Keeping up with the Premium Group: Interview with Anita Tillmann

FashionNetwork.com visited the headquarters of the Berlin-based Premium Group to talk to Anita Tillmann, co-founder and managing director of Premium Group. It was the opportunity for Tillman to dscuss the evolution of the market and important strategies for the group, which has just welcomed a new majority stakeholder in the form of the British exhibition organiser, Clarion Events.


Anita Tillmann, Managing Partner of Premium Group - Boris Kralj

The Berlin Fashion Week has repositioned itself. What did you think of the last edition and what do you hope to see for the next one?
Anita Tillmann: First of all, it’s important to note that the concept of fashion week, in the sense of catwalk events, is changing across the world. Just a few years ago, these events were only for selected journalists and celebrities, and today, in the front row, there are not only influencers and the brands’ best customers, but also end consumers. Of course, this global change is also happening in Berlin. I think that the recent efforts have been very good. For example, we organised the “Fashion HAB” event in Berghain for the first time with the Fashion Council Germany, where German designers such as Damir Doma were able to show their collections. A lot of things are being done and Berliners are working hard to be always innovative and set new standards. In doing so, they are expanding their potential and moving in the right direction.

Could this flexibility and openness to new things be perhaps Berlin’s hallmark?
That is the hallmark! Berlin is all about youth, innovation and digitisation. No other city in Germany is so synonymous with street culture and fashion. Here, everything is new and different. And the days when you could come up with a concept for the next ten years are over. In Berlin that was never really possible. Does everyone like that? No, because it forces you to look in the mirror and step outside your comfort zone.

What role do you play as a trade fair organiser in Berlin?
Above all, we as a trade fair are the mirrors of the market, and show what works and when it pays to invest time, money and energy. We also show what you need to rethink, and this with an ever-increasing pace.

New and different: how does that turn into a business model?
Just like that. When Virgil Abloh became artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s collection, he showed very clearly how strong the bridge is between streetwear culture and the top fashion houses. I think there is nothing more to add.

Catwalk shows are opening to a wider audience. What about trade fairs?
The classic trade fair audience has changed. The days when trade fairs where purely transaction platforms are long gone. 15 years ago, we brought together the entire fashion ecosystem and discovered communities. Today, it’s time to think about who should sit at the table to decide which collections and brands have the potential to become relevant. We at Premium Group see ourselves as a trade, brand and content platform. In this context, we target the entire trade fair audience. In general, the lines between B2C and B2B are blurring more and more. We see that very strongly in our trade fairs Seek and Bright. There, the audience is much more important than old categories like Seller & Buyer.

And how do you decide which audience is the right one?
It all depends on the correct analysis. Concepts that are right for our exhibitors at Seek, for example, do not necessarily work for Premium, and vice versa. In order to make the right decisions here, we are in constant contact with all players, and have a strong focus on buyers. For example, we are currently launching a collaboration with Modem, which is creating a directory of Berlin – surprisingly enough, it didn’t already exist. Additionally, Modem will serve our VIP Buyers Lounge. So we select the most important buyers, find out what they need, and show them that we are the right partner for them. To do that, we have to stand out in Europe as a company that shows and communicates all the important developments in the industry in real time and in the right language.

Always moving forward. How do you and your team do it?
In the past, the approach was very focused on me and my ideas. These times are fortunately over. Because over the past ten years, I have been able to build an excellent team that today takes responsibility for their own areas. We have become a family and maintain hierarchies. Agile management is the order of the day. The whole team is constantly on the move to find new trends and bring them to the company.  And no decision is made on positions, we always go after what is the purpose of the matter. Otherwise, we cannot live up to the challenge. I notice that my commitment and speed motivate the team to join in and that this interaction creates a very vibrant corporate culture.

Your passion for the matter could be threatening at times.
I cannot take that into account. You do not come into the world to please people. We have evolved a lot in the last 15 years. I had to fight many battles, and I was given very little. In that time I learned that ‘haters gonna hate’. And that doesn’t interest me anymore. I have come so far being the way I am: now I just continue to do the same.

Surely you had supporters too?
I was lucky to be very well-connected internationally and that my exchange abroad takes place at a very high level. In Germany this happens only in the smallest circles.

Let’s talk about the acquisition of Premium Exhibitions GmbH by Clarion Events Ltd. What has changed?
In Clarion, we have a large exhibition organiser who is joining us for the first time in the fashion industry and therefore takes our expertise very seriously. We are now part of a much larger infrastructure and are currently undergoing an upgrade: we are integrating new technologies into our processes, digitising significantly and can invest in the company in a completely different way. Clarion puts us in a different position, especially in terms of market research and big data. This, combined with our expertise in the fashion market and our sense for trends, creates a whole new push and corporate culture. For example, we have a new digital concept that will go live in June. And we are also thinking about internationalisation.

Is it all benefits and no disadvantages?
So far so good. The Clarion team is incredibly friendly and humorous. The hierarchies are as flat there as they are here. We can move very freely. Overall, we fit together very well and that was important to me. An advantage is certainly our success. We are growing. And in times when this is not a given. We are achieving this by going our own way, and Clarion also values that very much.
 

Translated by Barbara Santamaria

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