Wednesday, March 21, 2012


To paraphrase Will Ferrell’s character, Mugatu in the fashion industry parody, Zoolander, “LA is really not hot right now”. That seemed to be the sentiment for many at this week’s Los Angeles Fashion Market Week.

In my blog from Day 1 of Market Week, I asked the question, “Where was everyone?”. The optimism generated at the Las Vegas trade shows and then in New York had us hoping for a bumper LA Market Week. It didn’t quite turn out that way. Foot traffic was choppy, feedback from showrooms was mixed, but buyers remain upbeat and optimistic. Don’t get me wrong. I am sure that a sustained recovery in the badly hit fashion industry is underway. I just wonder if LA will be up there leading the way.

The fashion industry is inherently cyclical – and not just in trends. The hotspots for fashion move with the trends. Los Angeles has had an extended period in the sun mainly due to the “dress down to dress up” trend that has become the signature LA chic. With more prevalent structure and tailoring now in the market, New York and Paris are eclipsing LA. Let me be clear, LA has never come close to those two cities in the fashion stakes but it has held it’s own over the past 10 years.

I think LA also suffers from buyer trade show fatigue. LA Market Week comes almost two months after Fall and Spring break each February and August in Las Vegas, and a month after the trade show roadshows move through New York. By the time, buyers roll up here they have seen most of what’s on offer twice at least. I had the owner of one very successful LA showroom half-jokingly tell me, “if this is what LA market is like, maybe we should stop having them. This should be a busy market for LA.” He agreed that there are too many trade shows back-to-back. As such, LA is becoming a big regional fashion week rather than a trendsetter.

All that said, there is definitely a need for LA Market, and if you are a designer or manufacturer, you definitely need sales representation on the west coast. There was plenty of business written during the week. I just think a lot more people expected to share in the love.

Designers & Agents
The d&a show on the 3rd floor of the New Mart had good energy and plenty of foot traffic. There were well over 100 booths with 150-175 brands on show. The show was freshened up by a sprinkling of new exhibitors.

Some Fall12 collections that caught my eye were:
  • Christy’s London – National Sales Manager, Ben De Luca told me that wide brim floppy hats for women will continue to trend into Fall – the 60′s and 70′s looks aren’t going away soon. Men are going for a wider brim in fedoras after the short brim Mad Men-style craze. They were the styles that buyers were trying on as we were talking.
  • IRO – this hip Parisian collection is rocking red and silver sequin bomber jackets with black leather epaulettes, shearling bomber jackets, and very cool shredded and distressed wool tees.
  • Nigel Preston & Knight – an English collection that has been around forever is known internationally for it’s leather, suede and sheepskin collections. It makes you want to move to a cold climate just to wear their the raw leather and fur coats.
  • Pip-Squeak Chapeau – this Indochine flavored collection of sheers, burlaps, and raw finishes is the epitome of intentional “high-casual” fashion. Chic, sophisticated tops, sweaters, jackets, pants, dresses, and skirts handmade in Brooklyn from 100% natural yarns and fabrics all have wonderful texture and purpose. I overheard one buyer describe the line as “well thought out” which is an intelligent departure from some of the adjectives used by buyers to describe collections.
  • En Shallah – from Morocco, En Shallah is a unique accessories collection focusing on striking shoes and bags. En Shallah employs local women artisans to produce their one-of-a- kind pieces using recycled and reclaimed fabrics and materials, and natural vegetable dying and tanning processes. Their leather boots with vintage tapestry paneling and their distressed frilled bags using the same materials really stood out.
  • Ticci Tonetto – this sexy and sophisticated collection was in the same booth as En Shallah (Nyali Showroom in the Cooper Building). The collection is named for the designer. Ticci has had great success for many years with her signature looks that have evolved over time. For Fall, Ticci is showing beautiful dresses in black and inky blue with corseting and boning as well as sexy camisoles and tops in lace and leopard print.
The d&a house DJ, Emma Ford was in great form over the 3 days. Emma spins for d&a in Paris, New York and LA, as well as at clubs around the world.

All in all, I think d&a was a success this time. Foot traffic in general in the New Mart building seemed a bit off this market but d&a still pulled plenty of interest. The now traditional Mexican fiesta at the end of the last day is always fun – margaritas, Mexican beer and food sent everyone off on a high with Emma’s beats jamming in their heads.

The Cooper Design Space
AKA “The Cooper Building”, The Cooper Design Space has taken over as the premier contemporary showroom building in the LA Fashion District. The New Mart had held this distinction for many years. However, the Cooper has become the home for the hottest, most fashion forward designers for men’s and women’s. With multi-line independent showrooms like Brand Equity, Namaste, Proper Fools, Community Service and Bond, and brands like Ted Baker, AG, Australia’s Ladakh, Wildfox, Trina Turk and the amazing Robert Rodriguez space, the Cooper has an aesthetic that the New Mart just can’t match.

I walked all the floors with good friend, Tracy Engelien of Boxie. There was a marked increase in foot traffic and energy over the New Mart. I will write more about the Cooper in a coming blog.

But I do want to mention a collection in one of the guest showrooms on the 3rd floor. Fiftytwo Showroom from New York was showing the truly inspired Jonathan Simkhai. I first saw the collection at Workroom in Vegas last August. It is one of my favorite of all the collections I have seen in the past year. Sexy and feminine with a classic styling, he mixes in accents of bright color against a dark palette with mesh cutouts and a wonderful sense of geometry.

The Lady Liberty Building
Elizabeth Hehir of SYDNY Showroom in the Lady Liberty Building was very happy with the week. SYDNY is an Australian designer specialist. They carry two collections that showed at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week last year – bless'ed are the meek and Flannel. blessed will be there again in May along with Aje – although now it is the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. I’ll be blogging from there starting April 30.

Elizabeth is having great success with Lilya. After doing very well at Workroom in Vegas, Elizabeth tells me, “its doing amazing business, and is really one to watch.”

“bless'ed is creating a lot of buzz. Sell through is strong. Stores are reordering within a week. Miley Cyrus bought 3 pieces of bless'ed at Westerly in Corona Del Mar.”

Samantha Wills is doing phenomenal business in the first season with us. The presentation and packaging are special. There is so much bang for your buck.” I have met Samantha a couple of times through my involvement with the Australian community in Southern California. Samantha is an inspired designer and savvy businessperson, and very friendly and approachable. It is great to see the success her collection is having.

Well, that’s it for LA Market Week for March 2012. We didn’t get the business that everyone hoped for but the feedback was positive in general. The economy is definitely improving, albeit slowly. The fashion industry is cautiously improving along with it. A slow, steady, real economic recovery is what we need – no more of these bubble and burst nightmares. We’ll know a lot more by the next LA Market Week in June when retailers have had a full season to see how their Spring and Summer deliveries have sold.

As the Balinese saying goes, ‘slowly, slowly, catch the monkey”.

Paul Brindley
paul brindley consults

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012


It's Fall12 Market Week in the downtown Los Angeles Fashion District. I got downtown around lunch yesterday for Day 1. The carparks were full. After the success of the Las Vegas trade shows and the good feedback from the recent New York shows, it looked like we were in for a big day.

I headed for the New Mart building to drop by bag in Michelle Roy Designs Showroom on the 8th floor. Michelle very kindly allows me to work out of her showroom during market. My good friend Tracy Engelien shows her brilliant new basics collection, Boxie, there. We all have a good laugh between buyer meetings and my recon missions around the fashion district. The elevators at the New Mart are usually a good indication of how busy market is. There are only two lifts servicing the 12 floors of showrooms. They are either so full you have to wait for the next one or you wait forever as they stop at every floor - sometimes they inexplicably skip the floor you are waiting on.

So I was expecting a long wait. But, nup - I got the first elevator that came and it wasn't even half full. I asked myself, "Where is everyone?" It's a question I heard all day.

My first mission of the day was to check out the relatively new accessories, lifestyle and gift show Coeur, on the 11th floor of the Cooper Building. This was only the second show for Coeur - their first was the Spring/Summer showcase at last October's Market Week. They do two LA shows a year - Spring/Summer in October and Fall/Winter in March.

The 11th floor of the Cooper is a large, bright, naturally lit white space - perfect for a trade show. 70 brands are showing - mainly women's with some unisex. The majority are US brands (mostly made in the US) with some French and German designers mixed in.

The Co-Founder and Creative Director of Coeur, Henri Myers told me, "We are creating something different for the fashion retailer. We are looking to provide a diversity of options."

As you would imagine at an accessories show, it is heavy on shoes, bags and jewelry. There are also some scents (Six Scents), leggings, scarves, and one knitwear and sweater line - Carolina K.

The trending native American motif is strong among the jewelry designers with lots of beading and turquoise. As is the use of brass.

Tote bags continue to be popular. Color blocking is all the rage. The raw unfinished leather look in bags is impressive.

Shoes are definitely the thing at present. Boots everywhere - ankle and calf lengths reign. I really like the embellished heels trend - lots of color, studs, jewels. You can just go for it right now with your shoes.

Some of the collections that caught my eye were:
  • Gilda Grey with art deco undertones in Czech glass, Swarovski crystals, coral on sterling and liquid silver. I loved their novelty reflecting bowties in bright colors. They are doing the Native American thing in classic styling.

  • Many Will See's inspired one-of-a-kind creations are new every month. Handmade in LA for natural materials, they also produce a reorder collection. For readers in Australia, you will soon be able to buy Many Will See at The Happiness Place that opens in Brisbane this month.

  • Symmetry scarves are made in Los Angeles. The transforming pieces with a hardware and grommet attaching system use a mix of fabrics and prints make them a soft edgy feel. The scarf in the photo below is a good example. The tartan with the hardware reminds me of the punk skirts from back in the 70's mixed with a classic grey wool.

  • Graf & Lantz bags are also made in LA. Their color blocked felt and leather totes are their best sellers. I loved their range of felt and leather wine bottle carriers.

  • Jo Handbags are deconstructed classics made in New York and Mexico. Shoulder bags, totes, clutches with removable chains and straps blend boot leather, woven vinyl, burlap, waxed canvas, copper, silver and brass. The raw, unfinished feel gives the collection substance and quality.  They are available in 150 doors in the US and internationally. For those in Australia, you can find them at Burnt Orange in Mosman in Sydney.

The foot traffic at Coeur was quite good. I liked the sake tasting table. I think the show has a lot of potential.  I look forward to seeing how it grows from here.

On the way down in the elevator, I was surprised to bump into the owners of a busy, highly regarded showroom in the New Mart. They are usually so busy at market, I had to ask what they were up to. Like a lot of people, they were trying to find out where everyone was. I'll see if I can clear up that mystery today. But I suspect, we are experiencing buyer fatigue from the rolling trade show circuit that begins the year.

The cars were there but where were the people?

Paul Brindley

Sunday, March 11, 2012


We did this last year so let’s do it again. I want to look at what brought us here, where we are now and what to expect in 2012 for the women’s contemporary fashion market – all from the perspective of an expert in the field. So I turned to my close friend and pbc consultant, Tracy Engelien.

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.

Until very recently, Tracy was the Prinicipal of Tracy Engelien Sales representing lifestyle, fitness and yoga brands … until she made the big move!

Tracy is now the owner and designer of Boxie. Boxie tees are 100% organic brilliant basics for women. Boxie is a resort lifestyle collection born and bred right here in Los Angeles. Boxie reflects the aesthetic of the California Riviera in carefree styles of cotton basic tees. Fashion pieces accentuate the collection with the same essential lively, clean colors and yummy, soft fabrics. Boxie tops can be paired with any style or look. You can wear them with suits, jeans, skirts or to the gym. Sleep in them. Layer them. Wrinkle them. The Boxie motto is Wash, Rinse & Repeat.

She has done it all. Who better to ask what’s going down?

Q:   Use one word to describe 2011 in the women’s contemporary fashion world?
A:   Regenerative.

Q:   What was expected in 2011?
A:   I think the expectation was there would be a second bottom to fall out economically. To some extent, the garment industry did see more fall out. However, I really believe companies regrouped and reorganized and put their plans together to achieve real growth for the future. They looked at a hard road of slow climbing out of 2011 into 2012 and reaching for 2013 as the next profitable year.

Q:   What changed in the industry in 2011?
A:   Retail became the big focus for corporate profits in 2011. Some examples are True Religion, Lululemon, Madewell, and J Brand. The wholesale segment was still finding it’s new place in the market and brand retailing became a driving force.

Q:   What were the biggest trends of 2011?
A:   Oy, I forget already! – feathers, animal prints, accessories, and SHOES.

Q:   What do you think will continue?
A:   Shoes and animal prints have continued strong into 2012. The printed denim trend for Spring12 is really present, and the shoe is a big focus still with all the ankle length trousers and crop styles out there.

Q:   What is your trend outlook for 2012?
A:   Highlighter colors are going to be the big deal all year. Brights, brights, brights. I notice a strong shift away from the Boho flowing silhouettes into more tailored details and dressing up more – think trousers, jackets, and blouses as key elements to any woman’s wardrobe. We are much more ladylike this year.

Q:   What is the industry outlook for 2012?
A:   Overall the outlook is positive. Again, I think we are looking at a year of slow growth and the setting up for a real push in 2013 for more dynamic strategies and creativity. There have been some interesting moves by big companies (Target, Kohl’s) already this year where they are opening up boutique-like stores in very specific locations in the States and testing that specialty market. Private label business is excellent because of that now. Smaller brands have an opportunity to support their own labels by producing limited products for the larger players. I also think we will be introduced to some new things by the end of the year.

Thank you for the insights, Tracy.

With Fall12 breaking next week in Los Angeles at LA Fashion Market Week, we’ll see if the positivity that Tracy feels and the increased activity we experienced at the Las Vegas fashion trade shows continue picking up momentum. I have spoken to a number of LA showrooms that have had very good responses from buyers to their pre-market calling and promotions. It is going to be an interesting week. I’ll be there all week keeping you updated.

Paul Brindley
paul brindley consults

Las Vegas Fashion Trade Show February 2012 Blogs: