British Quality Manufacturing Still High in Demand at Chicago Collective | February 2023
The Autumn-Winter edition of the menswear trade show Chicago Collective (5-7 February 2023) was hailed as a success by British exhibitors.
Over the past few years, the show has become a leading event for menswear, men’s accessories and footwear buyers from the US and Canada. On top of taking place in a city that many find easy to travel and enjoy, Chicago Collective offers an overview of the essential menswear trends for the market. It is an unmissable event for US and Canadian retailers.
John Smedley at Chicago Collective
High in demand exhibiting spaces
40 UK exhibitors travelled to the state of Illinois this February, including Rapport London who exhibited for the first time at Chicago Collective. Most of the UK exhibitors either manufacture in the UK or have products with a uniquely British look and feel. A few smaller designer and contemporary collections were also presented at the show. Meanwhile, major agencies have worked with UK companies to promote them at Chicago Collective and other trade shows.
Space at the show is difficult to obtain as there is a long waiting list of brands looking to join. Several UK businesses attended the show as visitors, in the hope of getting on the waiting list. The organisers of Chicago Collective would ideally like to add new British businesses at the show, but there is a lack of available space. UKFT has developed a special relationship with the organisers, but this alone will not get companies onto the list unless they fall in love with a collection and decide to move others out.
Peregrine at Chicago Collective
Leading the promotion of the UK Group
This year for the first time, UKFT took over the coordination of the British group at the show. UKFT worked closely with the Department for International Trade and the British Consulate to promote UK exhibitors at the show. This was made possible thanks to the support of DIT and of a very close working relationship with the show organisers.
Furthermore, the UK group was promoted in MR magazine, the main menswear trade magazine read by buyers from across the United States and Canada. UKFT also collaborated with the organisers on a series of floor mounted decals to highlight UK companies at the show and on two Gin & Tonic and Whisky tasting events for buyers and visitors.
Paul Alger, Director of International Business at UKFT said:
“It has been a real privilege to work with and support this prestigious group of British menswear, footwear and textile companies in Chicago. I believe that we have raised the profile of the UK group at the show and in the market and have had amazing support from the show organisers. We hope that this is only the beginning and that we will be able to support and grow this group over the years to come and show the US and Canada that the UK is a natural partner of choice”.
The UKFT Stand at Chicago Collective
The UK’s most important export market
The United States is the UK’s most important export market for fashion companies, after the European Union. For many brands, the United States remains the most important target as the show attracts US and Canadian buyers, including from important independent stores.
UK exhibitors reported that they successfully traded with many stores from various parts of both countries. Whilst the large department stores are generally reluctant to visit these kinds of events, some of the smaller ones did attend Chicago Collective. In addition, many UK brands combined their visits with their own trunk shows in the US.
Bennett Winch at Chicago Collective
A great platform for UK exhibitors
Chicago Collective is a great platform for UK exhibitors for several reasons. Firstly, attending the show is relatively cost-effective as the organisers keep the post as low as possible. Secondly, exhibitors and buyers particularly love going to Chicago, which is an interesting and again, cost-effective city. Most importantly, many buyers make appointments and put down orders rather than just browsing during the show – although this is changing.
For textile companies, the show represents an opportunity to connect with premium US stores and tailors to whom they can sell cut lengths of premium British textiles. As in Japan, many US and Canadian stores now offer in-store tailoring to their customers.
Overall, the UK presence is essential to the show organisers and buyers. UK brands were busy throughout the three days, while many buyers made a beeline for UK brands. Many of them stated that they loved the British quirkiness and quality manufacturing.