Billed as the first event ever for competitively priced footwear and related fashion accessories, in Brussels – the heart of Europe, Fashion First is the talk of Europe, as Brussels prepares to welcome thousands of buyers to Europe’s first exhibition specifically for competitively priced fashion accessories, according to Michael Duck, director of Asia Pacific Leather Fair Ltd, the organisers.

He explains: ‘We are inundated with enquiries from retail groups, importers and also key European brands, that are anxious to discover this new opportunity. Fashion First brings a burst of vitality and a new dynamism to the European market from the world’s most competitive and creative sources.’

Today, no retailer and no brand can afford to ignore the changes sweeping through the industry or the benefits of working with highly qualified and extraordinarily competitive manufactures and suppliers. Fashion First opens up this exciting new world, giving European buyers direct access to the best footwear and related fashion accessories that are globally available, whilst encouraging strategic partnerships to propel European brands and manufacturers in to a new era. Fashion First will harness this evolution, turning challenges into real opportunity.

Whilst buyers hurry to pre-register and make early travel arrangements, the global network of APLF offices has also been working around the clock to handle a rush on the last stand spaces. Michael Duck continues: ‘Fashion First will satisfy the market’s need for fresh new ideas and inspiration, with unprecedented ranges of trendy, innovative and uniquely affordable footwear, leather goods, travel goods, leather garments and other related accessories.’

With companies from 19 countries already participating and a panorama of pavilions and exhibitors spanning from the International Trading Company of Bangladesh, to innovators like New Generation Shoes, Blue Star and Sibel from Belgium, from Brazilian pacesetters like Azaleia, Bical, Dakota, Klin, Piccadilly, Studio TMLS and Via Uno, to four regions in China and prominent names like Ausli Shoes, Best Belt, Haining Longma Leather, Hebei Dongming Industrial Group, Himex, Shanghai Gaoneng International Trading, Sunever, Young Bridge Shoes and Yuanfeng Shoes; from the ethnic styles of Kente Design from Denmark, to French leaders like Chauss’ Europ and the expertise of CTC and Turbo Soft, from a striking Ghanaian group, to Hong Kong’s celebrated exporters that include amongst others Famebish, Meric, Foot-tech and C&R, from India’s Council for Leather Exports and established names like Dhandhania, to trend-setters like Live Trading & Services, Marf Group and Daila Pelletterie from Italy; acclaimed Malaysians like JC Concept and Weng Bee Marketing, the Pakistan Leather Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association and individuals in the league of Borjan, Impo and Arab Tower, as well as famous names like Rusty Lopez of the Philippines, key players like Rider, Long Sight and Vista from Taiwan, the Department for Export Promotion from Thailand and respected companies like Ekster from Turkey and M&M from the UK; Fashion First brings extraordinary choice and a new energy to the European market.

Project manager, Khamsay Luangpraseuth adds: ‘Such a unique and extensive cross-section of the world’s leading fashion accessories manufacturers and suppliers promises to give Europe’s retail chains, department stores, buying groups, mail order companies, distributors and importers a new buying impetus. The anticipation and excitement is heightened not only by the timing of Fashion First, which will launch collections at the start of the buying cycle, but also by the eagerly awaited European debut of many of our exhibitors in Brussels. Today, we have close to 150 exhibitors, with continual demand from new countries and especially Europe, as companies re-evaluate their commitments and embrace the unique market positioning of Fashion First.’

Widespread endorsement has come from European buyers. Niall Campbell, chief executive of the British Footwear Association, is planning to spearhead a group of UK designers to study outsourcing opportunities with Fashion First exhibitors in January 2005. Niall Campbell explains: ‘Fashion First is a good chance for areas of our industry to learn more about manufacturing capabilities in new areas and to become acquainted with potential new partners. The convenience and ease of travel to Brussels are clearly a huge advantage.’

Fashion First promises not only a multitude of outstanding buying and outsourcing opportunities, but also invaluable insight in to the trends and issues affecting the industry, with a programme that includes a seminar by the renowned keynote speaker, Peter Mangione of Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America.

Fashion First will be held in Belgium at Brussels Expo, a modern exhibition complex, manned by multi-lingual staff, only minutes from the centre of Brussels by car, tram or metro. Brussels is Europe’s most visitor friendly capital city, set at a major cross-roads on the Continent, with unrivalled road, high-speed train and flight connections, not to mention some of Europe’s finest cuisine. The city also offers an excellent range of accommodation, which can be booked through Keyline, the exhibition’s dedicated booking agency. Even the Mediterranean and Scandinavia are a short hop away, thanks to a special agreement with the Virgin Express airline, the official Fashion First carrier.

To join the new European ‘rendezvous’ that has set the entire industry talking, visit [] now!