Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Los Angeles Fashion Market Week Spring 2013, October 15-18, 2012 – A Few Surprises

Hopefully you read my blog on the first day of Los Angeles Fashion Market Week for Spring 2013 last Monday.  If so, you'll know that my skepticism on what is supposed to be an improving fashion retail sector was relieved slightly by the strong foot traffic, brisk business and order writing that greeted me, especially at the Designers and Agents show.  I hoped that the activity and optimism would hold for the rest of the week.  It did.

The feedback from the many showrooms I visited last Tuesday and Wednesday was that most were very happy with the week's business.  I think the contemporary floors of the California Market Center were a little quiet but certainly there was plenty of activity in the New Mart and the Cooper building.

I dropped by the Sunrise Brands Showroom on the corner of Los Angeles and 9th that houses Dylan George and Superdry (you can't miss it - it's has the massive Superdry logos on the windows).  The SYDNY Showroom was using the space for market.  The Australian brand specialists were having a good show.

I was interested to follow up on the relatively new accessories, lifestyle and gift show Coeur, on the 11th floor of the Cooper Building.  This was only the third 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.

In March, 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.”

The 11th floor of the Cooper is a large, bright, naturally lit white space – perfect for a trade show.  The show was smaller this time around.  I didn't get a chance to speak with any of the organizers to confirm if this was as expected or if there had been a drop off from this time last year.

I want make special mention of some socially conscious and sustainable collections that showed at Coeur that are benefiting important social programs around the world:
  • 31 Bits is a jewelry collection using fashion and design to empower Ugandan women to rise above poverty.  They buy jewelry handmade by the women using 100% recycled paper and other local materials.  They are committed to working with each woman until she has graduated from their program and attained a sustainable means of income within her own community.  They also work with the community on English lessons, support groups, finance and vocational training and HIV/AIDS and health education.  This is an awesome cause.  The product is excellent.  I urge you to check out the website - www.31bits.com.  For wholesale orders, contact Meredith Hazan at Maritime Showroom in LA or Jackie Gilles at the social and ecological brand-focused Forge Showroom in Austin, TX.

  • Forge was also showing FEED.  FEED designs and sells bags, tees and accessories to fund programs to provide school meals to children around the world. Some of the products are made and/or embellished by people in the local areas such as Guatemala and Kenya.  Since 2006, FEED has been able to raise enough money through the sale of products to provide over 60 million school meals to children around the world through hte World Food Program.  FEED has also partnered with the US Fund for UNICEF, raising much-needed funds for their Vitamin A and micronutrient supplements program and providing over 46,000 children with essential nutrients.

  • Forge also represents the socially responsible brand, Raven + Lily.  Raven + Lily is handmade eco-friendly jewelry and accessories by marginalized and HIV-positive women from North India and Ethiopia. The pieces are made from local up-cycled and recycled local materials such as handmade beads and charms from melted bullet casings and vintage silver coins, recycled cotton papers, woods and hand-milled natural soaps.
It is particularly gratifying for me to see the continued rise of socially responsible and sustainable brands in the market.  I started in the US apparel market in 2000 working for the grounding breaking environmental and wildlife conservation company, Wildlife Works.  We were well ahead of our time using organic fabrics and low impact processes.  As National Sales Manager, I was privileged to go to work every day knowing that every sale we made benefited people, animals and the environment in Kenya that needed help so desperately.

Consumer awareness is catching up to the dreams and aspirations of eco-entrepreneurs like Mike Korchinsky, the CEO & Founder of Wildlife Works and those true believers who created companies like 31 Bits, FEED and Raven + Lily.  Please support these companies whenever possible.  As Jackie Gilles of Forge Showroom just said to me, the product still has to be good.  I think you'll find that the style and quality of most of the socially conscious and sustainable products out there are at least as good as their less enlightened competitors.

The National Retail Federation has recently predicted a 4% increase in holiday sales for this year over last year, and reported a surge in consumer spending during September.  I want to believe that we are actually slowly pulling out of this never ending economic gloom.  I'm not sure how much the election result in 2 weeks has already been factored into the market.  I am going to have to stay with what I have felt for a while now; that despite bright spots like last week's market activity, I'll believe it when I see it and feel it.

Paul Brindley


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Los Angeles Fashion Market Week Spring ’13, Designers and Agents Trade Show

It was fingers crossed as I headed to the downtown Los Angeles Fashion District for Day 1 of the all important Spring ’13 Market Week.  I haven’t been as convinced as others that the fashion retail sector is seeing better days.  The last thing the local industry needs right now is a soft Market Week.

What is Market Week? It is when the seasonal business of fashion happens in the wholesale showrooms and trade shows of the main wholesale centers: the California Market Center, the New Mart, the Cooper Design Space, and other venues in the Fashion District.

Five times a year, US and international wholesale buyers roam the showrooms and booth shows determined to stay within their budget as they buy what’s hot, pass on what’s not, and perhaps gamble on some possibilities.  Most buyers who want to stay in business know what works for their customer, and what to gamble on to freshen up their floors.

So it was fantastic to see the week get off to a flying start today with strong buyer traffic and a genuine buzz in the air.  A couple of industry veterans I spoke with said they hadn’t felt such a positive vibe in a long time.  I’ll be at market every day visiting all the showroom buildings and booth shows, and reporting back that that the optimism flowed through the week – hopefully.

Four times a year, 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 and 130 brands with the usual eclectic mix of fashion forward men’s and women’s basics, separates and denim, shoes, hats, bags, jewelry and accessories.  Today, there was excellent energy and buyer traffic.  Buyers weren’t just looking.  There was plenty of paper being written.

I was very impressed by the clean, stylish new denim collection, Lorem.  Lorem is the inspiration of LA designer, Lukus Eichmann.  Black and white Japanese denim and US indigo denim is set off by Italian hardware, tape piping, and style innovations such as “shadow pockets” two-tone pockets inside pockets and 9″ zippers that allow you to adjust the leg from bootcut to straight leg. The denim jacket with leather half sleeve can also be seen in the photo on the right.

Other collections that caught my eye were:
The gypsy, hippie, bo-ho look is still going strong.  I liked what Star Mela is doing with their looks.

Beading is everywhere, particularly the use of micro beading on bracelets, earrings and belts.  Some of it is running at high price point, well above what the article appears to be worth.  I was assured that the price point is supported by the work involved.

All in all, it was a very positive start to the week.  Could we really actually be seeing some real actual improvement in the retail sector?  I think I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for now.

More tomorrow …

Paul Brindley
paul brindley consults