By  on February 17, 2009

Las Vegas’ trade show market has recently seen its greatest upheaval since MAGIC settled in the desert in 1989.

This season, Project has changed venues and downsized, MAGIC has added three new showcases and exited the South Hall; Lingerie Americas has closed; Capsule has launched; ENK Vegas and MRket have expanded, and countless brands have changed locations.

The bottom line: It’s not business as usual in Vegas.

The alterations surfaced in October, when Advanstar Fashion Group announced a raft of initiatives for its flagship show, MAGIC. At its heart: plans for MAGIC to launch a showcase, dubbed Premium at MAGIC, for the contemporary market, a segment that had largely migrated to its sister show, Project, over the past few years. That move prompted changes at Project, which left its home at the Sands Expo for The Mandalay Bay, and is more focused. The exhibitor count, which had ballooned to 1,300, will be cut by 40 percent with the focus squarely on advanced sportswear brands. Many of the premium brands will now show at Premium at MAGIC at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“The whole [premium] category has grown so much. The premium and contemporary markets are important to the industry, so they are important to MAGIC,” said Chris DeMoulin, the trade show’s president, in announcing the changes.

MAGIC showed its clout by signing labels such as DKNY, Original Penguin, French Connection and Nicole Fahri for the Premium area. It also recruited a number of high-profile British brands, like Unconditional and Stansfield. Additionally, longtime Project exhibitors Ve’cel, Schott NYC, Chrome Hearts and Ed Hardy Knit Men’s are also trying out Premium at this market.

Advanstar is also mirroring the premium platform at WWDMAGIC, its women’s component. As of press time, some 70 brands had committed to Premium at WWDMAGIC, including Betsey Johnson and Dolce Vita.

Also new is the consolidation of streetwear and the well-attended S.L.A.T.E. from the South Hall to the Central Hall, where it will reside with the rest of MAGIC Man. The retail community, which has long believed the Las Vegas shows are too spread out, cheered the consolidation. They may be cheering even louder in 2010 when Advanstar is reportedly hoping to bring Project to the Convention Center as well.

But until that time, Project, which opens Wednesday at noon, will welcome back mainstay brands like Steven Alan and PRPS while launching key newcomers, including Cutler & Gross and Relwen. In women’s, sportswear lines Charlotte Ronson and Robert Rodriguez, as well as hip shoe brand Chie Mihara, are showing at Project as well.

Other shows that piggyback off the MAGIC traffic also have some marquee brands. Theory, Trovata and Helmut Lang are at ENK Vegas, while Raffi Linea Uomo, Rainforest, Utex Fashion Group and Tricots St. Raphael set up at MRket. Pool, another member of the Advanstar family, picked up the Ben Sherman label.

In its second edition, ENK Vegas, which opens today at the Wynn Hotel, is reinforcing its niche as a home for smaller designer brands. Besides Rag & Bone, which made its Vegas debut with ENK last August, Victorinox, Corpus and Fred Perry by Raf Simons are confirmed for the show.

MRket, now in its third season, is presenting a mix of classic and contemporary brands, including Alex Cannon, Jaz and Peter Millar at the Venetian Hotel through Wednesday. The 260 exhibitors represent a 40 percent increase over last August’s show, said MRket’s directors.

The designer and contemporary men’s wear market is getting another outlet in Las Vegas this season as well. BPMW is exporting its successful boutique show Capsule to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, where its clients, like Penfield, will hang with Supra, Sugar Cane and Loden Dager. “We think the men’s wear market is shifting. Contemporary is waning and progressive artisanal brands are redefining the aesthetic,” said BPMW principal Edina Sultanik of the show’s niche.

Additionally, MAGIC continues to forge into new territory. It is introducing Magia at MAGIC this week, a showcase dedicated to the Latin-American market, and hosting its second edition of Ecollection, its section for eco-fashion and sustainable apparel.

Meanwhile, MAGIC’s sourcing showcase has moved to the Las Vegas Hilton and the accessories show joined WWDMAGIC in the North Hall.

“Everybody wants to be where the top retailers are,” said Sultanik. “The market is evolving; they want something new.”

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