Ralf Daab is not only the founder of the publishing house DAAB MEDIA, the Cologne-based book publisher also founded the fashion trade fair “Cologne Fashion Days”, which celebrated its premiere last year in Cologne-Deutz. I talked to him about the idea behind the fashion event, the Cologne Fashion Days 2015 and his view on fashion.
CFD: fashion trade fair for end consumers
FIV: Mr. Daab, you are the organizer of the Cologne Fashion Days, which are taking place for the second time this year. For those who don’t know the CFD yet, what kind of event is it? What makes the Cologne fashion fair so special compared to other fashion fairs?
The CFD is a consumer fair and not a trade fair for the textile trade. Visitors can meet the designers, find new looks and buy them directly and even have them made to measure. I see such B to C events as new platforms for young fashion labels to build up their own sales and get to know their customers or better their fans, and also vice versa for people who want to dress more individually and don’t want to buy the one-size-fits-all look off the rack. I think we do that very well with COLOGNE FASHION DAYS, very high-quality, very stylish and with a lot of passion.
FIV: Actually you are a book publisher, how did you come to develop and organize such an event?
In 2009 we published a book about young fashion designers and then spontaneously put on a fashion show in Cologne called COLOGNE CATWALK. We’ve done it four times so far and published new fashion books at the same time. Since more and more people asked where they could buy the things that were shown on the catwalk, it was clear that we would launch a sales fair, the CFD. The premiere last year showed what potential it has, as a sales fair and also in the city of Cologne.
FIV: Last year the CFD celebrated its premiere, at that time still in Cologne-Deutz. This year, the multi-day event will take place at the Mercedes Benz Center in Braunsfeld. Why the change of location?
We held the premiere of the CFD in New York’s Dock.One, a super location, just right for a fashion event. We would have held the CFD 2015 there again if Mercedes-Benz, who by the way had already been a sponsor in previous years, hadn’t approached me about holding the CFD together with the COLOGNE FASHION AWARD at the Mercedes-Benz Center in Braunsfeld. As hosts, Mercedes makes their location available to us, which means a great financial relief for us compared to the rent in Dock.One. A second factor is also that the other side of the Rhine still deters many people from dropping by. A lot more visitors come to Braunsfeld, as you know from other events.
CFD 2015 at the Mercedes Benz Center
FIV: How are the CFD set up/planned in the new location?
A large catwalk will be set up on the ground floor, and the exhibitors’ stands will be located in the open areas on the 1st and 2nd floors. We are getting the stands from Koelnmesse. They fit perfectly with the interior and, together with the cars on display, create a very nice picture.
FIV: How are the CFDs financed?
Mercedes-Benz provides us with the location, which means we have less effort – i.e. costs. Koelnmesse provides us with the exhibition stands and the exhibitors pay us a stand rental fee. But it wouldn’t work without sponsors, partners, our own team and helpers.
FIV: How do you select the designers who are allowed to exhibit their collections at the Cologne Fashion Days?
We have set as a default Young Couture and Urban Chic, so young fashion designers with qualitative claim and a certain style. Cool, elegant, unusual but wearable and affordable fashion. We take great care to ensure that the CFD is a high-class trade fair and not a flea market.
Cologne Fashion Days: Catwalk, Talk Talks & more
FIV: Who is on the jury this year that selects the designers who get to present their collections on the catwalk?
This year we are doing things differently; designers can book their own catwalk and so each exhibitor has the opportunity to show their collection on the catwalk.
FIV: The supporting programme this year is also very interesting. What exactly awaits us?
In a beauty area, visitors can get make-up, styling and spraypainting done, a model agency does castings for the whole three days, in a photo studio, built in a truck, people can dress up and post their photos on Facebook. So visitors can not only shop and watch shows, but also actively participate. And there are two talk rounds on Saturday and Sunday.
FIV: Which experts sit on the talk rounds or give lectures? About which topics?
We’re doing a talk round on Saturday with designers who talk about their career, their ideas and visions. Talk guests are Gabriele Koch (L-Gabrielle) and Claudia Schwarz (Ludwig & Schwarz), and actress Liz Baffoe, who is presenting her collection to the public for the first time at COLOGNE FASHION DAYS.
The second round of talks on Sunday will revolve around the topic of Cologne as a fashion location and why Cologne should finally promote fashion again. Talk guests are Ulrich Soenius (IHK), Jochen Heufelder (cultural manager) and two other guests. The talk will be moderated by Albert Kock from the Presseclub Köln.
Ralf Daab about fashion and Cologne
FIV: Which designers would you personally particularly recommend this year?
The men’s store, because I just bought a new suit there. But I would recommend all of them, because all designers have great collections. Otherwise they wouldn’t be at the CFD.
FIV: What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is timeless for me. I personally don’t follow fashion trends but wear what I feel comfortable in and what I find myself in. Many people buy things that are currently in fashion but don’t suit them at all. That then seems contrived. Fashion has to be authentic for me.
FIV: What connects Cologne with fashion for you?
At the moment, it’s more a reminder of the times when the Men’s Fashion Week and Interjeans were still in Cologne and the Bread and Butter was founded. In recent years, however, many new labels have settled in Cologne and are reviving the Cologne fashion scene, such as in the Belgian Quarter. Something is coming, you can feel it.
FIV: Do you think Cologne has the potential to become a serious competitor for Berlin or other fashion cities in Germany?
In any case, Cologne has a better geographical location than Berlin, with its proximity to Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, Paris and London, and the Rhineland is a region with much more purchasing power. And Cologne is a creative city that is also very open due to its mentality, which gives designers a lot of freedom to develop further.
FIV: The last Cologne Fashion Days were very well received, how do you see things developing over the next few years?
I think the COLOGNE FASHION DAYS will be very successful again this year and then we will decide promptly when and where the CFD 2016 will take place. With a little more lead time than this year, we will get more exhibitors and can set up pop-up stores, incorporate fashion shops and organize fashion shows all over the city. I see Cologne becoming a fashion stronghold again in 4 to 5 years and the fashion world gathering here once or twice a year.
FIV: Mr. Daab, thank you very much for the interview!
Further information about the “Cologne Fashion Days”: