Surface Design Trade Shows: Insider Insights

business tips Jun 15, 2023


Surface design trade shows are vibrant industry events where visitors can explore the latest trends and technologies and source new product for their businesses. It's a multi-billion dollar enterprise globally (that's right, billion with a b!). So what are the big shows and, as a print designer, should you get involved? Here's our trade show round-up, with insider insights on what it's like to sell at a stand.


Longina Phillips Designs has had booths at shows for over a decade. "For us, it's a marketing exercise," says Longina Phillips (Lola), owner, and founder of our medium-sized design studio. You have buying teams from the biggest fashion and lifestyle brands like H&M, ASOS, and Zara, and fabric converters like SET come in to buy in bulk.  "So while financially, a show can be very good, it’s also very important for a studio to see and be seen," she says.

Buying teams are constantly changing. "You have people leave jobs and join new companies etc. and this is the best way way to keep your database up to date. And not only that, it's the best way to forge those new relationships," says Lola. 

What are the costs involved?

All stand fees are comparable. It costs around 350 euros per square meter, with 6 square meters being the average stand size. Included are the basics for a stand setup: two chairs and two tables and standard overhead lighting. “But if you want extra equipment like chairs or a spotlight, you’ll pay on average an extra 190 euros."  Speaking of which, if you have to travel to reach a show, you’ll need to factor in your flights and hotel fares, which in today's economy is not especially cheap. 

"It is difficult for first-timers who may overlook the cost (which is HUGE) and get there on their own with few contacts and little reputation. But you have to start somewhere," says Nerida Hansen, owner of Nerida Hansen studio and Patternfield app.

"We had dozens of Patternfield subscribers sign up across our 2 big booths and they paid a fifth of what they would pay on their own and still got the exposure. Those booths were pumping with clients the whole time, and we have had a huge surge in [online traffic] to their portfolios since the show.

"Many of the designers who worked the booth are definitely coming back, no less they are also coming to [Heimtextil] Germany in January. Some are even signing up for their own booths now that they have had the experience of this journey," she adds.

How do you choose a show?

"It really depends on what you are looking for when you go there. If you want to make money at shows you need to head to the fashion print shows and sell outright. For example, I always sell a lot of patterns at Heimtextil, but there are no licensing opportunities there. Surtex always opens up great licensing opportunities, as well as a plethora of buyout clients,” Nerida says.  



Location: New York
Timing:  May
Who can show? Art agents, design studios, Illustrators, photographers, and textile designers
What buyers look for:  It’s best known for paper products like stationery, stickers, and greeting cards. Seasonal designs for occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. But it also does wall coverings, home decor, linens, toys, and beauty to a lesser extent.
Insider insight:  This year's Surtex is probably the best show I have done and a huge amount of opportunity has come from it," says Nerida. "The smaller venue made it much more boutique and the quality of the clientele was possibly the best I have ever experienced," she continues. "I cannot recommend it highly enough, so much so I am referring designers to Surtex on behalf of Surtex and helping those designers with their experience. Even if you make NO money at a show the marketing experience and client list you build is career-changing," she says.


Premiere Vision

Location: Paris
Timing:  February and July
Who can show?  Textile manufacturers, textile printers, and textile designers from Europe, the Americas, and The Pacific.
What buyers look for: High-end and on-trend fashion prints.“If you are a textile printer you are looking for designs to print,” Lola says, “and you will need to buy a lot of designs.” Visitors are also attracted to the fashion forecasting service, with an entire pavilion dedicated to the future of fashion. It is THE place to go if you want the inside scoop on what’s next in color and design.
What you need to know:  This one is huge!” Lola exclaims. "Create and Premiere Vision are the most competitive shows and markets,” Sara, Head of Design at Longina Phillips adds, “simply because there are just so many studios and so many stands.”  



Location: Paris
Timing:  February and July
Who can show?  Only a select few studios, due to the small scale of the show.
What buyers look for: Although a completely separate enterprise from Premiere Vision, Create is almost always scheduled in the days before PV, allowing clients a ‘first peek’ at the prints due to show at Premiere Vision.  Buyers get first access and first dibs on what is considered to be the cream of the design crop, and that is why it is so popular.
What you need to know: There is currently quite a long waitlist, but persistence pays off.  “I called the booker every day for a month until she gave our studio a spot!” says Lola. 

Curve and Interfiliere 

Location: Paris
Timing:  July
Who can show? Design studios, fabric printers and manufacturers.
What buyers look for: At Curve it’s all about swimwear and activewear while at Interfilliere (owned by the same people but held at a separate location in France), the focus is on lingerie, intimates, and sleepwear.  
What you need to know: Buyers around the world go crazy for Australian swimwear print design. Our beachside lifestyle and bright, sunny weather make us the consummate creators of summery, holiday prints.



Location: Frankfurt, Germany 
Timing:  January 
Who can show?  Studios, printers, homewares wholesalers and textile manufacturers.
What buyers look for: Interior textiles, interior design ideas, and interior trends.
What you need to know:  It’s a big show (2400 exhibitors from 59 countries) and you can sell a lot of patterns but there are no licensing opportunities there, says Nerida, if that is what you’re looking for. 


The Design Gallery

Location: Melbourne and Sydney, Australia
Timing:  June 
Who can show: Design studios for all markets: apparel, homewares, lifestyle, stationery, men's, and kids. Along with Australian studios and independent designers, international studios from Europe and the UK were also invited. 
What you need to know:  This was the first year for The Design Gallery shows.  "Sydney was a much stronger show than Melbourne, but it's only just getting started and building a reputation," says Sara, Head of Design.  "We were so happy to welcome a trade show to Australian shores," says Lyndsay, Design Manager at Longina Phillips. "For once, the trade could come to us! It's also really so exciting for Australian designers to be recognized on an international stage with their own show."


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