Tendence Changes With the Times

Blame it on the weak economy and the changing consumer.

The leadership of Tendence, billed as the world’s largest consumer goods fair held in autumn, made a stunning announcement during the annual trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany, saying they will dramatically change its format from “product-specific” to one geared toward “lifestyles.” It even surprised some in the Messe Frankfurt organization—which runs the trade fair—who did not know about the change until they were notified at the show.

What does it mean for buyers who attend the massive trade fair and vendors who exhibit there? At this point, no one is quite sure. What is known is that beginning in 2003, the Tendence Trade Fair will be billed as the “Tendence Lifestyle Fair, the international event covering all aspects of contemporary lifestyles.” The show will be restructured from the traditional consumer goods segments of Domus & Gallery, Präsent & Carat, and Tavola & Cucina to four segments based on what show officials call “consumer lifestyles” and “human senses”—Modern Living, Emotion, Joy, and Function.

Under the new format, exhibitors of fine jewelry will be placed in the Joy segment, or “theme park,” as organizers call it. In a statement, organizers described this segment as “colorful, jovial, and playful, but nevertheless high-class.”

Fine-jewelry and watch exhibitors had been part of the Präsent & Carat segment of the show, along with gifts, arts and crafts, perfume, paper and holiday goods, and children’s gifts. Under the new plan, nearly all of the same categories, including jewelry, will be part of the Joy grouping of products. These exhibitors had been housed in the “Carat with Carat Creativ” product area in Hall 4.2 of the massive Messe Frankfurt fairgrounds, but it is unclear if they will move to a new area.

“Changing markets demand restructured exhibitions,” explained Michael Peters, managing director of Messe Frankfurt, during a Sept. 1 press conference announcing the change. (Tendence 2002 ran from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3.) “A clearly defined offering with its own profile, attractive themes, new products, and innovations—that is how the future exhibitions will look, exhibitions that will inspire and be perceivable by all five senses. The intent of the new Tendence Lifestyle is giving positive signals and thereby pointing out new ways for the trade.”

Peters further explained that the new format is designed to help buyers purchase products more quickly and easily. However, it was unclear just how the new format—which was sprung upon exhibitors just the previous day—would do so. Show organizers admitted that reaction to the news had been mixed, and Peters said he expects some vendors to pull out of the show.

Business as usual. Meanwhile, for 2002, Messe Frankfurt organizers report that more than 100,000 visitors from 67 countries saw the wares of 4,444 exhibitors from 86 countries, displayed on approximately 1 million square feet of exhibit space.

In Hall 4.2, business went on as usual during the show. Messe Frankfurt officials said that 2,135 exhibitors were present at the Präsent & Carat segment, 931 of them from abroad, displaying a range of jewelry, gifts, accessories, and ornaments. The show floor received a steady flow of traffic, and nearly all of the fine jewelry vendors interviewed by JCK said they were pleased with the attendance and the mood of the buyers.

The design team of Sylvia and Kurt Kubik, owners of the House of Kubik, Heidelberg, Germany, showed a number of new platinum and 18k gold jewelry and watches. Among the jewelry items on display were very thin, silky, multiple-strand necklaces made of platinum, gold, stainless steel, or “elefant hair.” The strands are machine-woven and joined by hand, with bayonet clasps securing the chains. In addition, the couple showcased platinum and gold bridal rings with floating diamonds or diamond strands. Sylvia Kubik says the couple prefers to work with 18k gold and platinum. “We prefer platinum to white gold because it is the real white metal,” she explains.

The company also is known for its thin watch designs made with gold, silver, or platinum. One watch shown at the trade fair was made with 18k gold and mother-of-pearl, with 12 diamonds for hour markers.

Designer Aninka Harms, a South African native who has an office in Munich, Germany, designs pearl necklaces in a crossing pattern using either stainless steel or silver. The result is a pearl necklace that has movement. One of her unique necklaces is sold at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “It’s an alternative to traditional necklaces,” she says.

Harms also showcased a circular and triangular pendant—the shape is suggestive of a seashell—made of palladium white gold, hollow-mounted with morganite.

Designer Karin Sander of K. Sander says she enjoys creating individual pieces with different colors of gold. Her line at the trade fair included rings, necklaces, and pendants. One finger-spanning ring on display was made with palladium white gold mixed with red gold, giving it a reddish golden shine. The ring was topped with an imperial topaz baguette.

GL Netherlands B.V. is a Dutch manufacturer of sterling silver and enamel jewelry. The company has a product line approaching 4,000 units, says managing director Pini Peleg, and much of the work still is done by hand. GL exports to 19 different countries, including the United States.

Peleg attributes the company’s success to a painstaking manufacturing process that includes heating the silver to more than 1,400º F. “There are very few industries in the world that want to work so hard to manufacture this product,” he says. The company’s lines of bracelets, brooches, necklaces, rings, and pendants are created in Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Victorian styles, based on original concepts developed for the company as early as 1825.

Some of the more unusual and whimsical products at the show were those of the Italian brand, Luna Bianca. The company offers a line of watches and jewelry made with acrylic crystal, Swarovski stones, zircons, and silver. Though transparent, the products are also very colorful. Watches, defined by the company as “timekeeper bracelets,” come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are noted for their simple, refined lines. The jewelry line includes rings, bracelets, earrings, pendants, and hair accessories.

A new phase. Tendence Trade Fair organizers assured exhibitors and the media that the variety of products on display in 2003 will be similar to that of past years. And despite the protests and uncertainty, organizers say, they are certain that reorganizing the show is a positive step.

“Tendence Lifestyle marks the beginning of a new phase in the history of fairs,” Peters said. “We are pleased to be taking this step together.”