Sourcing / Digital Innovation
Fabrics Anytime From Anywhere
Left: Marco Weichert CEO at Performance Days and Weichert Agencies, Right: Michael Hullin Marketing Manager, Performance Days
Digital fabric sourcing is ushering in new and different ways to design and innovate products. The Loop by Performance Days leads the charge.

The landscape of the textile business is changing as our industry transitions from physical to digital, bringing new technologies that continue to transform how we work in ways unimaginable just a few short years ago. Now, from anywhere – a home office, a coffee shop, a beach by the ocean – with a click on a device, collections from textile suppliers around the world are at our fingertips.

In comparison with traditional methods, today’s virtual world of sourcing is faster, more cost-effective and environmentally-proactive. That’s all fine and good. However, the ability to enhance and enrich the material sourcing experience is key to developing digitalization that goes beyond what is already established, to what is the “now.”

The Loop is an advanced, year-round sourcing marketplace hosted by Performance Days. The idea was conceived about six years ago as a means of extending the trade show experience to 365 days; Launched at Performance Days Munich in Spring 2020, The Loop  ensures an on-going connection with brands and visitors worldwide. More comprehensive than an online library, and more robust than a digital trade show, The Loop offers an expansive array of features built on a foundation of content and experience.

Marco Weichert, CEO at Performance Days and Weichert Agencies, explains: “The Loop offers curated content, handpicked biannually by experts from the seven annual fairs, with 512 freely downloadable 3D fabrics at the moment, trend colors, and more — all available for free after registration — that actively connects people throughout the year.” He elaborates, “The ability to source fabrics before and after a fair, flexibility in sourcing fabrics from anywhere at any time, and immediate availability are crucial. The integration of digital resources and real needs is facilitated through QR codes, with The Loop serving as the interface between fairs and sourcing.”

Performance Days marketing manager Michael Hullin, lead developer of The Loop, adds, “Our focus is on making usage as simple and enjoyable as possible and continuously introducing new content and features.”

It’s not easy teaching an old industry like textiles new digital tricks, yet The Loop moves the needle forward successfully with a keen eye on future-focused tech, up-to-the-minute  and positive user experience. In our Q&A, below, Weichert and Hullin discuss opportunities available in the virtual world of sourcing as well as the challenges that remain. Here are highlights from my interview with the execs:

Q: What differentiates The Loop from other digital platforms? Please provide specific examples.

Marco Weichert: “The Loop is the heart of the show. New ways to ‘cover’ the show have advanced significantly. For example, let’s say you want a 32g recycled nylon out of China, you can check it on the digital library, take a screenshot, or upload a photo, and upload it in a 3D avatar. You can see how the fabric looks and have a sample sent to you. At the show, every fabric in the Performance Forum has a QR code, and that is the link from the real to the digital world. When you see a fabric of interest, you can click on the QR code and it goes to The Loop where you can shop for favorite items. You just put your order in a basket and push the button – free of charge.  We are integrating Performance Days China into The Loop, adding a billion people to the platform. The Loop is not a German platform, it’s a global marketplace.”

Q: How is engagement trending with The Loop?  

Marco: “Since the pandemic, usage has been mandatory for exhibitors, leading to a surge in activity. We experienced consistent growth of about 30 percent with brands/users in each of the last three events.”

Q: How is the industry adapting to, and embracing, new technologies related to digital sourcing?

Michael Hullin: “The industry is receptive to innovation, especially from the younger generation. Our 3D database is continually growing and approximately 37 percent of trade show visitors are already utilizing 3D in their companies. With cost reduction and increased speed, 3D is a key technology and will likely become increasingly important in the future, as internal Performance Days surveys also indicate.

We try to get a 3D standard, but a standard file does not exist, so we offer two different types of 3D data that work with almost every kind of software. The generation coming from university are knowledgeable, but others have not had the option to learn about 3D. We are here to help, from the very start with the first steps, realizing the technology can seem daunting.”

Q: Where do you see room for growth on The Loop in the years ahead?

Marco: “The growth potential for The Loop is everywhere – among exhibitors, visitors, accessories, footwear, and also in the Chinese market, both on the exhibitor and visitor sides. Now is the time to say, Hey, come aboard.”