The MTV VMAs, Met Gala and Red Carpet Events have returned to take revenge. Evening gowns, glamour, and galas have returned after a long, drought-inducing dry spell. The evening wear industry saw its sales drop last year, with virtually no occasions for high heels, cocktail dresses, and dinner jackets. However, it is showing signs of improvement.

woman in brown floral dress sitting on black leather armchair

The Evening Dresses Show, (EDShow), took place in Salerno at the beginning of September. The event featured evening wear for children, women and men. It was organized by IFTA (Italian Fashion Talent Awards), with support from ITA (Italian Trade Agency). The event was held at Zaha Hadid Maritime Station in picturesque surroundings, with the backdrop of Italy’s Amalfi Coast. It was attended by companies representing eight regions of southern Italy: Calabria (Abruzzo), Calabria, Campania and Molise. All of them came to Salerno to show their spring/summer collections during the third edition EDShow. It was themed “Come Back to Life!”, we spoke with buyers and exhibitors about the future prospects of the sector at the event.

Occasion wear has been a difficult market

Maurizio Vessa, IFTA, is pleased that the third edition could be held offline after the first one was broadcast digitally. “Meeting people face-to-face is something entirely different. This cannot be replaced by digital. Even more so when it comes evening wear. This is because it is designed for real-life events. When asked how he views the chance of evening fashion being displayed there for the German market, he replied: “We have stronger traditions of galas here in Italy than we do in Germany. However, I believe this year everyone wants more celebrations.”

Retailers saw a drop in formal wear for office use over the past year and half. As a result, they reduced their stock of blazers by 19% between April 2021 to April 2020. Simona De Thomasis, the owner of Pascara-based bespoke men’s suit label with the same name, reports that there has been a decline in formal wear demand. Our production had almost stopped by December. Alessandra De Thomasis and her sister Alessandra started the production of certified face masks. They were able keep the business afloat. Simona De Thomasis is optimistic about the future, saying that the demand for custom-made suits rose sharply since June/July. Customers are asking for more colours and a higher demand for the unique, handmade.

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Katrina Ryback is the owner of Studio 183, a concept store in Berlin’s Bikini Mall. She hopes to find new labels at the Evening Dresses Show, where she can test the German market. Her selection has been lacking evening wear: “Currently, many people are asking me for evening wear or occasion wear. So I want to add more. Many of them are tourists visiting Berlin to attend an event and need something unique at the last moment.”

High heels are making a comeback

High heels and lipsticks are the traditional winners of crises. Elizabeth Semmelhack is a fashion expert and author of ‘Heights of Fashion: a History of the Elevated Shoe.” Sales fell sharply during the corona crisis. This was different from other crises because people stayed home. NPD Group, a market research firm, reported that the segment fell by 71% year-on-year during the second quarter 2020.

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“Female customers did not tend to purchase shoes for galas or ceremonies last year.” Ninni Mancone (owner of the eponymous label) said that instead, women tended to wear them with jeans. Her colourful, high-heeled sandals are sold mainly in fashionable resorts such as Saint-Tropez or Forte Dei Marmi. She laughs when she is asked if she ever thought of adding flat shoes to her collection. Even though there was demand, she wouldn’t even consider it. She is starting to see customers buy shoes for events.

Edited’s analysis shows that retailers decreased their selection of women’s heels shoes between April 2020 and April 2021 by 23%. Edited reports that flat shoes saw a 7 percent increase in sales, probably due to increased demand for sneakers and the resurgence comfortable shoe brands like Crocs and Ugg.

The trends for the FW 22 season and beyond confirm Mancone’s observation that the high heel is making a comeback. Lyst has seen high heel searches increase by 135 percent since 2021. This is 71% more than the average year-on-year. So optimism seems to be in order.

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