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.
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 consults
LA FASHION MARKET WEEK – DAY 1 – WHERE WAS EVERYONE?