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Fashion Business: East Europe – The next Fashion Destination?

After been involved with the East European fashion industry dynamics I can say that for many in this world Russia, Belarus, Poland, Latvia and Ukraine might still be “terra incognita” or even “very frightening” in terms of market for few but the innovation and contribution to the fashion and retailing business in general coming from those countries is definitely attracting day after day an increasing range of experts and visionary designers who started to consider the ex- Sovietic Union countries as the next fashion destinations to be invested in when looking for a good level of showcase opportunities, buyers and media publications.

Publications as Vogue, Harper´s Bazaar, Elle, Allure, just to name a few, found themselves attracted to east europe due to the increasing market opportunities and repercussion coming from the repressed ex-soviet union countries in which they didn´t simply forecast a growing economy but also an opportunity to shape and inform the audience with western tips of style, brands and inspiration in order to create opinion leaders and fashion activists working for the development of the business of fashion itself and style in those countries.

Considering the whole historical background which most likely shaped the way east europeans relate and work hard in order to raise the flag of their needs and ideas nowadays, we can affirm  this expanding media and showcasing market is already an eye opener to the western world of what can come next.

The impressive organization and repercussion of events like Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia, Aurora Fashion Week (Saint Petersburg), MSK Fashion Week (Minsk, Belarus), Mercedes Benz Kiev Fashion Days, Fashion Philosophy – Fashion Week Poland got the attention of the western world which is investing time and including on their schedules a date to showcase to the east european audience.

Two different examples can be given to exemplify not just  western investors and designers interest in East Europe but also the curiosity and approval of the Asians in the same matter.

Since 2010, Aurora Fashion Week (Saint Petersburg) serves as Russia’s International Fashion Week  in order to develop a strong interaction between fashion and various aspects of culture, including music, cinema, literature, and contemporary art- The development of White Night Shopping fest, Fashionomica Conference and different exhibitions around the Fashion Week are, nowadays, a significant part of St. Petersburg’ high society life.

A style hub for Russia and Eastern Europe, St. Petersburg hosts approximately 20,000 people each season— both professionals and admirers of the industry. Now considered the third largest Fashion Week in Eastern Europe, Aurora Fashion Week is one of the key system events of both regional and federal politics of Russia in both culture and the fashion industry — all the while promoting interesting and talented Russian designers with an appeal, undoubtedly, so strong that names as the japanese Commes Des Garçons and Clarisse Hieraix from France already made their appearances on Aurora Fashion Week´s catwalks.

In a completely different, but not less promising, context MSK Fashion Week comes from nothing less than the Republic of Belarus and is getting more attention by showcasing, on their next season, 2 designers directly from the runways of Paris Fashion Week – Claudine Ivari and Maison Anoufa.

New researches from the National Statistics Committee pointed out that Belarusians spent 11,6% of their income on clothes, which is the second largest position after food.

An important fact, which can prove a whole growing clothing industry opportunity to be explored and evaluated when considering future markets destinations in terms of fashion comes to life when the research conducted by MASMI (Market Research Institute) in March 2013 revealed that buying clothes on Western European countries is one of the options for Belarusians.

* 34,7% of Minsk (capital of Belarus) residents travelled abroad for shopping in 2012 – shoes and clothes are by far the most bought articles in this statistic;

* 86,5% of the shoppers bought those items abroad;

* 92,5% of those mentioned that this is because “they are cheaper than in Belarus”

We can also say that all the movement and efforts created in those countries – and the rising interest from Europe, Asia and America – also uplifts the number of local brands buyers, which are usually more pricey and proudly worn.

East European Fashion Weeks can still be a little bit unknown to the western world but definitely in a near future they will carve their names not just as “ promising and exotic fashionistas destinations” but leading tools to their area economic growth due to the fact that locally those events contribute more revenue to the city than many other annual happenings. Restaurants, taxi cabs, hotels and even street vendors experience a major lift in their businesses when Fashion Week is in full swing.

On the buyers perspective the questions may come as “What about the national retail community? Do the “looks” that march down the runway actually make it in-store and influence the consumer to buy the new product?” – The answers are yes and yes!  As we see the annual evolution in how the brands and designers utilize Fashion Week as a platform, we find the runway is becoming more accessible to the east european consumer. They have more access to the runways news via the media and internet allowing them to view the shows first-hand. This component, part of the larger strategy for the more cutting-edge designers and brands to connect with their consumer rather than the couture fashion crowd, is working and, as mentioned before, most significant designers and brands find their audience on East European catwalks targeting future consumers somewhere else too.
It is certainly worth keeping an eye on East Europe in general and by, the retailing and creative point of view, to the local events and designers successes – not only for fashion addicts but also for clever business professionals interested in quality products or inspiration coming from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

By Vanessa Marks – Exclusive to Creative Boys Club usage.
NOTE: It is forbidden to use or copy all or part of this article other than for your own personal and private use without prior written consent from Creative Boys Club.

Vanessa Marks is a Marketing Specialist currently working on the first full East European Research targeting Fashion and Retailing information and opportunities in East Europe. A graduate of Mackenzie University, Brazil with specialization courses at the University of San Diego, USA, Vanessa has worked as a Marketing Coordinator and Market Analyst for several american companies and international projects in Brazil and abroad.

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