Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Madness that is the MAGIC Fashion Trade Shows – Day 1

Up yesterday at 4.30am (after a refreshing three hour sleep), on the road by 5.30am to beat the brutal 30 mile radius of LA morning rush, four hours of mostly open highway while listening to my house music, and before you know it, I’m in the valley that contains the city of Las Vegas ready for eight hours of walking and talking at the madness that is the MAGIC fashion trade shows.

MAGIC is probably the most well-known trade show in the U.S. apparel industry. The show hosts global buyers and sellers of men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, footwear, accessories and sourcing resources. “MAGIC’, as it is ubiquitously known, is actually a series of distinctly focused trade shows under the umbrella brand. There is:
-       WWD Magic
-       MAGIC Menswear
-       Project
-       Pool
-       Slate
-       Street
-       FN Platform
-       Premium
-       Sourcing at MAGIC
You can research away at

The show provides me with an invaluable opportunity to see a lot that is happening in fashion at one place, at one time, and to speak with people across the industry. How being here translates into sales for participating designers and manufacturers is open to question. It is very difficult to get a believable, quantifiable straight answer to the question – So how is the show going? Whatever the reality is, the answer is usually in the positive. As to gauging the buyer foot traffic, it is also difficult to know who is who amongst the throng.

My experience at MAGIC has been mixed. I was first there in 2000 when Wildlife Works was launching its tee line. We had little success but then again we were in the wrong section.  Having attended the show for more than 10 years, I have collected lots of feedback from participants. Some designers I know will not come because they can’t get the order bang for their tradeshow buck. Others swear by the show, and are there every time.

As a buyer this time for Z Fabrique (, I am also looking at jewelry and accessories. There is plenty on offer at a range of price points. I have already found three or four vendors that look promising. Will do some buying today.

Yesterday, I focused on the Las Vegas Convention Center portion of the trek – WWD MAGIC, PN Platform and Sourcing. One of the showcases at WWD MAGIC is ISAM Swimwear Show where I spotted two fabulous Australian collections – Lisa Blue ( and 2Chillies ( Both lines display the highly regarded Australian design flair, and use of color and fabrics. I will be following up with the collections after the show to get their feedback, which I will include in my coming show review blog.

In about two hours, I pick up my friend, pbc consultant and owner of Tracy Engelien Sales, the one and only Tracy Engelien, at the airport for Day 2 of the Madness that is MAGIC. Today, we will focus on The Mandalay Bay Hotel convention center showcases. The hip and happening Project and Workroom shows along with the emerging designers at the PoolTradeShow will take most of our time.

Keep an eye out for my coming review blog of MAGIC. We’ll breakdown what the trends were, what was selling, and get some feedback from participating designers and showrooms.

I’m glad these boots were made for walkin’ ….

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who’s Afraid of Social Media?

Judging by last week’s news that there are now 2 billion people worldwide with Internet access and that Facebook has 500 million members, the question, “Who’s afraid of Social Media?”, seems to answer itself.
Of course, there are those who still do not have Internet access, let alone enough food or a roof over their heads, so they don’t know about the social media revolution. There are others who have missed the quantum developments in personal and business digital communication for any number of reasons – age, desire, fear, tradition, etc. There are the neo-Luddites who are opposed for their own spiritual, philosophical or just plain oppositional reasons, just as their predecessors tried to hold back the tide of the industrial revolution.
You may even ask yourself, “If I am happy with my life as it is and I get all the information I need from my trusted sources, why should I spend my valuable time on nefarious activities like, Facebook, Twitter, etc?”
Future generations won’t have the option to ask that question. Even if you get all your information from a newspaper, buy your airline tickets from a travel agent, or find your bargains in the Penny Saver mailer? These will not survive in the long run. You will have to be digital or distant. Then again, the holdouts will probably die out, those left behind will have to catch up and become a part of in the digital universe.
Catching up isn’t too hard - keeping up is the issue. Just try and stay up with the almost daily changes to Facebook, the constellation of new apps, sifting through the ones that were hip yesterday but passé today, or know the latest and best tools with which to advertise or make purchases. It’s a daily dose of overload that can make one feel inept. But if I feel inept at times, perhaps I am not alone? Maybe...
Maybe the digital revolution is the closest we get to democracy. Sure, we don’t control the servers, or have full access to all information. But we do have the opportunity to manipulate, improve and use the system to connect with each other without being filtered. Just ask the protestors in Tunisia and Egypt. Whatever their motivations, whatever the outcomes of the uprisings, these movements came together because of the power of social media.
I heard recently that there are 70 Billion minutes per month spent on Facebook. 70 Billion! That is more than all of the Google, Yahoo and Microsoft-related websites combined.
So it doesn’t matter how much you know or don’t know about this thing called Social Media. Just know that it exists and it’s not going away. More and more, it will be how you find out about most things in the world. If you have a business and you aren’t on Facebook, well, you’re crazy. It really is nothing to be afraid of - and there’s always someone here to help.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

U.S. Fashion - Looking back at 2010 and forward to 2011

Following up from “Where to from here?”, I want to look at what brought us here, where we are now and what to expect in 2011 – all from the perspective of an expert in the U.S. women’s contemporary fashion market. So I turned to my close friend and pbc colleague, Tracy Engelien.
Tracy is the owner of Tracy Engelien Sales in Los Angeles. Tracy has previously shined as a senior sales executive for both large and small apparel manufacturers in the U.S. including BCBGMaxAzria.  She spent years working with buyers in some of the most prestigious boutiques, specialty and high-end department stores in the U.S.  A true industry insider, Tracy knows the west coast and national players, understands regional market trends, economies, and fashion preferences. Knowing this – I decided to ask her a few questions:
Q:  Use one word to describe 2010 in the women’s contemporary fashion world?
A:  Mercurial
Q:  What was expected in 2010?
A:  We expected there to be more of an economic turn around than we experienced.  There was perhaps a naive perception that sales would grow and opportunities would become more prevalent.  Obviously, that did not happen.
Q:  What changed in the industry in 2010?
A:  The biggest change was a narrowing in the contemporary market.  Price points became extremely low as the consumer’s knowledge of competitive retail pricing advanced.  The customer has become really savvy.  With websites like Gilt Groupe and HauteLook, there is always a better deal to be had and brick and mortar retailers like H&M, Forever 21, and even Target, have completely altered the landscape of fashion. Although this happened over time, it became a fixed element in the fashion market in 2010.
Q:  What were the biggest trends of 2010?
A:  The biggest trend was the continued domination of jersey knits in the marketplace.  Trend inspiration was found in military motifs, safari inspiration, and lots and lots of fur for Holiday.
Q:  What do you think will continue?
A:  There has been a slight movement back into woven fabrics for Spring 2011 but it is small.  Knits will continue to be very important. Military will certainly linger a bit. The fur trimmings may still linger a bit for Fall 2011 but will naturally go away for Spring/Summer.
Q:  What is your trend outlook for 2011?
A:  There is going to be a big push with more fringing and corseting on all garments… tops, leggings, trousers, dresses, you name it and it will lace up.  Color will still be a bit tonal with some orange managing to peak through as a pop.  Minimalism will be strong in terms of styling and color choices … with that will come some color blocking reminiscent of Mondrian and the post-modern movement.
Q:  What is the industry outlook for 2011?
A:  Well, that is a difficult question to answer.  Until the U.S. is able to stabilize its economy for the middle class and unemployment begins to decline, the contemporary market will continue to experience major challenges with the customer base continuing to narrow.
So, 2011 looks like it will be another challenging year in women’s contemporary fashion. The tonal color trend is understandable given the challenging economic times. To me, color/pop means confidence and optimism and the U.S. just isn’t there yet. At the same time, we will be seeing a little more construction with the fringing and corseting. Could the small resurgence in wovens be a sign that a general “dress-up” in fashion is coming? Let’s hope so!
Tracy Engelien is the Consulting Sales Specialist at pbc and the owner of Tracy Engelien Sales, an independent sales rep company in Los Angeles, and currently represents: Emma&Emilie –, Pure Karma – ,  Kalyx –