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LOS ANGELES — Happy to escape sweltering heat or freezing temperatures in their home cities, buyers are drawn to Los Angeles markets and trade shows by the mild climate and relaxed shopping atmosphere, but organizers and vendors are working to keep them coming back for fresh resources.
For most organizers that means tinkering with existing formats — growing
vendor presence in underserved categories and adjusting dates, for example — rather than completely overhauling shows.
Barbara Kramer, co-producer of Designers & Agents, the contemporary apparel and lifestyle show that inhabits the New Mart and Cooper Design Space five times a year, said upcoming editions will be “business as usual.” She and partner Ed Mandelbaum are building on recent additions to D&A, including expansions of home design and men’s or unisex components.
“Our show was always considered a women’s show, yet we had a strong audience in the unisex realm,” said Kramer. “We made a real widespread outreach to all of our brands and said anyone who really has a men’s side or unisex side, feel free to include it in any show.”
Kramer estimated that a quarter of the roughly 465 vendors at the Los Angeles show are offering men’s or unisex items in January. Earnest Sewn, Camper, Masons, Hollywood Trading and Monarchy are among the brands that bridge the gender gap.
Home design has played a large role in D&A’s June show, which runs June 8 to 11 next year, but Kramer said the lifestyle entrant has spread to other D&A shows throughout the year with smaller presentations. Among the brands in this category are Denise Schmidt, Bob’s Your Uncle, French Bull, La Compagnie de Provence, Tepper Jackson, Assouline, Simpatico Candles, Soolip and Apothia.
“We started out with just the idea of adding something extra,” Kramer said, noting she initially included home design in the June show to give retailers more holiday options. “It has done quite well. It expands a little bit every show.” In addition to the June show, D&A is scheduled next year for Jan. 12 to 15, March 23 to 26, Aug. 10 to 13 and Oct. 26 to 29.
Meanwhile, at the California Market Center, the largest apparel mart in the downtown fashion district, slight adjustments have been made to shows to best accommodate buyers. Dates for the Los Angeles International Textile Show, slated for April 16 to 18 and Oct. 15 to 17, are earlier in 2007 than years past. Joanne Lee, the CMC’s director of events and trade shows, said the textile show was pushed up after the CMC solicited input from design houses such as Karen Kane on how to entice more European exhibitors.
Also at the CMC, the Transit L.A. Shoe Show has been extended from two to three days, Jan. 13 to 15, but will remain in the apparel showroom building’s penthouse space. To add to the merchandise mix, the CMC has encouraged more accessories vendors to apply.
“The trend we see in general is that a lot of the shoe boutiques are carrying purses and belts,” said Lee. “We just want to help make it easier for our buyers to take care of all their needs.”
ENK International, which brings 100 contemporary, misses’ and bridge
apparel vendors to the CMC for Brighte Companies, is continuing efforts to
attract the Hollywood contingent. At the last show, an ENK spokesman
described an aggressive outreach campaign to secure attendance from top
stylists, adding that gift bags were put together to tip them off to resources they might not know about.
“We are really trying to drum up more Hollywood attention at the shows. We felt that it was an area that we could do more,” he said. “[In October] we actually got a lot of stylists to come down who hadn’t been there before.”
Not everything is going according to plan in Los Angeles. A major street party to fete buyers during October market has been canceled. According to New Mart general manager Ethan Eller, the event was shelved because “the show producer failed to deliver the type of product we wanted.” The party is on hold until next year or the year after.
Other hiccups include the Mezzanine and Glow shows. Mezzanine, a high-end designer and contemporary apparel trade show proposed by ENK, was at one time set for October at the Old Stock Exchange building downtown, but it appears to have been sidelined. When asked about the possibility of Mezzanine touching down in L.A. in the future, an ENK spokesman said there is “no information at this time.”
The CMC has eliminated Glow, a lifestyle trade show that had taken place during the gift and home market, at least for the moment. In a move away from the seemingly ubiquitous lifestyle trend, Lee said the CMC is “going into more niche markets” for home and gift.
Despite these complications, show organizers and vendors contend Los Angeles is becoming an imperative stop for those wanting to get a glimpse of what’s going to drive the next season’s trends. With the exception of the August 2006 market, which immediately followed news of the foiled London terrorist plot and related flight restrictions, all indications are that buyer traffic has increased at key trade shows and markets several years in a row.
“There are more buyers going to L.A. than ever before, and I am seeing more of the better stores going there. We are seeing our top-tier accounts,” said John Gates, vice president of sales at Brothers & Sisters, which has a 3,000-square-foot showroom in the New Mart and represents the lines Grayson, Zooey, Cindy Lee, Cris and Future Paradise. “They get the L.A. vibe, and they love it. It really puts a smile on their faces.”
Mandelbaum speculated buyer traffic in L.A. would stay on the upward trajectory next year. D&A had roughly 2,500 stores walk the October show, a slight increase from the previous year. “Retailers chase good product. Every day people are opening up showrooms, and there are more good products,” Mandelbaum said.
On the CMC’s contemporary apparel-filled fifth floor, Plastic Island, Yakuza, Matty M, Kersh, Agent Icon, F.T.C. Funtrap, Saints and Sirens, David Kahn and Luxe are the newest showrooms. There are waiting lists to obtain a space in the New Mart and Cooper Design Space, where the T-shirt-driven brand Splendid is slated to open a showroom soon.
Showrooms are not the only new members of the market and trade show scene in Los Angeles. Two upstart trade shows are bowing next year.
The Cultyard, a boutique trade show conceived by the Independent Toy Growers of America to showcase designer toys, urban apparel, illustration, art, independent magazine publication, entertainment and animation, is set for May 10 to 12 at Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar.
Maternity trade show MOM2B is launching Jan. 23 to 24 in the Cooper Design Space. Nearly 70 vendors have signed up so far, with Pouch, Maya Lena, BellySock and Round Belly Clothing among those in the apparel segment.
“We chose Los Angeles because the strength of the buyers, and it was easy to get in and out of,” said Amy DeCamillis, president of Denver-based MOM2B. Of course, she said another reason — good weather — was the real clincher.