As the Las Vegas trade shows open for business this week, attendees will see a new emphasis on the way technology in all its forms — e-commerce, social media and digital robotics — are affecting the industry today.
Sourcing at Magic, the first show to open its doors on Sunday at noon, is creating a fully operational micro-factory with “concept to creation” capability on the show floor that will demonstrate the way vendors can utilize all or parts of this technology for on-demand, small-batch orders.
Christopher Griffin, president of Sourcing at Magic, said, “We try and be as current and forward-thinking as possible. We are a resource show, so the big thing is the micro-factory. We’re literally building a 2,000-square-foot-plus factory on the show floor. It will have elements of complete automation with robotics grabbing and moving items from one process to the next, including digitization of prints.”
The end product? “A white T-shirt, of course, because the world can never have enough T-shirts,” he said wryly.
His statement points to two major industry issues that technology has been striving to address: efficiency and sustainability/eco-friendliness.
“In terms of the onshoring trend, we will be able to bring a small amount of manufacturing back to the U.S. because it requires a smaller crew, not the days of 20 people sitting around Juki sewing machines. Even on a global scale, as people are seeking answers for more sustainability and eco-friendly apparel-making processes, this solves some problems,” he said.
One of the vendors at Sourcing has the technology to ink-print “jeans” on cotton without using any water. “From a distance, it looks exactly like a blue jean, down to the worn cotton and rivets,” said Griffin. Clearly, it’s just an example of what can be done and won’t be putting the denim companies out of business any time soon, but “that is where we are headed,” said Griffin. “Technology will answer a lot of the pressing problems as it relates to apparel production and economies of scale.”
“I don’t think brands are using this technology to become vertical operators, as that’s not practical,” said Griffin, but he noted that even a medium-size brand in a city like Los Angeles could take a section of a warehouse and install a micro-factory to complete small- to medium-sized orders in-house.
Looking forward, as technology becomes more refined and costs come down, more factories could convert from old to new machines, and with support from megabrands such as Levi’s that provide jobs wherever they do manufacturing processes, cities in California, Georgia and the Carolinas could regain their former glory as apparel hubs – in less space to boot.
The model micro-factory will consist of machinery from EFI, Optitex, EFI Reggiani, Klieverik, Zund and Eton System, along with robots and sewing from Henderson. “No one company can do it all,” said Griffin, adding that representatives and contractors for each of the various parts will have booths offering services to vendor attendees.
Not surprisingly, the buzz has helped lead to an uptick in show preregistration, with many of the major players expressing interest in seeing the micro-factory. One seminar that’s attracting attention features a Hugo Boss production executive speaking about automation and how it’s been utilized at the company.
Over on the women’s side at WWDMAGIC, the opening night party on Monday, headlined by “The Voice” Season 10 winner Alisan Porter, will have a big-name sponsor also grabbing people’s attention: eBay. The Internet retail giant will also have a mannequin display and a booth on the show floor as it makes a play to become a more prominent marketplace for new apparel with branded eBay shops.
“Right now eBay is more known for vintage and used fashion, but they have a large business with new. They really want to work with the brands on our floor to sell on their platform as well as direct to consumer,” said Kelly Helfman, vice president of WWDMAGIC and Pool Tradeshow, as well as Fame and Accessories the Show.
She added, “Although many people are scared of online and technology, we feel it’s important to support it as well. A lot of our retailers are online; we want to help our brands cultivate all sorts of platforms.”
Also new to the WWDMAGIC trade show floor will be GLAM, a micro show-within-the-show on the Concourse that will feature a curated selection of beauty brands to complement traditional apparel and accessories retailers’ assortments. Of the 122 new brands exhibiting at WWDMAGIC, 50 are accessories and beauty.
“WWDMAGIC being the forefront of fashion needs to get in front of trends for the boutiques,” said Helfman. “With beauty, especially indie beauty, we are trying to encourage traditional apparel retailers to pick it up as added value for the store.”
The vendors are on par with the young contemporary and junior target of most retailers shopping WWDMAGIC, and include Hollywood Fashion Secrets/Ardell Lashes, B’Lvinn, Ready to Wear, Jesse’s Girl Cosmetics, Sarah Horowitz Parfums and MakeUp Eraser. “It’s really Millennial brands, as we want to stay affordable, young and relevant,” she said.
To make it easy to buy, GLAM offers both cash-and-carry and wholesale ordering. “We want it to be shop-able for our retailers so they don’t get overwhelmed. It just takes up a small shelf in your store,” she said.
Looking forward, Helfman said the beauty and gift category is something the show is focused on growing for 2018 and 2019.
“We see WWDMAGIC overall growing for us because affordable fashion is where it’s at. Or brands are similar in pricepoint to Zara and Topshop, and it’s a well-attended show, so we project growth in that segment,” she said of beauty and gifts.
There is already a gift area within the Accessories section of WWDMAGIC that carries beauty items, among other added value merchandise for accessories retailers, which Helfman noted are very different buyers from young contemporary and juniors apparel buyers.
Other new WWDMAGIC features include booth awards, in partnership with Accessories magazine, that are meant to encourage brands to step up booth design and recognize emerging brands. There’s also a 1,000 gift bag giveaway on Day 2 of the show, which is “our version of a swag suite at the Emmys, to say thank you to our retailers,” said Helfman.
The UBM/Magic Marketplace shows have also homed in on the differences among buyers shopping each of the shows in efforts to make attending the shows as efficient as possible. For example, the contemporary and indie-focused Pool Tradeshow is located adjacent to the Project and Project Women’s shows in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, across town from Sourcing and WWDMAGIC at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“With Pool being dual-gender but predominantly women, we kept the adjacency to Project,” said Helfman. With 53 cash-and-carry vendors and 56 new brands total, Pool will also feature a custom-pocket screen-printing station that hearkens back to its roots over a decade ago as a show that specialized in graphic Ts. “The Makers area is a space with live artists and trend mannequins, and the Vibes area is where you can go to literally absorb the vibes of Pool,” she said.
Over at Project and Project Women’s, a new partnership with Montreal and province of Quebec-based vendors has spawned another show-within-a-show called MMode, located within the Project show. Featuring 60-plus brands with an emphasis on “Montreal style,” apropos for the fall season, the show will include Pajar, Gorski and Quartz and Co., among others.
The rest of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center show layout has also been tweaked to amplify Project Women’s message and efficiency.
“This season we have made our first strategic steps in reimagining the MBCC marketplace, this including the movement of the Project Women’s show in Bayside E and F. This hall is more spacious, allowing all of women’s to sit together and helping us to create a more powerful dual-gender Project marketplace utilizing the main thoroughfare and further re-merchandising the show brands to better utilize our new entrances,” said Danielle Licata, women’s fashion director/vice president, brand director, Coterie for UBM Fashion.
She added, “To enhance our floor layout changes, we have added digital signage elements, which will be increasingly present in our future shows, adding a new layer of brand promotion and energy.”
The central Project Women’s lounge will host a range of brand-focused and -sponsored events, ranging from brand launches to cocktails for a cause benefiting the Las Vegas Victim Fund, and gratis professional head shots for LinkedIn and social networking profiles.
The now de rigeur social media moment will include superinfluencer Ania B, who will be utilizing her time creating content for brands and promoting in-season products from the Project Women’s roster. Ania B’s past projects include a Nordstrom launch in Canada, travel campaigns with Canada Goose, and contracts with Lancome, Tiffany & Co., Samsung, Coach and Adidas.
There is also a new screening process to refine the show further to maintain Project Women’s better contemporary placement in the marketplace. New brands to Project Women’s include Cecilia Woo, Gold Hawk, Huma Blanco, 143 Tees, Les Jeunes Etoiles, Harshman, Anthony Urso and Immunocologie.
The Couer section, which debuted last season with a similar goal of GLAM of offering curated added-value items for apparel retailers, has returned with brands such as Kelly + Jones, AYDRY & Co., Hadron Epoch, PLTNC and Immunocologie. Oasis, the Project Women’s section devoted to emerging brands, includes newcomers Anthony Urso, Mexicana, Harshman and PANACHE MMXVII.