Hélène Lahalle from MilK Kid's Collections talks to Chantal Danguillaume, the director of the Playtime trade fairs, about the post-Covid state of affairs and her take on the future.
MilK Kid's Collections is a professional bi-annual trend book which introduces more than 200 children's fashion brands.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic you had to cancel the Playtime trade fairs scheduled for July, where the SS21 collections were due to be presented. What alternatives have you put into place?
We did indeed have to cancel our SS21 trade fairs in Paris, New York and Shanghai because of the world health crisis. For a time, we thought about postponing them until September, however after talking to our brands, the purchasers, the press and the various people working in this sector around the world, we soon realised this was not a viable option. There were too many unanswered questions and above all, it was too risky to invest in a physical event that might not have reached its objectives in the best conditions possible. We opted for a 100% digital season via our online marketplace Iloveplaytime.
How does this marketplace work?
We made the commitment to ensure that our brands had an inexpensive virtual showroom at their disposal, where they could present their SS21 collections and increase visibility by being part of the world’s largest online platform of children’s and lifestyle designers. This revolution (that was forced upon us) led us to rethink part of the platform in order to combine human and digital aspects, because you cannot have one without the other. We transformed the homepage so that our press partners, style bureau, key influencers, artists and illustrators could all contribute. Everyone can find the information they need and discover new brands, trends and inspirations. We have even taken things one step further by implementing a video meeting option.
For SS21, Playtime and Iloveplaytime are now one and the same!
Do you think that this novel situation will modify how we work and communicate in the long term?
Yes, definitively. We have had to reinvent ourselves in order to face up to this surreal challenge. To meet everyone’s needs and expectations, we have had to stick together. Paradoxically the physical distance has brought us closer, as well as influencing the developments we were planning to implement over the next five years. We have deconstructed to better reconstruct, relying on our existing know how and all the members of the Playtime community. Internet was already a prominent part of who we were - several seasons ago we realised that trade shows could not continue to exist without building bridges with the online world. Our transformation was already underway and the current situation has just fast tracked it.
Do you think that some brands may not survive the crisis?
Over the last three years, at a time when the number of purchasers was actually decreasing, we have seen incredible growth in the number of children’s fashion brands and those in the family sector in general. We are gradually returning to a state of equilibrium. Some brands will disappear and others will see the light of day. It is clear that our industry has been strongly affected and we will be feeling these effects for at least two seasons. The positive aspect to all this is it that children’s brands are for the most part sustainable and environmentally friendly and therefore already ready for this new paradigm.
Are you considering any measures to help brands and facilitate their return to the market?
We are certain that we will be able to get past these difficulties by working together. This concerns all of us. We have already taken part in the joint effort by offering a 50% reduction on subscriptions to our marketplace before the end of May 2020. We have also worked hand in hand with support agencies in different countries to transfer subsidies to online actions. Promas was the first to come forward.
Do you think that we can find a silver lining despite this strange experience that has brought the world economy to a standstill?
You can always find something positive even in the most difficult of situations. The important thing is to adapt to the situation as rapidly as possible and to prioritise, to share ideas, stay creative and feel confident about the future.
Do you think that brands will be impacted in the way that they work?
Take Poudre Organic: the brand no longer intends to present a new collection every season, preferring to create a line of sustainable basics, whose manufacture no longer follows the frantic seasonal rhythm that leads to a sort of planned obsolescence. Every brand has had to revisit its collection, taking into account questions of size, seasonality and sourcing. However, I’d like to insist on the fact that children’s fashion brands had already started moving in this direction. In any case, it’s the right moment for all the sector’s key players to ask themselves questions and organise their growth differently. The end consumer will have the last word.
Do you have any visibility on the situation for January 2021? Do you think that the AW21 trade fairs will be able to take place?
For the moment we don’t have any visibility inasmuch as the decisions are not ours to make. The events sector was one of the most strongly affected by the lockdown and will be the last to reopen. We are however in the starting blocks ready to launch the US trade shows starting from January 2021. We are looking forward to seeing everybody again, undoubtedly with new formats and plenty of surprises.