I first attended the Clothes Show in 2004, as a school trip with Textiles. I remember having to get to school at about 7.30 in the morning, clambering on to a coach with a packed lunch in hand, and seriously looking forward to a day of shopping. And I was right to be excited - it was a brilliant day, filled with loads of stores, catwalk shows and freebies - in fact, I even won a bag of things by sitting and watching a show.
So imagine my excitement when my boyfriend said he had bought us tickets to go again this year just gone (2013)! I got up early, I got dressed up in heels and a nice outfit, and we arrived. And I don't know what to say other than I was... Disappointed...
A history of the Clothes Show
So I didn't know this, but my boyfriend revealed the the Clothes Show used to be a programme on the BBC, starting in 1986. In 1989, the show made it's first appearance at the Birmingham NEC, and a magazine was released to accompany it all. The television programme ran up until the late 1990's - but the Birmingham show has continued up until the present day.
When is the show? How do you get there? How do you get tickets?
The show is always held over six days at the start of December, in the brilliant Birmingham NEC. Tickets are available through the official website, which is clothesshowlive.com, and there are a range of different ticket types available - the standard ticket price is £28, or students get in for £25. Children under 5 are free, and if you really want to splash out, you can buy the platinum ticket, which gives you a show guide, show bag and the best seats in the fashion theatre. All tickets also have a £2 administration fee, and when you book, you choose a time slot for the fashion show - this year sponsored by Alcatel.
Getting to the NEC is pretty easy from whichever direction - once you get close enough, it's really well sign posted, and when you arrive, there is plenty of parking. To get from you car to the actual NEC, you could walk, or there is a shuttle bus that runs really often - I think every ten minutes. We had to queue for a while to get on one, but that was because we got there at the same time as the rest of the world, and everybody had the same idea - but once we were on the bus, we got a seat, they didn't overfill it, and it was comfortable and quick.
The only downside to the parking was the price - it was £10 on top of our ticket prices. You could either pay on your way in, or on the way out. We were staying to watch Take Me Out Live, so visited the car before the show, and decided to pay then. By the time we came out to go home, all the parking gates were open and unmanned, so we basically wasted £10, which really annoyed us, but I guess we weren't to know.
I'm inside - now what?
You walk into the NEC and it's rammed with girls dolled up, with skyscraper heels, mini skirts, enough makeup to open your own beauty room, and enough perfume to create a new ozone layer. There's not many men, but those you do see are trailing behind a gang of girls, weighed down with random shopping bags, or they're as dressed up as the girls and twice as excited.
The Clothes Show is nicely split into different coloured rooms, and the carpet colour indicates where you are. There's about five different coloured halls, plus a food area, multiple catwalk stages, and the Alcatel Fashion Show Arena. Each area is pretty large, and rammed with people and stalls. So let's break it down:
Hall 9&10 - Grey - The Refresh Zone - The fashion theatre was in this section, plus a type of food hall complete with toilets. Allow me to start with the food, and the one simple word to explain it: extortionate!!! We stopped here for our lunch, and had a cheeseburger and chips, and a bottle of water each. It came to near enough £20, and I nearly dropped dead from shock. The stalls supplying the food were little takeaway carts, so the choice wasn't very varied, and there wasn't enough seating for the amount of people attending the show. We were a little confused as to why the NEC's restaurant wasn't open, as I'm sure if they opened that, they would have done a roaring trade over the five days. The toilets, however, were surprisingly clean, with big mirrors, enough hand soap, toilet paper and space, considering they were similar to porta-loos. I was pretty impressed. I will come back to the Fashion Theatre later.
Hall 7&8 - Purple - Fashion Fix - This is where Clothes Show starts to go downhill. THe last time I visited the exhibition, the Fashion Fix section was filled with high street names, small boutiques and lots and lots of discounted items. This year, I can only describe it as cheap, similar to the market in Nottingham. There were no brands to be seen - last time I bought Paul's Boutique or David and Goliath, to name but two, and this year, it was row after row of those types of shops that all have different names, but the same stock. Don't get me wrong, they had some nice things - I bought a dress and a fur headband (very fashionable) for £20, but they're not a designer brand, or a high street brand for that matter, and when we went into the next stall for a look, I saw the exact same dress for £2 more. It was a battle to see anything, and I saw more tacky Christmas jumper stands then I care to mention - if you were going for a load of Christmas tat, then it was a good thing, for everyone else it wasn't worth it. I expected Pineapple, Miss Selfridge, Warehouse... And I got cheapcheapbargains.com, NewLine, and Shikha London - all brands I had never heard of.
Hall 6 - Lilac - Vision VIllage - This hall was pretty much the same, although this time, there were a few things I recognised - ClaireaBella were there, and I love their bags, and Citroen were showcasing their gorgeous DS3. There were a few jewellery stands in this hall, but nothing fascinating or unique. The most interesting part of this hall was the Diet Coke catwalk - and the ladies handing out mini cans of Coke whilst you watched. But once you had watched once, that was it, there was nothing more to see. You could also wander around stands for all of the universities which offer a fashion and design course - if you were looking into going to one of those, I would recommend going and finding out more, but for me, who is interested, but doesn't have to ability to go to uni, it was a big part of the Clothes Show taken up by something useless in my opinion.
Hall 19 - Aqua - Style Boutique in Association with handbag.com - Again, another hall filled with unknown brands. The only thing I enjoyed in this area was the Echo Falls Wine Bar, where you could chill for a while, enjoy a glass of Echo Falls and rest your weary feet. There was also a stand selling toffee flavoured vodka - we walked past it a number of times, and by midday, there was a little sign saying sold out, and to come back tomorrow. It was nice to see that a product had done well. In this hall, you could find sunglasses, handbags, accessories and these little clips to put on your shoes to jazz them up - cute but not designer!
Hall 20 - Pink - The Beauty Hall - My favourite! And hooray, hello designers! Barry M, HD Brows, Abercrombie & Fitch, Clarins, Carmex, the Elemis Spa Bus (yes - a bus that offered spa treats), Jelly Pong Pong, Models Own... The list is endless. I was totally happy just staying in that area, surrounded by a heavenly pink glow, make up and rip off perfume... Wait, what? Rip off, I hear you say? Well ok, it may not be rip off - but have you ever been to those travelling fairs, where there is a person with a microphone trying to get you to play hoopla, telling you all the benefits? Well it was like that, with a type of perfume called Sexy Shoo. The bottle was plastic, ugly and shaped like a fat stiletto, and all they kept saying was "it's not on the high street yet - get it before it arrives on the high street, it's going to be a best seller" - and yet it was £20 for two. I wasn't impressed with that side of things, but it was easy to avoid. I got some sleep in rollers for £10 - bargain!
The Fashion Theatre - Going back to the fashion theatre, I have nothing but praise for this one. The queue regime is a little complicated - you have to find the right letters for your ticket, and then hope you're standing in the right sort-of line. You have to arrive 15 minutes before the show starts, and as one group comes out, you file in. People check your ticket, and you move through to find your seat. It's a fluid process, to be fair, so you don't waste time, or stand around getting impatient. The seats are red plastic, but not uncomfortable, and they are tightly packed in, but you have room to breathe. We were sat quite far back, but you could still see perfectly, so we didn't miss a thing.
The show started with Amy Childs, another TOWIE star, and two people I didn't know, talking a load of nonsense really, but making people cheer, so getting us ready for the show. Then we were treated to a performance from Union J - ok, they're not exactly massive, but it was a nice song and I enjoyed it. Then, the fashion show started, and it was brilliant - dancing, catwalking, a free phone for one watcher, and lots and lots of clothes. I couldn't fault it, and even my boyfriend, who isn't into fashion, enjoyed it. It was really good to see some nice clothes, and there were the other clothes that you look at and think "really?" - so it was good to giggle at them too!
What else is there?
Dotted around each hall are various Meet & Greet areas, where you could queue to say hello to "celebrities" such as Sam Callahan (X Factor), various TOWIE "stars" and some other people I had never heard of. I didn't bother queueing for anybody, but did get a blurry snapshot of the X Factor guy, just because it was funny to my boyfriend and I that a group of squealing girls were waiting about an hour to see him.
On the catwalk stages, there were shows, one of university graduates designs, which were interesting, although used models that needed a bit of work, as they had funny quirks which I couldn't help but notice, and another which used finalists from Britain and Irelands Next Top Model, but we missed this one, unfortunately.
There was an area where you could have your photo taken for Select Model Management, and be entered into a competition to become a model, but unlike previous years, nobody seems to walk around scouting people anymore.
There were ATMs available, but there were pretty bit queues, and they did charge a fee - if you can plan ahead, take cash with you. Not many of the stalls accepted card.
What was my overall opinion?
Overall, I was disappointed. Yes, getting there is easy, and their car park/shuttle bus arrangement works really well, but once you are inside, it's just like a cattle market, with products that aren't worth fighting for. I didn't get excited over any of the items, and I wasn't that impressed with the lack of designers. The beauty hall and the fashion show are worth going for, but I'm glad we only bought standard tickets, and didn't splash out on platinum tickets, as there didn't seem much benefit.
I think the high standards from previous years have dropped considerably, and I feel the way we spend our money shows with the cheap stalls, instead of top designers, but Clothes Show seems to have opened the doors to anybody and everybody exhibitor wise, and that's sad to see.
The visitors to the clothes show seem to be mainly tweenagers - 13 and 14 year old, who do nothing but squeal at celebrities and push their way to the front of the stalls and get in your way. It would be nice if school trips had a seperate day, and maybe a day for college and university people would be ideal, so they can really benefit from studying the catwalks better, but that's just my opinion.
I enjoyed the day, but it's not something I'm going to rush to buy tickets for in 2014. It turns into a very expensive day, very quickly, so I recommend taking your own food and drink, and if you don't expect too much, then by all means, give it a go.
A slightly floppy 3/5 from me - sorry Clothes Show!
* Describe the venue (NEC), starting with the first impressions, and services on offer, size and suitability for Clothes Show Live.
It was really big, and there were loads of stalls and about 3-4 little fashion shows going on, and a few entertainment parts, it was also really packed with thousands of people.
* Describe the various stands that you see. Keep and printed material, such as brochures, flyers, freebies etc so that you can present this in college form for you Arts Awards.
The stalls that were there; hair extension stalls, make-up stalls, loads of cloths stalls, fake-tan stalls, tony + guy, a stall where you could take pictures with HOT men, mini fashion show, dancing shows, handbag stalls, accessories, e.t.c
* Write a brief review of the Fashion Show that you will be viewing at 3pm. What did you like and why? If possible, some quick sketches.
I liked the way they presented the fashion show by dancing and how all the models were happy and always smiling.
* Did you see any celebrities? If so who? What were they doing?
I saw Jennifer Metcalfe - Mercedes from hollyoaks and Kevin sacre - Jake from hollyoaks. They were walking into a V.I.P room and they talk on stage when we was watching Clothes Show Live, and also saw the boy band (VICE) and they preformed on stage when we Clothes show Live started. And we also saw George lamb and another woman who presented Cloths Show Live.
* Describe your overall impressions of the whole trip, what you enjoyed, did not enjoy. If you went again what would you do differently?
I loved the whole thing, I wouldn't change a thing about it, it was really good and I am going to next years one to.
The Clothes Show Live is an Institution. Every December hordes of screaming young girls, (not so young girls and some men too) dress up and descend on the NEC Birmingham for five/six days of fashion, shopping and all round chaos!
Now in its 21st year the Clothes show started 1989. It used to be televised each year on the BBC and I used to coincidentally like to be sick and off school and watch all the drama!
It was started at the NEC in Birmingham mainly due to the space and facilities available there, but as of last year there is a Clothes show London opening in May too!
The original is on in December (usually opening around the 3-5th). The premise for the show was originally to create a bigger version of the TV show screened on the BBC. This was a morning TV slot developed to bringing the big designer catwalk shows to women and then showing them how to get the look for less.
The NEC is well signed and easy to drive to. The parking areas are huge and usually reasonable - five-ten pounds for the day, but don't use the ticket.
You can also get to the NEC by train from Birmingham New Street - but if you do this, you need to be able to carry all your bags back on it!!!
Tickets are available online and by phone usually from about 3 months in advance. Standard ticket prices have slowly been creeping up from 20 pound since I strated going (5 years + ago). They also add a booking fee to each ticket (effectively an additional way of raising the ticket prices... - CHEEKY), not just one fee for the whole booking.
The standard ticket includes entry to the showrooms and a time and seat for the catwalk show. There is a higher price ticket (10 pounds more roughly which includes a discount pack - you can buy this at the show for about 12 pounds). Some of the % off discounts in it are good and the map is useful, but it depends how much you plan on spending in the set stores as to whether it's worth it - generally I have found they are good value to share.
Usually open from 9am-7pm ish. You may not want the whole day - exhausting, but you will want most of it. I would say I found it better to get there early, grab a coffee before the madness and leave before the rush!
The Clothes show!!!!!
The show usually takes up at least three of the giant NEC Halls. It is divided in to zones which vary slightly from year to year - there are always several mainstream fashion ones, a beauty area and a university area to name a few.
It is set up in stalls like a giant market, the best bet is usually to pick a corner and start working your way round from there. In the clothins section there is a huge variance between brands you will know (All Saints, Bench, Playboy have all been there), and smaller stalls you will not recognise, although in this age, many do have their own websites etc. Prices can also vary between high end without big discounts to great deals like 75% off! I tend to try to go on the last day too as often stalls will sell everything off further to avoid taking it back, although you do run the risk of stock not being available.
The beauty section is great fun - there are always loads of deals, and if you know your brands and prices, you can see what is good and what's not. Cosmetics and perfume stalls also often have bagged gift sets with massive amounts of the RRP (Rimmel always) or do freebies if you buy a certain amount (Benefit, LOVELY). The items are always current season and I ALWAYS stock up. You can also get free makeovers and cheap haircuts (I had never had a Tony and guy stylist cut before).
I always go for the magazines as well. They usually charge the normal price of the magazine, but you also get goody bags with selections of freebies in them - nail varnish, body spray, drink, lipbalm, chocolate bar etc..... You get even bigger rewards if you subscribe!
The university section is interesting, they have displays of what the students have been doing and also mini shows. Lecturers are usually around too. My sister used this to help her decide where to study fashion at uni.
There are often other small stages too that may have anything from catwalk shows to make overs to Young hairdresser of the Year competition going on! Always fun to take a break and watch. \
There are celebrities around for anyone watching - I apparently walked past some Hollyoaks' last year...... I didn't notice so have no clue who!!!
There are always some random fun stands too, e.g. Nintendo DS or the exercise machines that you stand on and they vibrate - I try to take a camera with me!!!!
Food and Drink
As expected food and drink here is pricey. It usually has it's own small section and there is a good selection. There are also cafe's in the big NEC corridor. Sometimes the alcohol brands also have huge cafe's in the middle of the show area where you can get sample glasses- great if you aren't driving.
Toilets are located all roung the main corridor at the NEC, as expected you are better to go in the morning. Although the staff try hard, they do get worse through the day.
The catwalk show is always a huge affair, loads of bright lights, cameras and loud music. They often have a recognisable band playing and a celebrity pesenter (e.g. Sophie Ellis Bextor). The show is really creative with a mixture of dance and walking - fun to watch
Usually there is a free bag being handed out as you leave. - Look around it may be hidden. Full of ads and sample bits - usually useful like deodrant and razors - worth getting for nothing.
The show is a great fun day out.
Beacause of the timing it is good for the odd bit of Christmas shopping. The main thing I would say is not to expect too much. The shops change from year to year (there are some steady ones like Rimmel and the magazines), and I have found the discounts do too. It is a great place for bargain hunting, but you do need to be realistic!!! There won't be the same things as in the retail stores. I always managed to find things to spend money on and leave with way too many bags.
I find it a very girly event - I have always gone in a small group of ladies/girls and I find it more fun that way - if I took a boyfriend I would be worried he would be bored.
Its a good way to try new things for a reduced price!
For those that want there are model scouts and TV crews about - bnut thankfully they are easy to avoid. You do see people dreesed up clearly hoping to be spotted (which makes for great fun people watching!!), but I prefer being in comfy clothes and DEFINITELY flat shoes (walking around all day, my feet even hurt in those). Despite it being December due to the amount of people, it gets really really hot, so maybe leave jumpers in the car or cloakroom.
It isn't for the faint hearted or someone who can't handle crowds - you often have to be a bit pushy to get near the good stalls!!!
It is primarily about shopping. There are shows and distractions, but it really is about shops getting you to part with your money. I like to try to go round first before making too many purchases and get an idea what I want and what I will spend. Otherwise, money can trickle away faster than I realise!
Now I go to a lot of exhibitions at the NEC in Birmingham but by far my favourite is the clothes show live which comes around once a year in December and is such a good day out that I look forward to it all year around. Although it does say clothes sow I will emphasise that this show is not just about clothes and that it is brilliant for all people. I will hopefully get over to you in this review how much you should look forward to December already.
First the address of the NEC is:
The National Exhibition Centre,
The NEC is accessible by car from the motorway links and there is plenty of car parking which costs around £5 - 10 depending on the day and what is showing. There are hundreds of spaces available. If you don't want to drive then you can get the train into Birmingham New street and then there is a direct rain which costs a few pounds which goes to Birmingham international which is where the NEC is. This only takes about 10 - 20 minutes and is ideal for a lot of people.
So the clothes show when you get there takes over a lot of the NEC which is great. Tickets cost around £25 and it is on for about a week. There are several halls so I will try to take you through bits of the show at one time starting at the top which is the fashion theatre.
The Fashion Theatre
This is where a lot of the fun happens and one of the many highlights of the day. When you book your tickets to the clothes show, you will have to choose a time to come to the fashion theatre. When in here you take your seats and watch the show. The December just gone we had Jesse Metcalfe from Desperate housewives introducing on the Saturday and a fantastic performance from the Sugababes.
You sit there and watch a fashion show with a difference. Yes there is a catwalk and nice clothes and pretty women and men parading down in nice clothes so you can get an idea about what is available and what is in fashion at the moment. There is a lot of dancing and fun to be had though so you will sit there clapping throughout at everything.
The show lasts around 45 minutes which is great value for money in my opinion and you will leave there with a smile.
As you can imagine in the main hall there are thousands of items of clothing to choose from which I find great. By the fashion theatre you will start off and t he clothes are separated into zones so the red zone is the cheapest, then blue getting more expensive and then purple getting very expensive. I find that even in some of the expensive stores you will still find some things you can afford. Not many mind you.
There are stalls selling all fashions and accessories including perfume, make-up, handbags, hair accessories and even a spray tattooist. There are many brands you may not have heard of but then you will come to some places such as Fiorelli and funky fish that you should know.
There are changing rooms in some places but in many you do sort of have to do guess work or try them on over your clothes if you are feeling brave which is what I always do. Prices are extremely reasonable and you will pick up quite a few bargains along the way.
There is a whole beauty section which is the pink zone and here you will find make up stall after make up stall. There are people to makeovers if you want and such bargains. The best is Rimmel make-up and you get a goody bag worth £40 for £10 and I always find they have nice things in there for you.
Look out for offers and the pink zone is quite big.
The green zone is the healthy well being zone and you will find lots of health products including things for your skin, teeth, eyes and basically all sorts. Again they have so many special offers available for you to take advantage of and lots of free samples and testers so well worth visiting. This section is extremely good and quite big.
Ok so as well as all of the excitement of all of the wonderful things you can buy there are also cat walks surrounding the show. You will find about three which have scheduled shows which you can find the times there. They are well worth watching and have some great fashions that are available to buy at the show.
There is a stage by the fashion theatre where bands perform throughout the day which is brilliant to watch. There are also modelling agencies there if you fancy yourself as a model and several things going on including one cat walk where members of the public get to have a go.
Throughout the halls there are many toilets and places to get food including a very nice pizza place which we had which was yummy. There are places to sit get drinks and staff on hand to help so you are well looked after indeed.
I recommend the clothes show live to everybody as it is a brilliant day and you are free to come in and leave as you fancy so you can come for an hour to watch the show or stay all day. It does get busy but there is a fantastic atmosphere everywhere and every year I love it and can't wait till the next.
Thanks for reading.