By  on February 7, 2008

Accessories are by no means an accessory to Project.

The contemporary trade show has been bulking up its selection of bags, belts, baubles and boots over the past several seasons as its concentration has shifted from men's wear to goods for both sexes. The fashion complements allow apparel retailers to complete outfits and diversify their stock to generate additional shopping trips.

"Currently, our accessories offering makes up about 20 percent of our overall business," said Sam Ben-Avraham, president and founder of Project. "Jewelry leads the category, followed by handbags, shoes and belts. The growth has been steady over our last three Las Vegas shows. It's really an exciting aspect of our show and demonstrates our 'everything under one roof' philosophy."

Project has proactively built the accessories presence by reaching out to trendsetting showrooms and companies. The result is that accessories buyers and sellers have begun to consider the trade show a must for spotting up-and-coming designers and pieces for chic audiences.

"They have made a concerted effort to really bring women's lines together and make the buyers feel that this is where they can find these kinds of lines," said Megan Dolbee, who will be exhibiting jewelry lines Noir and Wasabi as well as headwear brand Hat Attack at Project for showroom Kristi Harris Sales. Respectively, the lines wholesale for $35 to $150, $25 to $150 and $15 to $75.

"If you took a snapshot of what is happening in fashion now at Project, it would be pretty good," added Ce Ce Chin, designer for New York-based footwear brand 80%20, which is delving into high-heel boots wholesaling from $110 to $120 for fall. "Everybody wants to see your stuff in the context of what is also new."

Handbag brands Aaneta and Caprice Bianca, and Gravis Footwear are among those coming to Project for the first time. A popular style from Aaneta, which sells to stores such as Atrium and Searle and goes from $106 to $270 wholesale, is a four-pocket satchel with a braided handle and gold metal hardware. Caprice Bianca, which sells bags for $160 to $300 wholesale, is introducing a hobo for fall and is stressing deep colors, including navy and red. Gravis' fall collection flashes back to the Eighties with bold prints in women's shoes, priced from $25 to $44 wholesale, and handbags, priced from $10 to $30 wholesale.

"We have walked the show, and we figured that it would be a good niche for our product," Amy Gebhard, a communications manager at Gravis, said of why the company opted for Project. "Gravis has done well in urban boutiques, so I figure we will meet some more of those retailers." Gravis is carried by Sportie LA and Kick's in Los Angeles, Michael K in New York and True and Villains in San Francisco.

Established and young brands alike view Project as a productive venue to get word out about product launches and line extensions. A. Kurtz will reveal sunglasses at the show; handbag brand Dutchy is kicking off its new vegan line, priced from $10 to $140 wholesale; belt brand Lo-Fi is displaying the latest styles netted from a collaboration between founder and disc jockey Kelly Cole and Michael Schmidt of Chrome Hearts fame, for $75 to $120 wholesale, and jewelry resource Dillon Rogers will inform retailers about its leap into vintage-inspired leather goods, with handbags, cuffs and belts from $30 to $225 wholesale.

"The accessories have to be really contemporary and a bit more fashion-forward," said Geoffrey Dillon, who owns Los Angeles-based Dillon Rogers with his wife, Dori Rogers, of the assortment at Project. "People are looking for something with a little more edge to it. I don't think the people there just want generic accessories."

Most accessories brands with experience at Project report that it is one of their most successful, if not their most successful, show. One reason is that the contingent of international buyers has been strong, a Project trademark that vendors predict will continue this month.

"There might be more international buyers [since] the dollar sucks so bad," said Scott Irvine, owner of the Toronto-based brand Brave Beltworks. "I am hopeful because that is great business. They buy a lot. The more, the merrier on the international side of things."

Not all accessories exhibitors believe that more is merrier in terms of booths. A worry with Project's popularity is that the uniqueness that originally drew visitors will dissipate with the growth. "You will maybe see it not grow anymore. I hope that it is true because I think they are at their maximum," said Dolbee. 

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