Tuesday, January 24, 2012


It looked relatively quiet to me in LA's downtown Fashion District last week with buyers in town for the first Market Week of the year. What is Market Week?

With Fall 2012 breaking at the February round of Las Vegas fashion trade shows, retailers coming of a dubious holiday season, and a very soft January around town (see my last blog), I wasn't expecting much in the way of buyer action. I didn't think there was but the showrooms I spoke with seemed reasonably happy with the foot traffic.

As is usual for this market, the d&a show on the 3rd floor of the New Mart was small - only 27 collections. Most seemed to be writing immediate goods.

A familiar face was Ben De Luca of the hat manufacturer, Christy's London. Ben tells me that wide brim floppy hats for women will continue to be the trend into Spring and Summer. Men are going for a wider brim in fedoras after the short brim Mad Men-style craze. An interesting note from Ben was that Christy's are doing more domestic production, out of Rhode Island. This is a trend that I think we will start seeing more of - I'll be blogging on this soon.

The popular Fluxus looked to be doing good business with it's best of Spring immediates.

Local LA designer Lotta Stensson, who I mentioned in my last blog on the LA fashion retail scene, was there, and was happy with the way the week had gone.

The showrooms in the New Mart and Cooper buildings were the busiest as usual. The men's and women's contemporary showrooms on the 4th and 5th floors of the Cal Mart building seemed to be doing OK. The Lady Liberty, Academy Awards and 824 buildings on Los Angeles were quiet.

As is my want during market, I spent considerable time cruising the showrooms of the apparel buildings. It's always fascinating to take in the general vibe, hear what buyers and reps are saying to each other (and see how many air kisses they can get off), pick up scuttlebutt in the elevators (like a buying consultant telling a group that the Cooper Building has taken over from the New Mart as the happening place to be), see what everyone is wearing (usually more interesting than what's on the racks), and drop by the showrooms that I know.

For instance, I called in to speak with Franco Nakagawa of Magnet Showroom in the Academy Awards Building on Los Angeles Street. Franco is interested in a couple of Australian collections that I have referred so I wanted to see how things were progressing. Franco specializes in edgy, fashion forward clothes and accessories that he sells to his worldwide customer base. He carries two collections that really caught my eye.

Gasoline Glamour is an feast for the senses. Jewelry, accessories, shoes and clothing of amazing color, studded, spiked and covered in Swarovski rhinestones and crystals. You want edgy, well you got it. You have to know who you are (or at least think you do) to wear this stuff with confidence. Gasoline Glamour is not for the faint hearted.

The new Italian collection, Ventidue ("22" in Italian, just in case) is another standout. This handmade collection of bags and accessories is manufactured in California with using Italian skins and hardware. The colors, textures and styles have a one-of-a-kind appeal. Check out the large leather Raffaella flap shoulder bags, and the small colorful, crystal and metal spiked Giulietta.

If the showrooms were telling the truth, the week was better than I thought it was - that's good news given the continuing retail conditions.

It is going to be very interesting to see what happens in Vegas next month. There was some optimism in August that things were finally turning around for the last quarter of 2011. That didn't happen. Once again, it's fingers crossed all around.

Paul Brindley

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Following on my recent blog about U.S. retail sales during the past holiday season and with the first Los Angeles Market Week for 2012 starting tomorrow, I thought I would take a wander around some fashion retail districts in LA and take their pulse.

3rd Street
I met all-around Fab Person, Tracy Engelien of Tracy Engelien Sales at Joan’s on Third last Monday morning for an excellent coffee, and to plan out the day. Tracy’s own collection of basics, Boxie, is gaining momentum. We’ll have much more about and from Tracy in a coming blog.
We started right there on 3rd. We checked out longtime residents like Polkadots & Moonbeams, Noodle Stories, Douglas Fir and it’s shoe store, DF Feet – nothing much has changed there.
I liked the raw denim and workwear styles in the relatively new store, Civiliannaire. Civiliannaire, with two stores in LA and one in Montecito, is the new project from the guys that brought us Lucky Brand. The store manager, Akul told us that they are looking to expand their retail operations then focus on wholesaling – they already sell to American Rag, East Street Denim, and Atrium in NYC. Akul was very happy with their December but said that January had been slow.
Another store on 3rd worth browsing is the celeb-fav Lotta Boutique. Lotta designs her own prints and jewelry, and is known for her batik and tie-dye tunics and kaftans.
The clean, bright Turkish flavor of distant makes you feel like you are somewhere near a beach in the Eastern Mediterranean. 100% organic fabric textiles, handmade ceramics and jewelry, and one-of-a-kind pieces are their specialty.
Maybe it was this particular Monday but the vibe on 3rd was slow.

Robertson Blvd
Next we headed to where many people who shop LA do, on Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills. They could be renaming it “Kitson Blvd” now that there are fourKitson stores in 2 blocks – the original Kitson, Kitson Kids, Kitson Men and Kitson Studio. Fraser has presided over the creation of an empire since opening the first store in 2000.
One of the pioneers of this upscale retail street, Lisa Kline has closed completely after downsizing steadily from her women’s and kid’s stores to just men’s. The men’s store shuttered on December 16. Lisa is moving on to a new online project, Vaniti.com that launches in February. Lisa Kline was fixture on the street and such a “get” for designers for so long, it is ominous to see her gone. The John Varvardos store is also out.
The Australian collection Zimmermann brightens up the street with it’s beautiful swimwear and  flowing styles.
The Boho chic of LF Stores is huge with young fashionistas.
Intermix and 7 Jeans were glowing with neon styles.
The London collection, All Saints is cashing in on the comeback of the tough, workwear look for men. Their women’s is edgy and very structured using substantial materials. Their accessories stylishly mix heavy glass, crystal and metals.
The Lauren Moshi pop-up shop is a real treat. On display are the original art pieces that translate directly into their clothing collection. Each garment is itself an original artwork. It is a truly unique collection. The pop-up store should be there for another month or so. Get in and take a look while you can.
Lauren Moshi pop-up store on Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills
All in all, Robertson was busy for a Monday. The Ivy was full. And there were customers in every store we visited. Those with the cash are obviously still shopping.

The Grove
We took a quick spin around the Grove. It was packed due to a TV taping near the fountain that included Mario Lopez and other minor celebs.
Nothing much seemed changed except M Fredric has moved on - Johnny Was is now in the space. Johnny Was, which has been around forever, continues to go strong and reinvent itself with a more contemporary look to go with the missy styles it is known for.
The Nordstrom here is a good one (despite there being a thick coat of dust on some of the menswear).
Regardless of the scrum watching the celebs do their thing, there seemed to be plenty of foot traffic and customers in stores.

Beverly Grove
Just up Beverly Blvd is Diane Merrick. Diane has been in business in LA for 40 years. I used to sell Wildlife Works to Diane when she was on Melrose in Beverly Hills.  Diane is a font of knowledge, and always a pleasure to catch up with.
She told us that she had a great Xmas season but that January had been slow. In the past, January had been a really good month for blowing out discount stock – not anymore. I asked Diane what she saw happening during 2012. She said she didn’t know but was sure that there will be less boutiques like hers. Coming from such an experienced, independent operator like Diane, it reinforces the concerns a lot of us have.
Our last stop was the unique row of 6 shops, Lost & Found. Each door has a different theme. In order, running west up Yucca Street, are children’s, men’s, home, women’s, gallery and gift. The stores have a hip, understated feel. Out on its own above Hollywood Boulevard, Lost & Found was well worth the trip. Apparently, their celebrity and working actor clients agree.
We popped back down to Loaded on Hollywood for a drink and to recap the day.
Unfortunately, we both came to the conclusion that what we had seen and heard only confirmed our doubts for fashion retail in 2012.
It is going to be very interesting at this LA Market Week to see and feel the mood of the showrooms and buyers. I hope to be reporting on some optimism but I’m certainly not optimistic.
Paul Brindley

Saturday, January 7, 2012


The first apparel trade show of the year in Los Angeles is also the closest to home. The Agenda Trade Show is literally two minutes down Ocean Blvd in the lovely seaside burgh we call home, Long Beach, California (a.k.a. the LBC).

The cavernous Long Beach Convention Center is home to the west coast version of Agenda (also held in NYC and Tokyo later this month). Agenda is a lively showcase of streetwear, lifestyle, and action sports collections. It's got the lot - from clothing, footwear, bags, headwear, headphones, sunglasses, watches, swimwear, skateboards and accessories, surfboards and accessories down to cell phone skins, and everything else I have forgotten to mention. You can find a full exhibitor list here.

The check-in area set the tone. The backdrop was old scaffolding draped with a huge tarp splattered with paint and the Agenda logo. I was definitely over dressed in a button down shirt, jeans and boots - I should have gone with the logo tee, jeans and Converse sneakers that I originally planned (if I wore caps or hats more often, that too). The place was humming.

There was a real buzz when I got on to the main floor - people moving everywhere, lots of cell phone photos and video being shot, and electronica being spun by an above average DJ (rare for trade shows). I started my cruise through the booths by bumping into the line of buyers waiting at the Mighty Healthy - a good sign.

The activity, the relaxed atmosphere, the constant chatter, and the good music going filled the huge room with plenty of energy. It was a nice change from the stuffy pretense and anxiety that can pervade the contemporary fashion trade show circuit these days.

It was great to see the very cool Australian collection, Deus Ex Machina. Deus is creating a lot of buzz around town and is about to open it's own store on Abbott Kinney in Venice Beach. The US General Manager, Julian Heppenkausen (another Fremantle boy) told me that the store is nearly ready to go, and they are excited by the response the brand has received. I like the quality and styling of the classic motorcycle theme.

There were a number of collections with some eye-catching young contemporary pieces, including ElwoodHoweLira Clothing, and GPPR.

There were plenty of major brands in attendance including: Puma, Adidas, Lacoste, G-Shock, Hurley, Levi’s, Quiksilver, Stussy.

As usual, Pura Vida was there. 1% of the sales of the ever-growing range of the handmade bracelets and necklaces support the Surfrider Foundation. I see Pura Vida wherever I go.

I stopped by the Aerial7 booth to chat with their PR consultant, Janae Twisselman of JLT Productions, and take a look at her clients’ stuff. Aerial7 began by creating headphones for pro DJs. They are now making very cool audio products for us all with the goal of redefining the headphone as a fashion accessory. The collection is as eye-catching as it is high quality.

We all know those thick rubber bracelets that proclaim, “i ♥ boobies”. In response to that fact that only 5-10% of all incidences of breast cancer are hereditary meaning that most are caused by lifestyle and environmental factors, the Keep A Breast Foundation was showing it’s new body-friendly clothing line. This hip lifestyle collection of tops, tees, hoodies, skirts and pants is designed to wear throughout the day. It’s made from organically grown and recycled materials, and produced using low impact processes. Each hangtag includes a health tip, and 100% of net wholesale proceeds go to the cause. What more do you want!

In all, there were over 450 brands in about 400 booths. The food trucks parked at the back and the bars spread throughout the room were doing beaucoup business. A good time was being had by all.

This was my first time at Agenda. I was impressed by the organization, presentation, branding, energy, buyer activity, and the range of brands.

If you have a streetwear or action sports collection, I would recommend you take a good look at doing this trade show.

Paul Brindley