By  on January 15, 2009

MAGIC Man will be greatly altered come February as an influx of high-profile premium brands flood the main hall and a number of the trade show’s marquee exhibitors scale down their presence or skip the event altogether.

Nearly 100 premium and contemporary brands, many of which have never shown at MAGIC or haven’t exhibited there for years, will be presenting in the new main hall showcase, dubbed Premium at MAGIC. As of Jan. 1, brands like Chrome Angels, Levi Strauss & Co., Schott NYC, Ve’cel, Kangol Apparel, Ginch Gonch and Report Collection had confirmed attendance.

The trade show also earned a few coups by getting DKNY, Nicole Farhi, Original Penguin, Nautica and French Connection to come aboard. In addition, a clutch of hip British brands, including indie designer label Unconditional, contemporary denim brand Garbstore and nouveau clothier Sir Tom Baker, will also attend.

“The whole [premium] category has grown so much,” said Chris DeMoulin, president of MAGIC International and executive vice president of the Advanstar Fashion Group, the company that also owns the Pool and Project shows. “The new area provides an ideal location for these brands to network and sell. The premium and contemporary markets are important to the industry, so they are important to MAGIC.”

Last October, the trade show revealed plans to launch a new showcase dedicated to the premium and contemporary business in hopes of diversifying the exhibitor mix and answering complaints the Vegas giant lacked youthful brands and the energy that attends them.

Premium at MAGIC hopes to restore the compelling and balanced vendor mix the show was long known for. But MAGIC’s success is tempered by the loss of a few major exhibitors. Calvin Klein, Tommy Bahama and Timberland, all major participants in the semiannual show, have confirmed they will not attend this year, citing the need to cut expenses.

Another mainstay, Perry Ellis International, is also scaling back its presence but will show its namesake sportswear brand.

“It’s not surprising considering what’s going on at retail,” DeMoulin said. “Brands are looking at their costs and they are coming up with strategies to address their situations. It’s a very fluid industry. Brands always come and go. I would expect that MAGIC would mirror what’s happening in the market.”

Calvin Klein’s classification, denim and white label sportswear businesses had long been the main attraction of parent-company Phillips-Van Heusen Corp.’s 21,000-square-foot, two-story booth. PVH is maintaining its presence at MAGIC, however. A source at the company confirmed it would exhibit its large dress shirt and neckwear businesses, though at a much smaller booth, “it’s too expensive. We don’t need a space that big to showcase our brands,” the source said.

Another MAGIC stalwart, Tommy Bahama, which had built a fully furnished island bungalow for its lifestyle brand in years past, is opting instead to host retailers at its store in Las Vegas.

Outdoor apparel maker Timberland, in a bid to scale back, will meet with retail partners outside the trade show circuit this year. “At this time it is both more effective and more efficient for us to serve our accounts via one-on-one interaction as opposed to the trade show environment,” said Gene McCarthy, co-president of The Timberland Co.

Perry Ellis, likely the largest exhibitor at MAGIC Man, with a megabooth for its portfolio of brands including Cubavera and C&C California, has committed to show at MAGIC but its presence will be greatly reduced, according to a company executive who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Miami-based apparel maker is still deciding whether to bring its flagship Perry Ellis brand to the show.

But DeMoulin takes the losses in stride. “Some brands have to look at their costs, and if they determine they’re not getting the return on their investment, they have to make hard decisions,” he said. “We want them to succeed in their objectives.”

Many of MAGIC’s largest supporters are returning to the show, including Weatherproof Garment Co., a sportswear and outerwear maker for the midtier, which is increasing its Las Vegas presence. In addition to its booth in MAGIC’s main hall, president Freddie Stollmack said he’s rented a spot at Project to showcase the company’s new label.

“We look at MAGIC as a marketing vehicle for us,” he said. “We look at the show like any other media opportunity, and we weigh the risks and benefits. It’s still worth it for us to have that contact with our retailers.”

Stollmack also noted the absence of Calvin Klein and the like would not affect Weatherproof’s presence at the show. “If anything, it helps,” he said. “It’s like if all the advertisers in Times Square pulled out.”

Other brands, including some of the new headliners, like DKNY, also see MAGIC as a way to gain exposure. “This is the time to maximize opportunities and showcase your brand in the best possible format with the most exposure. We are pleased to be part of the debut of…Premium at MAGIC,” said Kevin Monogue, president of DKNY, which is bringing its revamped better men’s sportswear line and jeans collection to the show.

The push into the premium market has piqued the interest of better retailers as well. “This is the perfect time to make this change,” said Lori Swersky, divisional merchandise manager of men’s sportswear at Saks Fifth Avenue. “MAGIC is creating new buzz and excitement through Premium. It’s just what the men’s industry needs.”�

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