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Seeking the Right Stuff in L.A.

The trade show scene here has seen a wave of new entrants of late, while long-running shows have also been honing their game.

Shopping at the Los Angeles International Textile Show.

LOS ANGELES — The trade show scene here has seen a wave of new entrants of late, while long-running shows have also been honing their game, all in the name of attracting not only more buyers, but the “right” buyers.

This story first appeared in the June 18, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The California Market Center, the largest showroom complex in the downtown garment district, is ramping up its efforts to expand its contemporary offerings during the Los Angeles Fashion Markets four times a year.

“We are targeting two separate areas for growing and expanding, the first being young contemporary resources,” said Rebecca Aguilar, CMC’s marketing manager. “As we do the research, it’s becoming clear that those resources are what people are desiring and it’s become the area we need to tap into.”

The CMC already houses a Young Contemporary wing, but many resources are beginning to spill over into other parts of the complex. Aguilar added that many of the lines are Made in Los Angeles, which could be a harbinger for a new area within the building or a highlighted area during the fashion market.

The other growing area is contemporary men’s and men’s premium streetwear. “A lot of those showrooms are starting to pick up the ‘girlfriend’ line, so many of them are now carrying both men’s and women’s,” Aguilar said.

Women’s contemporary is already showcased in a curated show called Select that runs during one day after the start of Los Angeles market in the Fashion Theater on the lobby level. Aguilar said the CMC’s goal is to start working with international brands who are looking to make their debut in the U.S. market. Among the lines are those from Australia, Canada and the U.K.

“We already have such a following with established brands like Magaschoni, Enzo Angiolini and Kenneth Cole, but the fact we combine them with emerging lines is what makes [Select] special,” she added.

The show comprises about 60 percent apparel and 40 percent jewelry and accessories lines such as Martha Moran, Julie Julius and Diba Gonanan. From March to June, the show has seen an exhibitor increase of 25 percent.

In addition, the Transit show that runs at the same time as Select has turned into a contemporary and young contemporary showcase with brands such as J. Campbell and The Frye Co. Transit is the largest dedicated footwear show in California.

On the textile front, the Los Angeles Textile show, which runs twice a year in the spring and fall, has announced new fall dates, Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, and the Korean Pavilion will also return. Although the CMC does not release tenant numbers, Aguilar said a number of new textile showrooms have opened there, many of them coming from New York.

Also for the first time, the CMC’s Gift and Home Show has partnered with the California Gift Show and the L.A. Gift Mart, enabling buyers to use one badge and one shuttle to shop both shows, an effort that is being marketed with the tag line “How the West Is One.”

As for the events around each market week, CMC stages fashion shows in August and October as a way to highlight new lines or showrooms and get tenants interested.

A block away at the Cooper Building, the year-old Brand Assembly show is ramping up, as well with a newly launched Web site that allows brands to apply online and buyers to register online. The site will also feature testimonials and a comments section where buyers can share feedback.

“We want to cater to the buyers and let them know about us, as we still are only a year old,” said founder Hillary France. For the June 2014 market (which is touted as Resort and features 25 brands versus 60 brands in the August market), new entrants included Genetic denim, Gorjana jewelry, Electric Love Army, RTA denim and accessories and apparel label VMT, which will make its debut at wholesale at Brand Assembly.

“Brands love that it’s intimate and curated and the right mix of buyers. It’s open, airy and shoppable, which brands love, and the buyers like that it’s very relaxed. I used to work on the sales side and what’s great about the L.A. market is that even though it’s later in the calendar, I’ve seen a lot more buyers finalize their sales in L.A. once they’ve seen the market,” said France.

As for expanding to other cities, France said she’d like to organize a show in Paris for fall 2015 and perhaps even New York.

“Even as we expand, we want to keep that airy element,” she said. “In New York, there are so many places to go, but what’s nice about L.A. is it is very condensed between the CMC, New Mart and Gerry Building, especially for buyers who are coming in for just a day or two. I think sometimes buyers feel rushed in New York and the transaction of collecting an order is not as relaxed.”

Also new for Brand Assembly is a collaboration with Lord & Taylor, an in-store shop in the department store’s newly renovated second floor launching in September that will feature brands Kaylin, Torn, Sachin + Babi and Maria Dora.

France added that her goal is to help emerging brands launch and now she has a three-pronged approach between exhibiting, sales and now a retail outlet for brands.

Coeur, another curated show within the Cooper Building, is now entering its third year of showing twice a year in both Los Angeles and New York. The Los Angeles show boasts almost 100 brands and brings a different perspective to a trade show by mixing accessories and home goods.

“It has really worked to split up all the categories and give a buyer a fresh palette when they are walking through the show,” said Henri Meyers, who co-founded Couer with Lisa Elliot Rosas. “We try and do the work for them and make sure a line [is] newsworthy and sits well with other brands.”

Meyers said he also arranges brands to cater to stores like Lost and Found, Des Kohan, Mohawk General and A+R. He said some brands that have permanent showrooms in the Cooper Building also participate in Coeur because they see double the amount of buyers there.

“People actually do get orders at the show. It’s about putting the brand forward and we do a lot of support for brands at our shows,” said Meyers, adding that he’s also eyeing expansion into other markets in about a year’s time.

Designers & Agents, which has shown during Los Angeles market for 15 years, has also seen an increase in the number of foreign lines to the current level of 40 percent from abroad. Founders Ed Mandelbaum and Barbara Kramer accept only one out of 20 applicants for the show

“Our vision of trade events is that the sole purpose is to find great brands and all the rest is fluff and noise,” said Mandelbaum. The show focuses on better and advanced contemporary and young designer lines, which is where expansion has been over the last decade and a half. “I think that everyone starting around 2008 had gotten more careful and the last five or six years have really been survival of the fittest,” he said.

The same could be said for the action sports and streetwear trade show scene, which has seen the demise of the ASR show and the rise of Agenda. Founded 11 years ago in Long Beach, Calif., Agenda features more than 750 brands and attracts retailers from 49 states and 52 countries. It started as a men’s show and now features almost 70 women’s specific brands and another 100 unisex lines. Even its price point has become more diverse. Along with the more affordable actionwear, there are high-end lines like boot maker Wolverine. Founder Aaron Levant has also included consumer electronics and outerwear at Agenda.

“It’s indicative of [the] way people are shopping and retailers are merchandising their store,” Levant said. “Now they don’t draw lines; anyone with style and culture fits in. The next Agenda will even feature Leica and Go Pro cameras and a 3-D printer company.

Agenda, which became a part of Reed Exhibitions last year, launched in Las Vegas last year and will enter New York next February.

“As a fashion group, we have some pretty big global aspirations. Reed is in over 36 different countries and we would like to get there,” said Levant.