Taking place this week, BRIGHT Tradeshow has come to represent Europe’s premiere skate-centric trade show. The venue has taken an active stance in not only representing the retail interests of the industry but also the strong aspect of community which has been a persistent theme throughout the culture. We spoke with long-time industry participant Thomas Martini, as he outlines his 20-year affinity with skateboarding and retail as well as the development and unique positioning of BRIGHT. The trade show will take place from now until the 18th in Berlin at the Alte Münze.
Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
I am the co-founder of BRIGHT. I started working in the industry about 20 years ago as a sales representative for several brands like Scott, ASICS, Onitsuka Tiger, Lakai, DVS, and then later as a distributor for brands like CLAE, Lifetime and Quiet Life. The agency I run with my partner still takes care of the distribution of Lifetime, but my personal focus has been the trade show for the last few years.
How did you get involved in creating a trade show?
We started Bright eight years ago – back then we just felt there was a need for a trade show that focused on skateboarding, sneakers and streetwear. Especially for skateboarding, none of the existing platforms seemed a good fit. During that time our office was located in Frankfurt in the former head office of the police, a huge old building, and we were the only company on a 20,000-square-meter property apart from the Hells Angels. It was an amazing playground, and it gave us a chance to create a unique and authentic setting where art, sports, party and music events could happen together with the actual trade show.
What is it about this process of the whole fashion/retail stream that you enjoy and respect?
I certainly enjoy how the market and the people keep changing along with styles and trends – and as for respect, I respect people in this game who make things happen without selling their original vision for some watered-down crap.
How would you define BRIGHT and how is it different than others?
BRIGHT always tried to show more than the business part. We’ve always done many side events, art exhibitions, skateboarding events to show the complete lifestyle, and the synergies between all these different aspects. Because of the pointed target group BRIGHT is a big family. We always try to force the idea of friends working with friends.
How easy or difficult is it to take the concept of BRIGHT and apply it to other parts of the world?
Chic/Young Blood of Beijing asked us to work with them. But I think if you try to be more than a business platform it is much harder to do a good job on foreign ground. In Berlin we have the complete network. One example: Beijing we would get any kind of staff, in Berlin everybody who is working for us, (even the guy in the carpark) is involved somehow in the lifestyle we present. This is a very important fact for the experience of the visitor. It is a crucial part of creating an authentic event.
How has social media enhanced the trade show experience?
Social media is a good way to get direct feedback on an event. And it is obviously a great interface between the BRIGHT exhibitors and visitors.
What are some of your favorite brands?
HUF, Billionaire Boys Club, Ice Cream, SUPRA, Altamont, Fourstar, Vans – just to name a few I really like.
BRIGHT has often had an educational and artistic element to it. How important is this to the overall show’s positioning?
There are so many beautiful things going on around the pure business and it would be a shame not to include them. This time we’ll host an FTC Exhibition and a Lodown Exhibition. As well we’ll present the BRIGHT European Skateboard Awards for the second time in order to honor the skaters, media, shops, brands, photographers and cinematographers for their incredible work in 2012.
One of the cool points about BRIGHT in the past were its venues such as the old Stasi headquarters. How did you guys get involved with the location? What sort of emotions does it evoke for you?
After the police headquarters in Frankfurt we sort of made it our thing to find weird places. The Berlin location of the former East German secret service has been definitely less scary than the Frankfurt venue with all the cells and junkies in the basement. And in Europe you walk on historical grounds so often – so that you kind of have it in mind but then again it is part of the history, not the present and not the future. But we actually moved to a new location in January for the first time. Die Alte Münze, literally “The Old Mint,” housed the printing and storage for the Reichsmark, DDR Mark, D-Mark, and the Euro for over 70 years. The 3,000-sqm space with its huge courtyard is located right in the center of Berlin, next to the Alexanderplatz on the waterfront of the river Spree.
Am Krögel 2,
Photography: Jasper Greig