Thursday, March 21, 2013

Los Angeles Fashion Market Week Fall 2013 – Eyes Wide Shut

OK, I must have seriously been walking around with my eyes closed at Los Angeles Fashion Market Week last week in the downtown fashion district.  I just did not see the activity that industry newspapers and bloggers have been reporting.

Apparel News reported, “There was a certain buzz in the air at Los Angeles Fashion Market for Fall 2013, held March 11–14 at the various showroom buildings in downtown Los Angeles.” …… “For the hordes of retailers who flocked to Los Angeles Fashion Market, budgets were up even if shoppers were having to be nudged to make a purchase.”

The press release from the California Market Center had the same upbeat tone.

Hey, I’m all for upbeat.  In economics, many times, perception is just as important as reality.  But I just wasn’t seeing or feeling it.

My general feedback from showrooms, agents, designers and industry types was that the week was flat.
Many think that the trade show schedule at this time of year is so impacted that buyers suffer “trade show fatigue”, particularly if the buyers have done the Vegas shows, then gone straight to New York for Coterie, etc.

Others think that out-of-state buyers are reluctant to come to LA for market week like they used to due to cost and a preference for getting their buying done in Vegas were they can have some fun at the tables or shows.

The international buyers don’t seem to be coming to LA in the numbers they used to. Between Paris, New York and Vegas, there is no need for them to.

I have also heard chatter that LA is not considered the fashion center it once was; that it hasn’t been a fashion destination for a while.  This might be true for now but is definitely cyclical.

It also has to be remembered that California has been hit harder than the east coast by the now 5 year old recession.  Despite glimmers of improvement, retail in CA has a long way to go.

Designers & Agents

Four times a year, on the usually vacant third floor of the New Mart, you’ll find the Designers and Agents showcase.  This is usually my first stop.  Being a destination booth show, Designers & Agents provides a good read on the energy and buyer activity of the whole week.

Known in shorthand as “d&a”, it was close to full with 120 booths and 130 brands of contemporary men’s and women’s basics, separates and denim, shoes, hats, bags, jewelry and accessories.  On Monday, there was excellent energy and buyer traffic.  It was quieter when I dropped by on Tuesday.

One of d&a’s regular exhibitors, Christys’ London debuted their sharp new range of snap-back caps, Brooklyn Hat Co.  The caps come in full cloth crowns and trucker mesh backs.

New York based agents, Paper Mache Tiger were at the show for the first time.  They were showing the stunning Australian swimwear collection, We Are Handsome.

d&a was not as busy as usual for this time of year which pretty much sums up the vibe of the whole week.

The Showroom Buildings

The New Mart and Cooper Design Space buildings had reasonable buyer traffic but not what I expected.

The Coeur accessories booth show on the top floor of the Cooper Building had 50 booths with 60 brands showing.  I liked a lot of the collections.  Foot traffic was slow.

The California Market Center contemporary floors were quiet when I was there.

The Park Showroom in the Lady Liberty Building was busy when dropped by.  Park are now representing one of my clients, the artist designed, limited edition eyewear collection from Australia, COLAB.

COLAB are going to be a huge hit in the US.  COLAB is a unique eyewear experiment. Every season they collaborate with 5 fresh artists, musicians, designers and/or creatives to concoct a completely experimental look for a range of limited edition, high quality eyewear. You might have seen their Anthony Lister Campaign taken up by blogs and magazines around the world. They have worked with some incredible people including Stefan Marx, Kill Pixie, Geoff McFetridge, Jonathan Zawada, Eboy, and The Presets just to name a few. The integrity and always evolving nature of the brand concept has already opened doors such as Colette Paris, Conran Tokyo, Grandpa Stockholm and many more.

I am looking forward to hearing how the Fall 13 selling season progresses.  Let’s hope the optimism expressed by some about last week is real.

I still have my doubts that the industry is sustainably improving as much as reported.  Then again, my financial background and the false dawns of the past few years have made me a skeptic.  Like I have said so many times in these blogs, I’ll believe it when I see it.  But when I do, I’ll be just as happy (and relieved) as everyone else.

Paul Brindley
paul brindley consults

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Las Vegas Fall13 Fashion Trade Shows Wrap 1 – Not So MAGIC

WWDMAGICThe morning of Monday, February 18 saw me heading off for my semi-annual immersion into the Las Vegas fashion trade show week.  The February editions of the shows host the commercial debuts of Fall/Winter collections of designers across the spectrum of men’s and women’s apparel and accessories categories at 17 different showcases.

After an easy 4 hour drive, I arrived in a chilly Sin City.  My first stop was the Sands Expo and Convention Center at the Venetian Hotel.

Yes, there are 17 different showcases in total if you include the sub-shows under the same roof. Let’s count them:

At the Mandalay Bay: Project, The Tents @ Project, Project MVMNT, Project Mens/Wear, ENKVegas, PoolTradeShow

At the Las Vegas Convention Center: WWDMAGIC, Platform, Sourcing, ISAM.

At the Sands: Stitch, MRket, AccessoriesTheShow, CurveNV, Capsule, OffPrice.

At the Rio: WWIN

The shows were staggered over 4 days starting Monday, February 18. Most run 3 days.

I was greeted by new locations, new names, lots of foot traffic and a good deal of confusion.


The MAGIC Group of shows

The driver of the week is the MAGIC group of shows split between the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.  “MAGIC” is the shorthand that a lot of people use for the week.
The LVCC shows were set up as usual with Platform shoe show and Sourcing resource show in the South Hall, and WWDMAGIC in the Central and Northern Halls.

The Mandalay Bay CC configuration (which has been tweaked a number of times in recent years) underwent a complete overhaul.  The result has caused considerable dissatisfaction with agents, designers, manufacturers and buyers.

The trouble really began when ENKVegas was acquired last year by MAGIC parent company, Advanstar.

Tents & ENKVegas

ENKVegas was previously a stand-alone show at the Wynn Hotel.  ENK always put on classy, professional and well-appointed trade shows. Some veterans of their Intermezzos and Coteries in New York thought the Vegas show was their best.  The Vegas show had an intimate vibe that was appreciated by agents and buyers.  ENK did that bit extra – from the setting and layout, to the food at the complimentary buffet, through to the highly anticipated stewarded drinks they served at the end of each day.

Contemporary and better contemporary men’s and women’s sportswear collections, denim, dresses, accessories and footwear brands were spread over two adjacent function rooms.  Agents and designers thought that buyers were motivated into writing orders and leaving paper by the exclusive atmosphere and juried mix of collections.  There were more men’s than women’s collections.

Those days are over.



Inside ENKENKVegas is now an exclusively women's show.  It has become just another another sea of booths housed in a enormous white tent on the carpark of the Mandalay Bay.  The booths are basic. The floor is a thin carpet right on the carpark tarmac and the designers and agents working the show are forced to use porta-potties - and not the high end ones at that.  From the first morning, there were grumblings.

To add to the dissatisfaction, the other new show, The Tents at Project which took up one quadrent of the tent, is a curated mix of upscale men’s collections.  This section had a plush carpet, more constructed booths, and more open space in general.  It is easy to see why the women's collections were not happy.

By the way, this was the February show which is the least challenging of the two when it comes to weather.  What’s going to happen in August when it’s 110F, you spend all day standing on a carpark tarmac in a tent (despite it being air-conditioned), and you have to go outside and use a porta-potty!

From the extensive feedback that I got both during and after the show, I can see a lot of collections dropping out of ENK between now and then.

The change in location and intimacy of ENK and the moving of the previously inside Project women’s section to the tent had a real effect on the business done during the week.  Many sellers felt  that buyers were doing more walking and looking than writing business.  Some felt that buyers had trouble finding them.  When I was there on the first morning, the foot traffic was moderate.

There was a strong showing of Australian brands including Ladakh, One Teaspoon, Estilo Emporio, Helen Kaminski, Australian Luxe Collection.  I will see many of these collections again in Sydney in April at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia.

Del Toro ShoesI had a chance to catch up with one of favorite designers and industry people, Charlotte Tarantola at her booth.  Charlotte is a perpetually positive person and really didn’t have anything to say about the new digs.  The booth was busy from the get-go as it always used to be at the Wynn.  The collection is a reflection of Charlotte herself: bold, vibrant, positive and ever-evolving.

Some of the stand-out men’s collections at The Tent’s at Project were the hip, colorful shoe brand Del Toro Shoes, the eyewear collection Linda Farrow sunglasses, and the Namaste Showroom represented Chippewa.



Comfortably inside the convention center were all Project’s men’s and unisex brands.

The space where the women’s collections had been was occupied by Project Mens/Wear, a traditional menswear showcase and the newly branded MVMNT, MAGIC’s new street and skate section that used to be known as Street and Slate, and housed upstairs (then again, I heard MVMNT was moved downstairs only because there was an unrelated conference upstairs. But it looked like a designed move to me).

PoolTradeShow had been shipped off to it’s own ballroom space down the hall.

The fashion forward Workroom section was organized out of existence.

The effect of all this was to make Project seem even more massive than ever.  I heard from a number of highly respected veterans of the show that it was just too big, that buyers said they couldn’t find them, that collections were not clustered with similar or complimentary brands, and that many of them will be reconsidering their commitment to the show.

One of my success stories, Wood Underwear was exhibiting – Wood is Good!  Terresa Zimmermann, the owner/designer has done an incredible job of developing and promoting the collection over the past 2 years.  I was match-make an excellent partnership between Wood and Namaste Showroom.

Terresa said, “We had a great location, right in front of the DJ and bar.  Great exposure generally.  We were showing our new line, Hermosa Beach Collection, composed of 3 styles of underwear and 2 undershirts, all in 9 collegiate inspired colors.  The color block really grabbed attention.  We were also showcasing our new display units and merchandising options.  Stitched Lifestyle in the Cosmopolitan took delivery of the first new display.  We had quality traffic all 3 days, from the very established like 42 Saint, to the very new like Unscruff.  The next couple of weeks’ follow up should prove interesting and give us a better idea how to judge the success of the show.”



Pool was fun as usual.  More than 100 emerging and independent contemporary brands showing the full range of clothing, shoes, bags, hats, jewelry, accessories of all kinds.  There was also an expanded cash and carry section of very interesting stuff.

Due to the reconfiguration of Project, Pool was shunted off to it’s own ballroom space.  It was previously attached to the women’s section at Project.  Pool was separated into it’s own space a few years back which caused a severe drop in foot traffic and waves of complaints from exhibitors.  This time the separation only seemed to make the heart grow fonder because the energy was high, buyer traffic was brisk, and buyers were leaving paper.

The eco friendly watches of Sprout were doing good business.  These sporty watches are made with materials that are easy on the Earth but last as long as their more polluting competitors.

I also liked the accessories collections: Paradise Metal Art, Flea Market Girl, Hj Designs, GREENOLASTYLE, and Ornamental Things.

Magnet Showroom at PoolThe fine and funky Franco Nakagawa of Magnet Showroom was showing all his vendors: Adeen, Golden Bears, Relik and Coveted Society. Franco represents those eye-catching collections that push the fashion envelope but are still wearable, stylish and affordable.

Pool is well worth a look.  You’ll find labels that will eventually transition on to the main floor at Project.



WWDMAGIC at the Las Vegas Convention Center seemed busier than in recent times.  I am never quite sure just how buyer-busy the show is.  There are so many people in the space, from sales reps to booth staff to vendors to industry folks to media, and, yes, to buyers, that is it hard to work out who’s who.  But this time around I had a sense that buyers were active.  My feedback confirmed my suspicions.

Kita-Ku at MAGICMy first stop was to visit the Australian plus-size label, Kita-Ku who were showing in the North Hall.  I had given the label some advice prior to their trip to the US.  I think they are better suited to the WWIN show at the Rio.  They were generating interest with buyers and sales agents who wanted to represent them in the US.

The feedback from the industry veterans that I spoke with was good.  I am withholding peoples’ and brands’ names under instruction but here are some quotes:

“Having a great show.  We are seeing stores with multiple doors.  Buyers are looking for something new because everything looks the same or is hanging everywhere.”

“I think foot traffic has been a little off but I’m still happy with business.  Retailers are reporting a good second half to January after a weak Xmas and New Year selling period.  They are writing deeper orders.”

“We had a great Tuesday.  I wrote enough business on Tuesday to cover my whole show.  We are showing Fall sweaters early and stores are booking them.  The Fall sweaters are selling as strongly as our Spring styles.  Buyers are looking for that bit extra: texture, detail, a little embellishment, and are still buying the architectural shapes that can be worn with leggings.”

ISAM was small as usual at this time of year.

I had a walk through the Platform show show in the South Hall.  It is massive.  As with most accessories at present, anything goes with shoes.  I did see a lot of color in leather, suede, and synthetics.  The athletic shoe continues to be popular as do boots of all kinds.

I skipped the Sourcing show. No time and nothing to see there for me.  I’ll catch the trend forecast seminars at LA Textile Week.


Modern Assembly

The negative feedback from Project and ENK has continued over the past month.  Advanstar will have some serious rethinking to do before the August round of shows.  Many brands I have spoken to are looking to the new Liberty show that will debut at The Venetian/Sands Expo in August.

Project founder Sam Ben-Avraham has announced plans to launch Liberty with 250 men’s and women’s contemporary brands.

Agenda, a Los Angeles-based action sports and streetwear show that currently runs in NYC and LA, will be debuting in the Las Vegas market, and joining Liberty and Capsule in a troika of shows to add to the current BJI Fashion Group produced AccessoriesTheShow, STITCH (the former MODA), and MRket, the menswear trade show, to form a strategic alliance called Modern Assembly.

The partners will consolidate marketing efforts, streamline attendance for one another’s shows, and join in direct competition against the Advanstar shows.

It will be intriguing to see how all this shakes out.
Paul Brindley