By  on August 23, 2007

The buyers who shop the Project show in Las Vegas seem to be divided into two camps. On the one end, there are those who prefer to walk the aisles, observing new trends, checking out new designers and jotting down notes to follow up on later. On the other, there are buyers who prefer to set up appointments to see lines, ultimately writing up orders on the spot.

But they agree either approach works, depending on how much time they have and what they are hoping to accomplish.

"I only go for a day and a half, and the fact that it's such a short time means that I need to stay as focused as possible," said Jennifer Althouse, denim buyer for American Rag Cie in Los Angeles. "I don't make appointments, and instead just walk the floor. I want to give a line my full attention, so if I like something, I'll sit down with them in New York or Los Angeles."

Buyers said that Project affords them a great opportunity to make contact with new and emerging brands, and to get a broad sense of what's happening in the market. But given how large the show has become, it's sometimes just not feasible to place orders then and there.

"I never sit, it slows me down," said Jackie Brander, owner of Fred Segal Fun in Los Angeles. "I'm in and out and on to the next while trying to keep my manners and not be rude to anyone. It's a whole lot of familiar faces and they are so nice to me so I try to get in, smile, talk a sec and get going."

Buyers that have more time try to do both.

"I normally spend the first day walking the floor, just to get the lay of the land and see if I can spot some new brands," said Blake Nieman-Davis, owner of Blake, a men's and women's store in Portland, Ore. "I'll spend the last two days sitting in appointments and writing orders." Nieman-Davis added that, with about 55 of the 70 or so brands in his store represented at Project, he's able to complete much of his buying within a few days.Most retailers who attend Project agree on one thing: It's become a crucial show on the calendar, especially given that there are now more women's offerings, as well as a greater number of mainstream brands joining the niche ones.

"It's a very comfortable show for buyers, and easy to work, because most of the manufacturers are there," said Marty Bebout, co-owner of five Blue Bee stores in Santa Barbara, Calif. "The Project show now encompasses brand-new emerging designers and our basic strong vendors like Joe's Jeans, Seven For All Mankind and AG Jeans."

Bebout said he has had to increase the size of his team at Project because of the more substantial women's lines there. "At first I was a little resistant to that, but the show is becoming the launch for a number of women's designers, as well, so it gives us another opportunity to get some of our main-season buys done early."

Although the MAGIC Marketplace and Pool are held at the same time, many buyers said they make a beeline for Project.

"I would say I spend 90 percent of my time at Project," said Germaine Glaser, store buyer of Pittsburgh Jeans Co. in Pittsburgh. "I do shop them all, but for my customer, Project is more relevant."

Glaser described her store as "a true denim shop. It's our baby, our bread and butter, so usually I spend the most time shopping denim." If a sportswear line catches her eye, she prefers to make contact rather than buy. "I like to buy sportswear in showroom appointments where I can spend more time and fully develop a representation of the collection. This is something that is not easy to do at these busy shows."

Tara Corral, the denim casuals buyer at, an online retailer based in La Mirada, Calif., said she takes advantage of her proximity to Los Angeles showrooms to use Project as a way to observe trends.

"I look for new lines and new talent," she said. "I'll sit and observe the entire show, see what the trends will be, where the market is growing. [Project's] grown so much that it's a really good place to find new lines."At Bop, a store in Madison, Wis., recent Project finds include Retro Sport, a line of vintage-looking T-shirts that has been a strong seller at the store as well as on its Web site, Mollie Milano, store manager and buyer, also shops lines such as jeans label Rich & Skinny.

"It's a nice blend of New York and Los Angeles designers," she said. "It might be overwhelming to try and write orders at the show, even though that's what vendors want you to do. But I take a long, hard look at styles and colors; take really detailed notes and maybe some pictures, and take it back to my hotel room to regroup. That way, I can make a more informed decision."

Although buyers don't always take advantage of Project's networking events and parties, they said it's a great way to connect with vendors as well as other retailers.

"One of the best ways to find brands is to network through other retailers," said Blake's Nieman-Davis. "We take advantage of the fact that every retailer, from the most exclusive department store to mainstream department stores to small retailers, attends MAGIC and Project now. I like seeing other retailers to get a sense of what's out there, discussing brands, talking about what we liked and what we didn't and what some of the trends will be. For me, that's as much a part of attending Project as finding and writing a line."

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