"Turn Fashion into Business!" was the motto at the GDS International Shoe Fair held in Dusseldorf, March 11-14. And according to trade visitors and exhibitors, that’s exactly what the footwear industry did .

Approximately 40,000 buyers from more than 80 countries attended the show, proving GDS to be one of, if the not the biggest trade fair in the world.

Two-thirds of those attendees came from abroad. The largest foreign buyer contingencies came from Great Britain (3,213), Benelux (3,800), Spain (1,539), Italy (2,052), France (1,188) and Scandinavia (1,296).

Countries within Europe--Great Britain, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy--were particularly notable, showing an overall 19% increase. Asian retailers accounted for 16% of overall attendance, however that number is down from last year. US retailer attendance was the same as last year, reaching the 1400 mark. Russia, a nation now becoming increasingly fashion-conscious, was also well represented. Germany formed the largest contingent of buyers topping off at 13,000 attendees.

12% of buyers shopping the show placed larger autumn/winter 2004/05 orders than they did at the previous fair.

Inside the show, visitors and exhibitors had a positive outlook and reported plenty of international business. Andrew Stewart, Marketing & Sales Manager for London-based women's shoe designer Emma Hope said, "We served all key accounts from Germany at our stand. We were very pleased with how well our collection went down with customers from Spain, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands."

Brazilian women’s shoe designer Mauricio Medeiros said, "A fair like this is an essential event for labels wanting to break into the international market. We have been able to take our first orders – 1/3 of these coming from Germany and 2/3 from abroad."

"We are totally satisfied," said Jennifer Clay, director of corporate communication for Skechers, USA. "The GDS is a very important fair for us. We had visitors from Great Britain, France, Russia and obviously from Germany."

Personal communication was at the core of the show due to structural and ordering changes. But market-oriented reactions, increased dialogue with partners and new concepts made it clear that this was a much-needed joint platform that GDS provided.

Heightening the focus on consumers was the shows conceptual layout which was categorized according to styles, genre and delivery dates. The Young Fashion and Lifestyle & Sports sections were a particular focus of interest. And the Top Style and Exclusivity sections proved to be important categories once again, as in the previous fair. The International Selection area attracted a great deal of attention due to its variety of labels. And as a result, the section hosted major intercontinental deals.


Shows, trend guides and exchange forums rounded things off, meeting the retail trade’s great need for information. The daily Trend Shows were most popular and the received the highest rankings. Additional information was offered at the DSI’s Trend Islands in the Fashion & Trend Forum in Hall 7. Shows organised in the Plaza in Hall 4 drew visitors in like a magnet. New inspirations were presented at the ITKIB show with Turkish manufacturers featuring traditional Ottoman robes stylistically matched and combined with the latest shoe creations.

"GDS ON STAGE", the after-show party held on the first night, provided a fun, festive yet relaxed atmosphere for the industry after a long successful day of work. The event even provided a number of activities that could please the most discerning of palettes. And a performance by the band Still Collins kept the party well fuelled.


'60s and '80s styles generated plenty of excitement for the autumn/winter 2004/05 season. And it seems the ever-popular (and sadly discontinued) HBO television series "Sex and the City" also inspired designers. Sexy high-heeled shoes, even in the sportiest of styles, proved real hits. However, comfort & wellness also proved a firm fixture, especially comfy boots like the Australian sheepskin original, Ugg.

Black and white Op-Art variations captivated visitors. Lightweight, flat shapes and Courrèges boots were a rediscovered favorite. However, the real eye-catchers were colored shoes – both in solids or patterned. Children’s shoes came playful with decorative details. And Cool Brit-chic styles were in for him. Polishing off that perfect casual everyday look were sneakers, boxer and racing boots.

2005 DATES
A new schedule for next years March and September 2005 GDS shows will prevent the event from overlapping with Micam. The decision to change the dates was made by the trade fair advisory councel and seemed a welcome idea by the industry. As an exception, however, there was discussion of scheduling a later date in March due to holidays stemming around Easter. No conclusions have been made though, especially since the dates in Milan for 2005 have not been released.

This year's next GDS is September 16 - 19.
For more information: (www.gds-online.com).

--Lisa Dartman, Sportswear News, with Joselle Yokogawa