The Next Step 2015-2016 marathon
The Next Step 2015-2016 marathon

In one year, Next Step travelled to different continents, provided support for designers and labels at important international trade shows and showrooms in the sector, complementing these campaigns with behind-the-scenes work that included support for management, branding, communications, marketing, distribution, sales and internationalisation. The "commercial arm” of Portugal Fashion has just concluded the first stage. A frankly positive balance encouraging the project organiser, ANJE – National Association of Young Entrepreneurs, to continue the work of Next Step in 2017.

Next Step began in late 2015, aimed at supporting the professionalisation of national fashion in external markets and encouraging business internationalisation. This programme is a complement to the work Portugal Fashion began 21 years ago, aimed mainly at two fronts: support for the competitiveness of Portuguese labels and designers, through active support and services in the markets visited; and, in addition, the development of skills training (management, networking, expansion and internationalisation, prospection and sales force) with a view to attracting human, technological and even financial resources. 

But the numbers speak for themselves. In little over a year, the project developed 20 international promotion campaigns and two workshops with 16 designers (Alexandra Moura, Carla Pontes, Carlos Gil, Daniela Barros, Diogo Miranda, Estelita Mendonça, Hugo Costa, Katty Xiomara, Luís Buchinho, Mafalda Fonseca, Micaela Oliveira, Miguel Vieira, Pedro Pedro, Roselyn Silva, Storytailors and Susana Bettencourt) and six national labels (Babash, Iora Lingerie, K L A R, Pé de Chumbo, TM Collection and Xperimental Shoes).

Taking into account that, in the variety of campaigns held over approximately one year, most of the designers and labels took part in more than one initiative, we can also conclude that the project made it possible to engage the participants, by providing relevant campaigns on international business expansion.

International showrooms and trade shows

With the support of well-known national and foreign professionals, Next Step was present at seven showrooms which were mainly held during or coincided with the calendars of the most important European fashion weeks, focusing on the periods when the autumn-winter 2016 and spring-summer 2017 collections were presented. There were two trips to London Collections Men, two visits to London Fashion Week, another two participations in Paris Men’s Fashion Week and, finally, a trip to the Paris Ready-to-Wear Week to promote national collections for the next warm season. 

The events considered to be the most prestigious in the world for the sector were also targeted by Next Step. In this area, there were five transatlantic trips to the USA. Three participations at Edit New York, a visit to Curve (a prestigious trade show in the lingerie segment) and a visit to Capsule (an event mainly for emerging designers and labels). These last two trade shows also take place in New York City). In Europe, there was a trip to Potsdam Now, two participations in White Milano and three campaigns at Tranöi Femme Paris.

It should also be noted that the support provided by Next Step also extended to the promotion of national fashion in Africa, with the participation of Portuguese designers in Mozambique Fashion Week in December 2015 and December 2016.

Of the total of twenty international initiatives, an average of four participants benefited from the support provided during each campaign.

Training courses

Next Step 2015-2016 was essentially a multidisciplinary programme for the international promotion of "made in Portugal” and fashion is undoubtedly a sector that cannot be excluded from its plan of action. There was innovation in the monitoring of designers and labels by providing support not only through promotion, but also through stimulating the entrepreneurial component, which was seen in the mentoring provided by professionals specialising in a variety of business areas.

Although the monitoring provided during the project was continuous and personalised, at the same time Next Step also promoted more wide-reaching consultancy campaigns, aimed at all the participants.

Of note at the closing session for the first phase of the project was the "Good practices for fashion and technology business internationalisation” campaign, with the participation of international consultants involved in the project, Maximilian Linz, public relations officer at Maximilian Linz PR, and Tiago Vallechi, CEO of Heavy London, as well as the testimony from the designers supported by Next Step 2015-2016. "Opportunity” was the word most repeated during the session, proving that there is an international market for Portuguese designer fashion. These business opportunities are made possible by investment in participation in B2B trade shows and also by communications and marketing strategies in the markets visited.

Next steps

Next Step 2015-2016 will continue. Next year, the project will continue along the same path, seeking to consolidate support for designers and labels that have already taken part in the different initiatives promoted, as well as embracing new projects with internationalisation capacity in the national fashion sector.

Next Step 2015-2016 was a project financed by Portugal 2020, under the scope of Compete 2020 - Competitiveness and Internationalisation Operational Programme, with funds from the European Union, through the European Regional Development Fund.