Fashion companies worried that they no longer understand their customers are desperately seeking information about shoppers. But they struggle to create a coherent picture from the data.

Models present creations by Dimitri at the Berlin Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016 in Berlin

Berlin is in the throes of Fashion Week, with catwalk shows being held in former power plants, closed-down department stores, train stations and art galleries.

Tens of thousands of purchasing agents will spend the week criss-crossing the city from show to trade fair in a desperate search for whatever new trend might attract their customers.

Berlin Fashion Week takes place twice a year and is sponsored by Mercedes Benz. The event is an umbrella for a dozen different fashion trade fairs that take place all over the city.

This week’s largest trade shows are Premium, held in a former postal railway station, and Panorama, located on Berlin’s trade-fair grounds. At other smaller fairs, leisure wear is also in focus, with Seek and Bright dedicating their shows to all things casual. Sustainable fashion is also currently en vogue with two fairs – the Greenshowroom and the Ethical Fashion Show – featuring exclusively ecologically sound clothes.

The German fashion industry has been panicking since big retailers Steilmann, Strenesse and Wöhrl went bankrupt last year. Also, purchasing is down as shoppers increasingly hunt for bargains. Industry observers like Dutch trend researcher Lidewij Edelkoort, who advises high-end brands, sees the need for real change: “The fashion industry must redevelop everything from the ground up.”

Clothing makers are urgently trying to find ways to discover what their customers want. “Right now, companies are grabbing all the customer data they can get,” said Andreas Brandenberg, head of the Institute for Communication and Marketing at Lucerne University.