh founder Roger Wade decided that five days of solid working in Barcelona (from stand build to breakdown) hadn’t provided the trade with enough time for “heavy networking” (as if). So some of those with a semblance of a working liver flew straight on to Ibiza for a messy weekend at a Pool Party. The B&B organisers also took a boatload of guests to the party island that weekend. Wade, who remains a ringleader, let his extended streetwear family (including David Mallon from Ringspun and Juls Dawson from Gio-Goi) kip at his Ibizan villa.

DJ Jakes aka Jonny Jacobson from Gola hit the decks but how they made it back alive I don’t know. Then there were the World Cup events in July 2006 and the Germany-Spain semi-final on the big screen at Tempelhof airport last July. While at one point, the hugely popular Sin Saloon bar created soon after the show’s return to Berlin looked like it would take over hotspots like Berlin’s Newton Bar and Barcelona’s Buda Bar. Berlin’s edgy White Trash affords some unforgettable trade nights out in B&B’s current guise.

When I brainstormed 10 years of B&B the first two words I wrote down were beer and sweat. Some of that sweat was down to a lack of air-conditioning but most of it was down to sheer bloody hard work by the organisers, exhibitors and visitors.

And the beer? Well that really did the business.

Here’s to the next decade of dreaming, doing and denim.

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