Wednesday, December 28, 2011


So the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs tell us that U.S. retail sales this holiday season rose 4.5% over last year. It sure doesn’t feel like it.
The National Retail Federation thinks retail sales have increased 3.8% this holiday season, down from a 5.2% increase last year. Where?
NPD Group, a consumer and retail market research firm based in New York, opines that deals made a difference. Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD is quoted on as saying, “The holiday was better than expected. Consumers who were tired of living in this spending cocoon went out and bought what they needed and wanted.” Are you sure??
This sure looks like a painful holiday selling season to me. One of my social media clients has 2 retail stores in Los Angeles, one in the busy Belmont Store in Long Beach, and one in the economically devastated downtown San Pedro. I spent some time at both stores over the past week. How things have changed. 10 years ago, the Belmont Shore store used to have lines around the block at Xmas. Now, there are hardly lines at the cash register. As for San Pedro, you’d think it was a sleepy Sunday afternoon in the middle of summer most days rather than the week before Xmas – it was a ghost town.
I realize there are macro factors affecting both locations. Downtown San Pedro is lost as a retail center so not too much was expected. But Belmont Shore is supposed to be one of busiest specialty retail areas in this part of greater Long Beach. It is pretty clear that the affect of online retail that has been nibbling away at bricks and mortar retail sales in a serious way for years is now really starting to bite. comScore, a digital marketing intelligence collector, just released new numbers on U.S. online holiday spending for the season-to-date, and found that consumers continued to shop online in record numbers. For the first 56 days of the November-December 2011 holiday season, $35.3 billion was spent online – an increase of 15% over the corresponding days last year, and a new record. Ouch!
NPD Group’s assertion that the retailers that gave deals this year did better than expected may be accurate but what about margins? Sales are great but what about profits? Marshalls Department Stores lives on providing deals all year round. Their margins are dependent on their buying power. But how can you run a small retail business on the same principle? By the way, the woman at my local Marshalls thought that sales had not been as strong this year.
I am looking forward to seeing some of the sales data from sector to sector. In particular, the fashion sector. The chatter is that designers and sales showrooms in the Los Angeles fashion world are hurting. The fashion industry has been hit badly during this extended economic downtown. Things started to look up a little around mid-year. There was an air of optimism at the August round of fashion trade shows in Las Vegas (check out my blogs). That optimism evaporated as the year progressed. I know for a fact that a lot of inventory that was supposed to be hanging in retail stores for the holiday season got kicked back to the manufacturers. This means retailers aren’t moving goods, designers and manufacturers are sitting on inventory that cost to produce and has nowhere to go, and sales reps won’t be getting any commissions on those orders. Everyone is losing.
So do the numbers lie? You bet they do. Do I wish things were different? You bet I do. Am I being too pessimistic? I wish.
All the research firms and think tanks in the world can produce numbers that tell us that this is better than last year or that improved this year or things are on the upswing next year but on the street the pain continues. I am not saying to give up. The U.S. is still a huge market with incredible potential if you have the right product at the right price. But you better be ready to ride this economy out.
Keep an eye out for more on this from me soon.
Paul Brindley

Monday, December 19, 2011


Here we are again in downtown Los Angeles for the October 2011 LA Fashion Market Week where we are focusing on the Spring 2012 collections, and filling in with end of year immediate goods – if we are lucky enough to need them.
In the U.S., Spring deliveries begin at the end of January and usually run through the end of March. Spring deliveries are crucial for most West Coast designers and manufacturers. With a natural emphasis on clothes for the warmer climate, Spring (and the flow on of designs for Summer deliveries) is usually make or break.
De Lacy is a good example. Bridget De Lacy is the designer and owner of De Lacy, a distinctive women’s contemporary collection based around item pieces that can be worn day or night, casual or dressy, and transition from season to season. Bridget thinks that her March delivery is one of the two most important of the year (the other being September): “Things are heating up, stores have sold through all their Fall and Winter deliveries and their sales are done. Plus De Lacy offers jersey which is a great transition fabric.”
Each LA Market Week, on the usually vacant third floor of the New Mart, you’ll find the Designers and Agents showcase –
Known in shorthand as “D&A”, it describes itself as “an independent, international trade fair for collections and retailers who define the cutting edge in fashion and life style. Identifying emerging talent and creating an intimate, synergistic environment that fosters relationships between designers and buyers, each of D&A’s shows in Los Angeles and New York (which typically attract 3,000 retail and media visitors) are pre-edited, art-directed, and merchandised to create a sense of camaraderie and discovery.” All of which means, it sells itself as a hip and happening place to buy and sell … and I would have to agree.
This week the 3rd floor is full. There are over 100 booths with the usual eclectic mix of fashion forward men’s and women’s basics, separates and denim, shoes, hats, bags, jewelry and accessories. Some of the most notable collections and trends are:
  • The color palette for Spring is at both ends of the spectrum with bright and neon pinks, reds, yellows and oranges hanging with greys, dark blues and black. Color Story (represented by the Aubrey Company) is a good example.
  • Collections are being given depth and texture by the use of fleece, linen and wovens to hang along with the usual cottons, silks and rayons. Patterns are popular. Fluxus is using the range of colors and fabrics to beautiful effect.
  • Medium sized bags are all the go – natural and colored leather, tribal and fringed, woven and geometric pattern. I liked the look of 49 Square Miles.
  • Those large floppy sun hats that your Mum wore in the 70′s just keep on keeping on as do the short brim “Mad Men” style hats for men. Check out Christy’s London and Eugenia Kim.
  • The semi precious stone boho chic look in jewelry never gets old. There is plenty on offer.
  • It was fantastic to see Marithe + Francois Girbaud still at the forefront of contemporary ready-to-wear. They are only showing men’s this week. The collection is sleek and clean with their usual innovative use of design and color – like constructed v-neck tees with an inside chest pocket. Check out their website – it’s brilliant!
  • The popular Genetic Denim was as busy as ever in their 4th year doing D&A.
  • The Brasil Fashion section is small with only about 10 collections in 7 booths. There was nothing that really caught my eye.
This was not one of my more memorable D&A shows. While the collections were of the usual quality, nothing really jumped out at me. There was plenty of buyer traffic when I was there. And I’m sure that will continue until the D&A ends on Wednesday afternoon.
Paul Brindley

Thursday, October 13, 2011


It’s LA Market Week. You’re a contemporary fashion buyer standing out front of the New Mart Building on the corner of 9th and Los Angeles Streets in the downtown Los Angeles Fashion District.
You’ve just schlepped the New Mart floors for appointments with showrooms that carry the lines you sell, to check out some new collections that you’ve scouted, and, of course, you’ve walked the booths of the Designers & Agents show on the 3rd floor.
You could turn left, cross Los Angeles St and start into the Cooper Building or go straight across 9th St into the hospital-like Cal Mart.
Or you could do something different, turn left up Los Angeles St., and check out what’s happening in just half a block away.
There are three buildings up Los Angeles St. that are well worth a visit – The Lady Liberty BuildingThe Academy Awards Building and The 824 Building. These former manufacturing and retailing locations have been converted into showroom space for apparel companies and small offices for industry professionals. They are populated by a generation of young, dynamic contemporary apparel movers and shakers that you really need to get to know.

The Lady Liberty Building
This 1914 building is the first you’ll come to at 843 Los Angeles St. It is also the most built-out with established contemporary men’s and women’s showrooms. There are three floors of two large showrooms per floor. Some of the showrooms accommodate a number of individual sales representatives under their own shingles. The others are large multi-line showrooms.
As an example, let’s look at the pioneer showroom of the building, Park LA ShowroomPark Women’s is on the 2nd floor with Park Men’son the 4th. They are large, hip spaces with exposed beams and raw brink walls that suit the building perfectly. Park Women’s also hosts two independent sales firms – SparklingOrFlat Showroom and Seamless Showroom.
On the same floor is the bright, clean-lined The Bar Showroom. The Bar hosts a number of independent sales reps including the dynamicThe Sydny with it’s inspired Australian collections, including bless’ed are the meek and Flannel. Leverage Los Angeles Showroom is also in here with the Australian collection, OHARA.
The Globe Showroom on the 2nd floor is a clean, modern space with some excellent contemporary collections.
Citizens of Humanity denim is on the 5th floor.

The Academy Award Building
At 817 Los Angeles St., the Academy Awards Building is just a few doors further along.
There are 2 floors of individual showrooms, and a penthouse showroom on the 4th floor with it’s own cool outside deck area that is home to the highly regarded, Dietch Public Relations.
The concrete floor and large metal-framed window showrooms hark back to LA’s “Chinatown” days. Some say that it reminds them of a New York setting. The rooftop is outfitted with salvage and re-purposed furniture. It is a funky, fun space that is full of potential.
On the 3rd floor, you’ll find Tracy Engelien Sales Showroom specializing in lifestyle, fitness and yoga collections. One of Tracy’s manufacturers is the sleek, comfortable contemporary basics collection, Emma & Emilie.  As well as producing a sophisticated, cool line, the owner/designer of Emma & Emilie, Angelika McKay, is committed to sustainable local production. Angelika loves the building’s cool, bohemian, creative vibe.
On the same floor, there is Magnet Showroom with it’s hip men’s and women’s young contemporary collections. So is xPose PR.

The 824 Building
Across the street is The 824 Building. Without a doubt, the anchor showroom in the building is T&A Showroom on the 4th and 5th floors. The principals of T&A are Alfred Davis and Tim Padilla. They have been here for 4 years and have seen the building grow in popularity as others have followed them.
They have had no trouble in getting buyers from Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Kitson, Lisa Klein, etc. to make the trek up Los Angeles St.
They have a huge open office/showroom space with a 1500 sq. ft. balcony that they use for entertaining and events.
AMH Showroom on the 3rd floor has an excellent mix of men’s and women’s contemporary lines including the Australian collection, Afends.
The 824 building has 5 floors of showrooms and offices.

So next time you are at LA Market, do yourself a big favor; take the time to explore these up and coming LA Fashion District buildings. You’ll be glad you did.

Paul Brindley

Friday, September 23, 2011


I spent Day 3 of the week, known ubiquitously as MAGIC, at the sprawling booth jungle that takes over the massive confines of the Las Vegas Convention Center, adjacent to the Las Vegas Hilton. The Convention Center is host to WWDMAGIC, ISAM Swimwear, Sourcing and Platform.

Sourcing was located in the South Hall of the Convention Center.
As the name promises, Sourcing “showcases more than 700 apparel, accessories and footwear resources, conveniently merchandised by country and category: contract and original design manufacturers; fabric, trim and component suppliers; and service and technology providers”.
I don’t know much about the sourcing world. However, I can imagine this would be a great place to start learning. I have no feedback on the effectiveness of the show. I plan more research on Sourcing at the February 2012 go-around.

Platform is a massive shoe show, also located in the South Hall. I didn’t walk Platform this time but have in the past. If you love shoes, you’ll be in heaven. There are over 1500 exhibitors.
Like Sourcing, I will get direct feedback from exhibitors in February ’12.

Easily the largest of the week’s showcases, WWDMAGIC takes up the Central and North Halls of the Convention Center. As the name suggests, the show is presented in collaboration with the industry’s leading newspaper masthead, Women’s Wear Daily.
WWDMAGIC likes to brand itself as Fashion’s most comprehensive collection of women’s apparel, accessories and footwear … It’s certainly comprehensive; it’s huge with more than 2000 labels on show. But you’ll soon find out that there is lots of the same being peddled here. There are quality contemporary collections located in the Premium and Young Contemporary sections on the main floor.
I am never quite sure just how buyer-busy the show is. There are so many people in the space, from sales reps to booth staff to vendors to industry folks to media, and, yes, to buyers, that is it hard to work out who’s who.
Like the rest of the week’s shows, the feedback was positive. I spoke with experienced women’s contemporary Los Angeles rep. Bernadette Mopera. Bern was working the Knitted Dove booth – one of her lines. She was happy with the traffic, and reiterated, “MAGIC is an important show for us”.
I thought the North Hall held more missy collections, though MAGIC billed the space as presenting …“an upscale and ultra-fashionable new environment featuring the most sophisticated and sought-after in women’s collections.” In general, I couldn’t agree.
My good friend and all around super sales rep, Tracy Engelien, and another friend, Angelika McKay whose hip emerging label,Emma & Emilie, Tracy represents shared a booth in the “White” section of the North Hall with another friend, the wonderful Michelle Roy of Michelle Roy Designs.
Luckily, they were placed in a row of booths with contemporary collections that channeled a steady flow of buyers. They had a very good show.
Conversely, an Australian collection that I have worked with took a flyer on the North Hall at the last minute. They were added to the back end of the North Hall and had a terrible week.
Such is trade show life. Like I say over and over, knowing which trade show to do is like reading tea leaves – many collections often see what they want to see in a show’s potential, and many times they get it wrong.

ISAM (International Swimwear / Activewear Market)
The swimwear section of WWDMAGIC was branded “SWIM at WWDMAGIC Sponsored by ISAM”. ISAM is an LA-based swim and active wear trade association. They have been affiliated with WWD MAGIC since 2005.
Touted as the largest swim show on the west coast, there seemed plenty of buyer interest. I caught up with Monica and Janna from Chantal Accessories Showroom in LA. They represent the brilliant Australian swimwear collection, Lisa Blue.
Janna told that me, “it’s been awesome” and that “more people have been buying than last year”.
I asked a veteran swimwear rep, “Why do ISAM as opposed to the CurveNV swim show?”. She said that the ISAM show gave her more opportunity to reach the boutique and specialty stores buyers that attended MAGIC, as opposed to being at the swim buyer only environment at Curve. That rings true. While the MODA show is adjacent to Curve at the Venetian, the buyer has to make the extra effort of going from show to show. While at WWDMAGIC, they just walk the same floor.

Well, that about wraps it up for my reviews of the August 2011 round of fashion trade shows in Las Vegas. All in all, given the economic woes that we continue to endure, the week has to be considered positive. With most industry folks reporting sales holding steady or increasing on last year, we have to grateful for small mercies. Let’s hope things are on the uptick when we’ll be back in February 2012 to do it all again.
Make sure to check out my Day 1 and 2 reviews at the paul brindley consults website. I encourage you post any comments on the blogs. If you have any questions about my blogs or the US fashion world in general, please contact me directly at
Until next time …
Paul Brindley

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I was a bit slow out of the gate on Tuesday morning for Day 2 for the Vegas fashion trade show extravaganza after being kidnapped by Tracy and Angelika on Monday night, and being forced to dance into the night at the PoolTradeShow Opening Party. With true Aussie spirit, it didn’t take long for me to get into high gear, and burst out into the 112 degree heat.

I decided to spend Day 2 schlepping between hotels in the burning August sun checking out some shows that I hadn’t been to before.

ENKVegas was at the resplendent Wynn Hotel. Their website describes the show as “a tightly merchandised event featuring premium & advanced product for men and women …” I would agree. Better contemporary men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections were spread over two adjacent function rooms.

After the massive spaces of the Mandalay Bay Hotel based MAGIC shows, the “intimate, efficient, easy to navigate”confines of the ENK show made for a great feel.
ENK always put on professional and well-appointed fashion shows. As a veteran of many Intermezzos and Coteries in New York, it was good to see that the quality was still there.  There were more men’s than women’s collections. And there seemed to be more buyer action at the men’s booths. However, that could have just been a snapshot.

And, In true ENK style, the lunch was delicious.

After the long march through the Wynn, I headed next door to the Venetian Hotel through the Vegas broiler. The Venetian hosts MODA Las Vegas, CurveNV and MRKETLV.

MODA Las Vegas
MODA is a largely Missy show at the Sands Convention Center at the Venetian. There are over 300 collections represented. It is another forest of booths like WWD MAGIC at the Las Vegas Convention Center (more about that in my Day 3 wrap).

I visited a couple of very experienced and respected LA based reps that I know, and the feedback was good. Karen Anderson of KLA Showroom was very happy with the show. It was the first time Karen had done MODA, and she said she would be back.

Tami Smith of T. Smith & Co. is a MODA veteran. Tami said she had a great show. She does MODA because she thinks buyers have more time to browse lines than at the other shows. She also represents more contemporary collections, which she think stand out amongst the majority of more Missy lines.

CURVExpo runs designer lingerie and swimwear shows in New York and Las Vegas. CurveNV includes swimwear, lingerie, underwear, sleepwear and activewear. Women’s and men’s brands are represented.

With the increasing interest that I have been getting from Australian swimwear collections wanting to launch in the US, I wanted to compare CurveNV with the ISAM swimwear show that is part of WWD MAGIC – we’ll get to that in my Day 3 wrap.

I bumped straight the successful Australian swimwear brand, Seafolly. Many other big names were there – DKNY, Michael Kors, Betsey Johnson, Juicy Couture – to name a few.

The show felt a little cramped for space, and I didn’t see a lot of buyer action when I was there.

MRKETLV is exclusively a men’s show that promotes to classic and contemporary buyers. It is a big show – way bigger than MAGIC Men’s at the Mandalay Bay. A lot of the big names were there. Maybe it was the size of the show and/or the time I was there but it didn’t seem busy.

They did, however, put on a very nice hot lunch. Even though I had eaten at ENK, I couldn’t resist the juicy steak medallions!

My long Day 2 ended back at WWD MAGIC at the LV Convention Center where I hooked up with my kidnappers of Monday night, Tracy and Angelika, before heading off for dinner and a much quieter night.

I’ll pick up at MAGIC in my Day 3 review. See you then …

Paul Brindley

Thursday, September 1, 2011

pbconsults' photostream


These are image from Rosemount Australian Fashion Week from May this year.


Wow! It was a hot one in Las Vegas last week for the August round of fashion trade shows. The good news from the plethora of shows was the almost unanimous feedback from exhibitors that the numbers this year was at least as good as last year with some reporting better sales.
Phew! It would have been a disaster for all concerned if the arrows started pointing down again – which they could have quite easily done given the doom and gloom prophesies of a double-dip recession that are doing the rounds, and the current stock market swings.
The August round of Vegas shows showcase Spring/Summer of the following year. Let’s hope the buyer optimism reflects the long awaited turnaround in the industry through the first two quarters of 2012. One sales representative told me she thinks that people have decided they are sick of the hard times, and have started buying again. This is the best business news I have heard for a long time because recessions usually end when the people decide they have.
I started the week at the MAGIC shows at the Mandalay Bay. I was most interested in Workroom, Project, and PoolTradeShow.

Workroom is the fashion forward section of the entire MAGIC Marketplace. The clothing, accessories and shoe brands are carefully selected, juried, and well worth a close look.
The space has the look and feel of a working collective. At some booths, designers work at sewing machines in front of their collections, ready to engage as required. The almost 100 brands that were represented impressed with their handmade quality and diversity of textures with design ranging from thoughtful to inspired.
Visually, I wasn’t as blown away by Workroom this time as I was in February. In fairness, the February show is showcasing Fall/Winter, which gives the designers more scope for fabric choices, layering and therefore design opportunities.
There was plenty of color, though more muted than the most of the other ready-to-wear that I saw for the rest of the week. As well as the red, pink, and yellow that were everywhere, the Workroom designers had plenty of black, dark grey, and Hunter green on offer.
The 80’s western look was well represented as it was elsewhere.
The Jonathon Simkhai collection particularly impressed me. Several pieces accented with bright color panels and trims are inspired by sports uniforms – they would look fantastic on any dance floor. A flecked section of the collection is inspired by school composition book covers. His use of distressed edging is finished perfectly.
It was fantastic to see Australian collections in Workroom. The Sydny Showroom specializes in Australian collections. They were showing bless’ed are the meek(“doing well” according to Elizabeth Lewis, one of the principals of Sydny) and Flannel – two collections that I saw at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week in Sydney in May. Elizabeth also works with Ladakh, an Australian collection that seemed to be doing very good business in Project.
Another Aussie collection on show was ksubi.
I have to mention one piece that caught my attention every time I passed the booth. It was a khaki and olive two-tone safari jacket by Publish. I have never worn a safari jacket but I might just wear that one.

Project seemed huge this time. There was plenty of foot traffic from the first morning. Project is where you’ll find the most influential and commercially successful  contemporary brands in the marketplace.
The feedback from the show varied between “about the same as last year” to “it was awesome”.
I saw a lot of color that was paradoxically either almost neon or muted and tonal – red, pink, fuchsia, yellow were the most dominant. As usual, there were lots of prints.  Printed pants and skirts were prominent.
Pants are big for Spring/Summer. The maxi-skirt is still popular.
Styles had cleaner lines than in the past – the bodies are more fitted and constructed than the flowing, draping look of past seasons.
Tanks of all types were huge. I saw a lot of straw, wide-brimmed hats, which have carried over from last year.
Shoes are also very important. “It’s all about the shoes”, is how one friend in the business put it. Shoes are structural and architectural; the bigger, the better. Get your platforms out!

I called it!
In my blog, The Madness that is the MAGIC Fashion Trade Shows – Day 2 & Show Review, from February, I said that I would prefer to see the Project, Workroom and Pool connected to make sure the young Pool designers are not missed. That is how it was configured this time, and it made all the difference. It was easy for the contemporary buyers to just keep on walking through, rather than skipping it if they were crunched for time. (They had Pool stuck away in it’s own function room last time – the foot traffic stunk! A friend of mine who did it was very disappointed.)
Pool was fun as usual. Lots of emerging contemporary designers showing the full range of clothing, shoes, bags, hats, jewelry, accessories of all kinds. There is also a cash and carry section.
The whole section is bright and colorful. They have drink, food and candy giveaways each day. Over caffeinated (or something) hipsters goofing off in the aisles helped give it a carnival feel at times.
Now that Pool is connected to the main Project floor, I would definitely consider putting out the cash to exhibit here.
Day 1 lasted well into the night at the PoolTradeShow Opening Party at The House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay. DJ Harvey had us grooving into the wee small hours.
Keep an eye out for my Day 2 wrap …
Paul Brindley

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I’m just back from my second visit to my hometown of Fremantle in Western Australia in the past year. I still have trouble believing just how much the cost of living in the Perth metropolitan area has skyrocketed since I left there in early 1995. I realize that more than 16 years is plenty of time for things to change. However, the ensuing boom in the mining and resources sectors has pumped the state so full of jobs and cash that prices for everything (except wine, thankfully) are such that I’m not sure how people make ends meet but they seem to be happily throwing down. It has the feeling of a boomtown.

So when I heard about how retail was struggling when I was there for last Christmas, it just didn’t square. Having lived through the US downturn over the past 3 years, it looked fine to me. I was back in Sydney for the Rosemount Australian Fashion Week in May. Again, I heard the grumblings about what a mess that retail was in. I spent plenty of time roaming the streets of downtown Sydney and scouting stores in trendy inner-city suburbs like Surry Hills and Paddington; I didn’t see the signs of distress that usually comes with retail slumps – few empty storefronts and the whole place wasn’t on sale.

This most recent trip opened my eyes. Where disposable income in the States has dwindled because nobody has any money, it looks like disposable income in Australia is dwindling because there is too much cash flying around. Too much cash in an economy equals higher interest rates and higher prices. People are pocketing their money. This is always bad news for retail in general, and disastrous for fashion retail in particular. As I detailed in my blog, Where to from here?, disposable income is the lifeblood of the fashion retail world.

Serendipitously, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) article, Premier retail empire finds spending is out of fashion, appeared online just as I was starting this blog. It neatly outlines the troubles Down Under. It made me think of some interesting insights that I picked up from fashion retailers and savvy shoppers whom I spoke to over the past month.

In Where to from here?, I talked about the Santee Alley effect. This refers to fashion buyers going off the beaten track in Los Angeles to cut-price suppliers in search for better margins. Apparently, Hong Kong is the place to go for Australian contemporary buyers. It doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience to visit those dodgy back alleys; the description of the amenities used by the buyers was particularly memorable. But the results are the same – size runs of contemporary styles to be sold at fat margins.

Technology now allows buyers to see samples being shown or modeled live from anywhere around the world via Skype. Orders and reorders can be emailed or completely automated using websites like Buyers are no longer restricted by when and where they can meet sales agents. You can get your price point wherever you can find it.

Store cash flows have taken a huge hit over the past few years. Instead of money in the bank and all bills paid, the comments I heard about the amount of unpaid-for stock that was on the store floors and already on sale were scary. As one boutique owner put it, “The Good Old Days are definitely over.”

Those Good Old Days also didn’t have to compete with so much online spending. The SMH article goes into the exponential growth of Internet shopping. A very good male friend of mine who has always been a natural clotheshorse revels in buying leather jackets, cowboy shirts and Levi’s from the US and Canada with his strong Aussie dollar at a fraction of Australian retail prices. And he’s 52 – hardly the usual demographic.

The increasing dominance of online shopping has led traditional retailers to adopt new tactics to keep up. In Australia, they have started charging try-on and fitting room fees. Another SMH article, High street hits back, goes into the phenomenon. It costs you $50 to try on that pair of Nikes or that pair of designer jeans that you know you can get for half the price online.

I suspect the difficulties in the fashion wholesale and retail sectors in Australia and the US are rooted in the same causes. Apart from the economic problems, I think the way that business is done in the fashion world is changing. The industry has done business the same way for a very long time. It was slow to pick up the technological advances of the digital revolution, and slow to appreciate and react to the effect of the new technologies on how fashion can be sold other than to a customer in a store or to a buyer from an agent.

My question, Where to from here?, still needs an answer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


It’s now been a month since my very hectic and productive week at the Rosemount Australian Fashion Week (RAFW) in Sydney. With so much press coverage of the show, I thought I’d let some time pass before reviewing the week to miss the initial media flurry, and allow the experience to percolate.

With designers and agents in town for LA Fashion Market Week this week, it’s a perfect time to talk about fashion shows. This LA Market Week is showing the Fall 2/Holiday collections. The US designers will be debuting their Spring 2012 collections at MAGIC in August. RAFW showcased the Australia Spring/Summer 2011/12 collections. It will be interesting to see how the US designers interpret the Spring/Summer trends compared to Australia counterparts.

This was my first RAFW so I obviously have nothing to compare the week to. Though some of the reviews have been critical, such as the scathing article “The weak that was” by Damien Woolnough, the Fashion Editor of the Australian newspaper on May 10 and his reluctant review of the week “The Top Five”, I found the show a real eye opener.

I hadn’t work in fashion before I left Australia over 16 years ago. All my knowledge and experience has been in the United States. So the size of the show was immediately noticeable – it was tiny compared to The Coterie show in New York or the massive MAGIC shows in Las Vegas. I know what you’re thinking; but it took a little time to sink in that there weren’t buildings and buildings of other collections to view. I enjoyed the intimacy of the event.

The setting of the show would have to rank as one of the most spectacular in the world – the Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) – at Sydney’s fabulous Circular Quay. If you have never been to Circular Quay, it is one of the most spectacular big city vistas in the world. With the Sydney CBD buildings at your back, the Sydney Harbor Bridge on your left, the Sydney Opera House on your right, and the unparalleled Sydney Harbor lapping at the quay, you are in the heart of the historic Sydney Cove which many people the world over think is the best city in the world. The OPT is a short walk up the quay towards the Bridge.

You can see the lights of the OPT on the left in this photo from Circular Quay:

The OPT hosted the main runway on the 2nd floor (the adjacent Cargo Theatre also held runway shows), the media center, designer’s booths branded as The Gallery, and the Rosemount VIP Wine Bar on the 2rd floor of the OPT directly across the cove from the Opera House which was the hub of networking, people-watching, and imbibing of Rosemount’s finest.

About a 15 minute walk up Pitt St. into the heart of the CBD is the Westin Sydney Hotel which hosted the Presentation Suites – 25 designers in their own rooms doing appointments with buyers, sales agents, PR firms, and me. There were also “off-site” runway shows that opened each day’s festivities dotted around Sydney. My off-site highlight was the Toni Maticevski show at the cool Carriageworks space in Eveleigh.

In total there were 57 runway shows over 5 days that showcased 85 designers.

Although not everyone agrees on the best of the best, here are the consensus picks:






I liked some of the young inspired designers:

None the Richer

All of the Nicholas Huxley-mentored TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio collections were fantastic. But particularly the amazingly creative Charlotte O’ – pictured here celebrating her show at RAFW.

The incredibly talented and charming Teena Zerefos’ collection, Del Playa

Despite some of the naysayers taking pot shots from the gallery, it is obvious that the talent, inspiration and vibrancy of Australian fashion are alive and well. If designers are playing it safe right now, it is more about being commercially sensitive during economic uncertainty rather than a lack of imagination or skill.

RAFW was an amazing experience. I saw some incredible design work, met some fascinating people, and spent time in a great city. I am already looking forward to next year.
For those of you who want more on this year’s RAFW, try the RAFW website and some of the fashion editors that I met during the week:
Paul Brindley