Maastricht, the Netherlands’ most European city, has been called the hand that the Netherlands stretches out to the rest of Europe. It sits at the bottom of the very southern tip of the Netherlands, right on the border with Belgium and a 30 minute drive from the German border.
The EU’s Treaty of Maastricht has created a permanent symbolic link with Europe, but in day to day practice, the city really functions as a European city. Its surprisingly large and high quality retail space in the centre of the town also caters to a very large and prosperous German hinterland. Schools and Universities attract students from all countries and there are strong collaborations across the two borders among academic institutions.
Maastricht has also jestingly been called the most French city of the Netherlands. Geographically, next to Sint Maarten in the Carribean, it is the only place where the Netherlands directly meets French speaking territory, but much more importantly, the people from Maastricht share their devotion to good food and good wines with the French. It is no surprise that the best vineyards in the Netherlands are found close to Maastricht.
Location traditionally plays an important role in IAF Conventions. Because the Convention travels, we always create new combinations of international visitors and local visitors. The conventions bridge the international apparel industry network to a national industry and vice versa. For delegates usually coming from over 20 countries, the Conventions offer an opportunity to better understand the industry and retail in the host country. We try to let the location itself ‘do a little of the talking’ and provide some of the insights into the character of the local apparel industry.
In the case of Maastricht, the city has invested in a high end, innovative retail environment in which both large international fashion retail chains, but also many smaller boutiques thrive. It is the combination that works best and that draws in the crowds from across the border. This requires a strong collaboration between business and (city and provincial) government, creating a good industry infrastructure that contains also fashion design incubator Fashionclash.