LAS VEGAS — There was lots of drama at the trade shows here this week, but it had less to do with hem lengths and suit silhouettes and more to do with timing and tariffs.
Retailers attending Project, WWDMAGIC, Liberty Fairs, Agenda and the PGA Show were a bit jittery as lower traffic levels and looming tariffs weighed on their spirits and a dent in their budgets.
Adding to their angst was the upcoming shift in venue and dates for the February edition. After bringing together all of the Informa shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center — Project Men’s and Women’s, WWDMAGIC, FN Platform, Pool, Stitch and Sourcing — the news was released Monday that all of the shows will be relocating to Mandalay Bay Convention Center for one season.
And the dates are also being shifted, moving ahead to Feb. 5 to 7, a nontraditional Wednesday through Friday, that is about a week earlier than usual and once again overlaps with New York Fashion Week.
Tom Nastos, chief commercial officer of Informa Markets Fashion Division, said the dates were chosen to “give the opportunity for the men’s community to travel here [after New York Fashion Week: Men’s, set for Feb. 3 to 5]. For us, the goal is to keep the entire fashion community together. We accomplished that here, and for February, we have to move to Mandalay. But for the next decade, we’re back on our traditional dates.”
Sharifa Murdock, cofounder of Liberty Fairs, was checking her contract with the Sands Expo Center, where her show and Agenda set up shop, to see if she could change the dates. By presstime, she hadn’t heard back yet on whether the space will be available.
But she was frustrated by the change, saying she was a bit blindsided by the news: “But we want to collaborate and not compete, so we’ll follow suit and make sure we make it as easy as possible for our brands and buyers,” she said.
The organizers of Agenda did not respond to requests for comment on their plans for February.
Mark Beckham, vice president of marketing for the CFDA, said his group is continuing to “work with the trade shows to make the best of the scheduling challenge. Two of the three days don’t overlap so there will be designers who aren’t affected.” And he said the plan, as it was this February, is to frontload NYFW: Men’s with the larger designers showing at the beginning of the week so editors, buyers and brands can fly to Vegas if they choose.
That being said, retailers attending the shows this time tried to concentrate on the issues at hand as they shopped the shows for their spring assortments.
Matt Beall, president of the Florida-based Bealls stores, admitted traffic has been down but he’s begun to see some “signs of stabilization for the first time in a while.”
He said his stores have experienced decent back-to-school sales, thanks to a mix that has been tweaked to appeal to a younger customer. “We’ve been making a big effort to go after the youth business,” he said. “We were also in stock and ready.”
One executive, who declined to be identified, said business for most stores has been challenging, exacerbated by the uncertainty around tariffs. “That’s created margin concerns for retailers and brands,” he said. “So commitments aren’t being made and everything is being scrutinized.”
Rick Helfenbein, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, hosted a town hall meeting at MAGIC to explain the situation with the tariffs and help exhibitors and stores get a better handle on the potential impact.
Helfenbein said President Trump has targeted other countries for what he saw as an unfair playing field in terms of imports and exports. First it was Japan, then China, Vietnam, Mexico. “It bounces around,” he said, “but it’s always a target that is incapable of fighting back.”
The bottom line, he said, is that despite Tuesday’s announcement that the imposition of tariffs on China are being delayed, the fashion industry should still be braced for taxes of at least 10 percent and probably as high as 25 percent — and there are not a lot of options. “There’s no place you can go that he hasn’t threatened,” Helfenbein said. Prices are bound to go up and the situation “is likely to blow us right into a recession.”
And if Trump is not reelected, don’t expect a Democratic president to be a white knight, Helfenbein added, saying the party “loves sticking barbs” into China and the situation could potentially become even worse under a new regime.
With that casting a pall on the overall mood of the show, there were still some trends and saleable spring pieces that emerged at the shows.
At the Doneger Group’s opening-morning session Monday — which included a combined men’s and women’s overview this time — Patty Leto, senior vice president of merchandising, said the “ongoing transformation” of the industry and changing shopping habits of consumers require retailers to “develop an emotional connection” with their customers and provide an “edited, curated statement” that speaks to them as individuals.
Doneger’s merchandising team said in order to meet these requirements, there are several big ideas merchants need to embrace for spring. For both genders, nature and natural materials, the influx of active influences in sportswear and businesswear, and a desire by customers to express their individuality is driving the market.
In terms of key items, this includes camp shirts, sustainable denim, utility vests, drawstring shorts, unconstructed linen sport coats and brightly colored outerwear for men, and lightweight sweaters, utility jackets, relaxed jeans, soft structured pants and floral maxidresses for women.
Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans men’s specialty stores in New York, liked the unusual gifts he found at Time & Oak at Pool and Trixie & Milo’s vintage-inspired flasks, as well as Paige denim’s jeans, Fidelity’s glen plaid denim trousers, Swet Tailor’s hybrid pants and Stone Rose shirts he found at Project. At Liberty, Seavees’ slip-on shoes, Benson’s sport shirts, Nifty Genius’ camo bombers and John Varvatos’s collection caught his eye.
Unlike many of the larger stores, he was upbeat. “I think it’s a truly exciting time in the industry,” he said. “There’s more change than ever and you’ve got to be alert and awake. The ball is moving faster than ever and you have to move with it.”
Also upbeat was Peter Leff, executive vice president of wholesale for Tommy Bahama, whose technical-skewed products are among its bestsellers. “Our business is good,” he said, adding the brand has a strong business with specialty stores who have gravitated to its Palm Coast polo, which features body mapping for ventilation, the Delray technical T-shirt and polo, and the Boracay stretch bottoms.
Andrew Berg, president of Robert Graham, said he was “feeling positive” overall after experiencing strength in both the company’s 33 brick-and-mortar stores as well as its e-commerce site.
“We haven’t experienced any major bumps,” he said, although he did admit to some trepidation about tariffs. “It’s on everybody’s radar,” he said. “We’re concerned about the uncertainty, and the hardest thing to manage in this business is uncertainty.”
Sarah Israel, senior buyer of women’s for Zulily, said she was shopping for vendors with domestic production since they have “an extremely short lead time, which enables them to chase the trends in real time.”
For the fall and winter season, she is expecting consumers to respond to rainbow colorblocking, ribbing and trim, colorful sweatshirts and sweaters and vividly colored sneakers. “I will be specifically looking for silhouettes that we can potentially use to incorporate this trend.”
Other trends she was searching for in Vegas included animal prints, dark florals and pieces with Victorian-style puffed sleeves.
Here are some of the highlights from the Las Vegas shows:
Brand: Polo Ralph Lauren
Designer: Ralph Lauren
Backstory: After a long absence, the brand returned to the trade show floor with its Polo men’s spring 2020 collection. The line offered playful modern interpretations of the brand’s classic items including the Polo Bear, which was emblazoned on sweaters. “This season, we have reimagined core signature pieces in new fabrics and updated fits that speak to a younger consumer,” said John Wrazej, executive vice president and creative director of Polo brands and Purple Label. “Denim remains a focus and opportunity for the brand and part of our strategy to win over the next generation of Polo consumers.”
Key styles: Five-pocket jeans, some lightly distressed, were a key statement along with graphic and novelty wovens, sweaters and outerwear, some with patchwork. The assortment also included footwear that complemented the apparel.
Retail price points: Knitwear retails for $89.50 and up, wovens started at $98.50, bottoms were $89.50 and up and outerwear started at $148 and topped out at $398.
Designer: Ivan Chan
Backstory: Hong Kong-based AlphaStyle is an elevated streetwear brand founded by Chan in 2017. The Triple 5 Soul alum and former creative director of Syrup Apparel launched the label, which quickly amassed a following for its unique, hand-done cut-and-sewn styles that were unconventional for the market. Chan flexes his expertise in manufacturing through each style, which is unisex and crafted with a hodgepodge of mixed media fabrications and details such as flannel, denim, chambray, corduroy and patchwork. Named Best Brand at Project New York in July, AlphaStyle is available in Europe, North America and Asia and is launching its first collection in the U.S. on Sept. 1 at Barneys, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Dover Street Market and Patron of the New, all of which will carry exclusive pieces. The brand is also launching an e-commerce site in the U.S. and at Urban Outfitters on that day and will launch on Farfetch and Asos in November.
Key styles: The label’s warm-weather outerwear styles such as down insulated puffer vests and coats, are understated in design when compared to its eye-catching, cut-and-sewn ready-to-wear offering, but are enhanced through subtle details like custom zippers and magnetic closures. Tie dye T-shirts and shorts are popular for spring 2020 and complement the mixed media T-shirts, kimonos, button-front shirts and nylon and plaid outerwear.
Retail price points: Collections begin at $50 for a T-shirt and go up to $700 for down outerwear.
Designers: Mark Kim and Rwang Pam
Backstory: California native Kim debuted Onyrmrk at Project with a collection inspired by his recent travels and the many cultures he was surrounded by growing up in Los Angeles. Kim, who designs the brand with fellow Californian Pam, worked as a buyer for seven years at a fast-fashion company, where he learned about production, sourcing and the ins-and-outs of the fashion industry. Before he started his label in 2018, he quit his job and traveled Asia and Europe for a year in countries including Japan, Vietnam, Italy and England before producing his first collection. Kim named his label Onyrmrk, pronounced “on your mark,” because he wanted his name to be part of the label and something more. He said the name always stuck with him and is his way to not overshadow the clothes.
Key styles: The kimono shirt, inspired by Kim’s trip to Tokyo, was the designer’s starting point for the collection. Kim said after this piece everything else fell into place in the collection like lace and sheer T-shirts; loose fabric shirts in rayon; military-inspired utility vests, and ripstop painter pants with matching tops. Kimonos are available in myriad colors such as military green and in dotted patterns on taupe seersucker.
Retail price points: The collection begins at $39 for T-shirts and goes up to $225 for a double-breasted blazer.
Designer: Cody James
Backstory: For spring, Rails is expanding on its men’s offering that was introduced in fall 2019. Founder Jeff Abrams launched Rails in 2007 after living his life “on the rails” in Europe. Abrams explored much of the continent, traveling from country to country by train, which inspired the name and identity of his fashion venture. His first piece was a cap that read “rails,” which caught the attention of several people and eventually Fred Segal, who asked Abrams to produce hats for the store. When Abrams decided to expand into ready-to-wear, he focused on the women’s market, and the brand gained popularity for its Hunter-style shirt made of rayon and Tencel-blended fabrics that feel like cashmere. Rails is a combination of Californian and European fashion sensibilities and offers T-shirts, knits, bottoms and wovens in muted colors. The brand sells its women’s collection at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Harrods and Selfridges, and operates an e-commerce business. Abrams applied each fabric and plaid pattern from the women’s collection into a men’s fit and found a winning formula. Abrams hired Ralph Lauren and Faherty designer James to oversee the men’s collection, and is eyeing brick-and-mortar in Los Angeles and New York City after operating a successful pop-up shop at The Grove.
Key styles: Lennox, the men’s version of the soft Hunter women’s shirt, and viscose, cotton and Tencel-blended shirts are available in solids and new plaids that are complemented by cotton beach marled knit sweaters, outerwear pieces such as denim jackets, linen blazers and rain jackets, and matching hoodies and sweat shorts that are available as a set. Spring 2020 also marks the debut of swim.
Retail price points: The brand’s prices range from $68 to $185. Woven shirts retail for $128 and swim trunks are $78.
Designer: Vae Ji-Young
Backstory: Part of apM Group, a behemoth overseeing 1,300 wholesale brands, Vetiver was started in 2013 to highlight nuances within Korean fashion. Vetiver specializes in mixing prints and approaching DIY fashion with a polished hand. With more than five new product drops daily at affordable prices, seasonally playful trends become accessible.
Key styles: Mixed media pieces including denim-and-knitwear jackets and dresses; jeans with contrast stitching, and pattern and print mixing, which straddles a streetwear-underground aesthetic.
Retail price points: $30 to $200.
Backstory: Launching with spring 2020, Daze was born out of the belief that good denim should be within reach. Classic fits including the straight leg, boyfriend and high-rise skinny are responsibly constructed with eco-friendly washes and sustainable fabrics made from post-consumer waste — and offered at affordable prices. The brand aims to build a completely eco-friendly supply and production chain by 2022.
Key styles: Eco-friendly and loose-fitting distressed jackets, shorts and jeans; sweet matching sets with floral embroidery.
Retail price points: $49 to $79.
Brand: Jeong Gam
Designer: Eun Sook Kim
Backstory: First-time exhibitor Jeong Gam was started in South Korea in 2004 on the basis of comfortable and chic design. Best described as sophisticated simplicity, there’s an ease and gender-fluid approach to relaxed basics, including shirting and outerwear in neutral colors.
Key styles: Knit tops, knit pants, cardigans and oversize gender-neutral button downs and trousers
Retail price points: $50 to $350.
Brand: The People Vs
Designer: Ben Turner
Backstory: Based in Sydney, Australia, The People Vs was created in 2013 from a desire for high-quality, vintage-inspired fashion that blends a contemporary feel with rock nostalgia. The design team upcycles, deconstructs and repurposes heritage silhouettes with modern-day twists in strictly limited numbers. It’s as close to vintage without being vintage — in an aesthetic blend of feminine, tough and sexy. The brand made its international debut last year and now partners with more than 150 premium doors across Australasia, USA and Europe.
Key styles: Spring 2020 draws from Nineties icons with a big push on reimagined vintage prints and workwear silhouettes. Misfit denim jeans, animal print dresses, pigment-dyed tops, punk prints and a handpainted capsule of pants and denim were also key.
Retail price points: Tops start from $60, dresses from $100, skirts from $120, premium denim at $150 and leather goods up to $600.
Brand: Alkeme Atelier
Designer: Shelly Varma
Backstory: Inspired by the ancient science of alchemy, Alkeme Atelier was launched this past year to transform sustainable, plant-based and recycled materials into modern and geometric vegan handbags. The brand is all about innovative sustainable materials, utilizing pineapple leather and recycled fibers for the exterior of bags, and fabrics made of discarded plastic for linings.
Key styles: Orange satchel-style cross body and silver top-handle bags made with Pinatex (pineapple leather); cross bodies and satchels made with vegan fiber.
Retail price points: $159 to $399.
Designer: Collective of South Korean, French and Japanese designers
Backstory: Avecattie was launched in 2017 by Jaanh Group, a global brand management company. The name is a combination of the words “avec,” which means “together with” in French, and “attie,” which means “close friend” in Korean. The brand targets women in their 20s and 30s seeking sleek items that cater to a modern lifestyle — professional, romantic, minimal, versatile and feminine all in one.
Key styles: “Nostalgic minimalism” is the main theme for spring, encompassing comfortable utility and ribbons, ruffles and gathering details reminiscent of the Fifties and Sixties, yet cut in modern-day silhouettes such as trenchcoats and subversive shirting.
Retail price points: Tops range from $99 to $219, bottoms from $239 to $339.
Brand: En Saison
Designer: Sarah Y.
Backstory: En Saison was launched in Los Angeles this summer to offer a range of romantic and effortless silhouettes inspired by Parisian style. The brand aims to fill the middle ground between luxury and fast fashion with a less is more approach — leveling classic and elegant designs with a thread of practicality.
Key styles: Feminine dresses with special prints, soft suiting, playful blouses, attention to tailored details and themed deliveries.
Retail price points: $90 to $150.
Brand: Amy Lynn London
Designers: Amy and Lynn Lin
Backstory: Sisters Amy and Lynn launched the brand in 2016 after growing up in a fashion manufacturing family in China. Based out of London, the brand targets 18- to 35-year-old women who are feminine, mature, a little sexy and have a positive outlook on life. Clothes maintain a quirky charm and are meant to live and work in.
Key styles: Feminine lace and crochet dresses, ruffle accents, and asymmetric tops and skirts in a soft palette derived from sunrises and sunsets.
Retail price points: $35 for simple T-shirts, $75 for reworked T-shirts, $85 for a pleated asymmetrical skirt and up to $300 for outerwear
Backstory: The contemporary men’s brand was created in London four years ago with the goal of bringing traditional British outerwear manufacturing back to the U.K. The coats and jackets have since been complemented by knit and jersey staples in shirts and pants that are made in Portugal and Italy. Much of the line is created from deadstock fabrics, some dating back to the Thirties, which allows Wax to offer unique items such as overshirts with a nappy hand similar to upholstery fabrics. If fabrics are not vintage, they’re sourced from mills that use natural and organic ingredients such as charcoal, onion skin olives and rice as dyes.
Key styles: The spring collection, sold by the Polly King & Co. agency, has a romantic feel with many Nineties references. This includes overshirts in exploded plaids and wide stripes, some with matching shorts; corduroy shirts in either wide wale or micro patterns; updated striped T-shirts, seersucker drawstring beach pants, and a Harris tweed topcoat.
Retail price points: Shirts sell for $130 to $165, and the Harris tweed coat tops out at $325.
Brand: The GoodPeople
Designer: Ivo van Deyzen
Backstory: Rotterdam-based brand The GoodPeople wants to exude positive energy to the world. Founder and creative director Ivo van Deyzen launched the brand in 2016 in response to growing negativity in the world. The GoodPeople works with factories that possess a progressive mind-set and produces its sustainable collection primarily in Scandinavia at fabric mills that use wind power and dyeing methods that decrease water use. The Better Cotton Initiative, which grades each piece in the collection by its production methods, labor, employee pay and hours on the machine, approves most of the brand’s pieces. Its collection is 65 percent sustainable with a goal to hit 100 percent. The GoodPeople is available in Europe in the Scandinavian and Benelux regions, and operates a store in Rotterdam. It is launching in the U.S. market for fall with around 15 specialty stores.
Key styles: The GoodPeople is known for its modern tailored sportswear that can be worn casually and in professional settings, and for its biodegradable Tencel shirts. The brand expands on its shirt offering in spring 2020, focusing on its fleece-lined poplin shirt jackets, polo shirts, organic and natural dyed T-shirts, Tencel and linen shirts, and lightweight poplin blazers.
Retail price points: Woven shirts begin at $140 and knit polo shirts retail for $150, while layering options like shirt jackets and blazers retail for $225 and $350, respectively.
Brand: New Balance x Save Khaki
Designer: David Mullen
Backstory: The collaboration is the result of the two brands’ passion for American manufacturing. Andrea Westerlind of Above Tree Line, where the collection was displayed at Liberty, said the partnership allows New Balance to create a more fashionable and high-end collection, while Save Khaki can make something more modern. Mullen, founder of Save Khaki, cut the collection bigger for an athletic fit and applied vintage military details and elements like branded patches and product text as a nod to New Balance’s history producing footwear for Navy Seals. The partners also have plans to add footwear.
Key styles: Organic supima cotton fleece T-shirts, shorts and sweatshirts are available in neutral tones, navy and military green. Classic military houndstooth fabrics and patterns are prevalent in the collection as well on shorts and anorak jackets.
Retail price points: The collection begins at $50 for T-shirts and goes up to $140 for full-zip outerwear. Shorts and pants retail between $90 and $100.
Designer: Ariel Neman
Backstory: Neman first started designing as a hobby. He would find jewelry pieces from other countries such as Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and Romania and re-create the samples. On a family trip in 2016, he attended his first Las Vegas trade show by sneaking in and showed his then six-piece jewelry collection to as many people as he could for feedback — and even sold a few pieces. The name Regime derives from the ideas of strength, power and authority, which Neman feels best describes his works. The collection now consists of 60 unisex jewelry pieces in gold and silver available in stores and museums in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Dallas. Regime also collaborated with HBO television show “Game of Thrones” and is popular with celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Post Malone and Wiz Khalifa, among others.
Key styles: Neman said his coin necklaces sourced from Indonesia and Thailand and leather pieces were popular with buyers at the show. The collection is comprised mostly of gold and silver pieces, but also includes bracelets and necklaces in precious metals.
Retail price points: Necklaces are priced at $145 and thin bracelets in gold and silver retail for $75.
Brand: Russell Athletic
Backstory: Now owned by Fruit of the Loom, Russell was created in 1902 by Benjamin Russell, a sports enthusiast who started his business creating knitwear for women and children followed soon after by uniforms for teams around the U.S. His son Benny is credited with creating the all-cotton football jersey in 1926, which replaced the scratchy wool uniforms worn at that time. Fast forward to today, and the brand has mined its heritage by offering a variety of collections for everything from the mass market to trendsetting specialty stores such as Kith.
Key styles: At Agenda, the brand showed pieces from its Classics line that included blank T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies that retailers and customers could customize. But more interesting were the colorblocked and tie-dyed T-shirts and sweatshirts from the Heritage line. That modern offering also included a variety of pieces in retro colors including lightweight French terry fleece tops and crinkled nylon coach jackets with a cinched bottom and mesh interior for men. The women’s Heritage collection was more fashion oriented and included mixed media and utilitarian-skewed tops in muted earth tones, super cropped tops and teeny tiny shorts as well as bodysuits, track jackets and hoodies with raw edges and contrast edging with matching leggings.
Retail price points: Basic T-shirts sell for $30, fleece is $60 to $75 and jackets top out around $130.
Brand: Castore Sportswear
Backstory: The brand was created three years ago by Tom and Phil Beahon, brothers and former athletes (soccer and cricket), who set out to create high-quality sportswear with advanced performance features such as temperature regulation, antiodor properties and water and wind protection. The styling, which is slim and tailored, is intended to fill what the Beahons see as the white space for the athlete seeking an alternative to the Nikes, Adidas and Under Armours of the world. The golf and tennis collections are already sold at Harrods and Matches in the U.K. and are now making their U.S. debut for spring, targeting specialty shops such as Equinox.
Key styles: The polo shirts, T-shirts, trousers, shorts and jackets are created from Italian fabrics and manufactured in Portugal using welded construction that eliminates seams. The shirts are made from a comfortable Lycra polyester blend and feature the brand’s signature laser perforations for sweat wicking. A lightweight, seam-sealed, waterproof jacket is designed to be worn during activity, as are the quarter-zip pullovers and the fully waterproof Garcia hoodie that is the brand’s best-selling item. In terms of bottoms, there are both shorts and trousers, including the Sutcliffe chino in a poly/nylon blend that is both comfortable and technical.
Retail price points: Polos sell for $78 to $100, trousers for $200 and outerwear for $168 to $348. The Garcia hoodie is $230.