WEST COAST WONDERS
FROM ECLECTIC GRAFFITI ARTIST INSTALLATIONS TO BUILDING RENOVATIONS, THE CALIFORNIAMART AND NEW MART ARE SEEKING NEW WAYS TO ENTICE BUYERS TO VISIT SHOWROOMS AND TRADE SHOWS.
Byline: Katherine Bowers
Whoever said business and pleasure don’t mix hasn’t checked in with executives at the CaliforniaMart and New Mart recently.
On the heels of significant renovations to public gathering spaces (the CalMart opened up its 13th floor to panoramic views of downtown and the New Mart renovated its third floor), both buildings are combining creature comforts and new trade shows to combat economic blues and entice travel-wary buyers.
At the CalMart, executive director of creative marketing Trish Moreno is developing a slate of new markets and shows, including creating a second junior market in April as a companion to the October market.
“Juniors are a growing category for us,” Moreno said, pointing out that reps for local junior vendors spend a lot of time in New York. “We’d like to help them create more opportunities to draw majors into our building and stay here.”
Other plans in the pipeline include bringing in a swim show to replace the International Swim and Activewear Market, which will move to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in October 2002.
Focus, a new contemporary and young designer show, bowed at the November market with 45 exhibitors and will return for January market, Jan. 11-15, Moreno said.
But since all work and no play makes market trips dull, Moreno has tapped local talent to do performance art pieces in the lobby as buyers register.
Recent markets have kicked off with graffiti artist Man One painting a vivid, mammoth canvas and teams of Otis College fashion students sketching models posing in the lobby. For the upcoming January market, Moreno has tapped Krislyn, a floral sculptor who will design an arrangement of blossoms during the first morning of market.
She and her team have worked on evening events, hiring musician Garth Trinidad to play during the Mart’s soul- food barbeque.
According to Moreno, the food, music and performance pieces “create a vibe in the building that people are attracted to.”
She added, “I’m trying to do things that people will talk about, that they might connect with and be moved by.”
At the New Mart, general manager Ethan Eller is eyeing ways to fill his newly refurbished third floor during non-market weeks. Designers & Agents, a boutique young designer show to be staged Jan. 11-14, takes the space for five markets.
“It’s a perfect space for Hollywood wrap parties and multimedia events,” Eller said.
The New Mart may also “hop on the gift bandwagon,” Eller said, referring to the CalMart’s one-million-square-foot lease to create a home accessories and gift venue. Eller said he could imagine bringing in complementary vendors who want a different venue than a traditional gift show.
Eller was buoyed by a 10 percent increase in buyer traffic in November. He praised the efforts of the contemporary boutique show Designers & Agents, which drew a buyer from Collette Paris, a landmark boutique, among other key stores.
The three-year-old show added a cafe and lounge for the November market, two features that will become standard at future D&A shows, according to show organizer Ed Mandelbaum.
“We brought in a local caterer and it added the image we wanted to have in the market, which is very friendly and accessible,” he said. “The lounge became a nice place to have a sandwich and do your [buying] homework.”
Although traffic from Japan and Asia dropped sharply because of Sept. 11, the November D&A included notable new exhibitors such as London-based Ghost, William B., Shoshanna and Tocca.
“European manufacturers felt they had to come to see their customers here,” Mandelbaum said. He added that he hopes to woo these exhibitors back as well as monitor the show’s offerings so that it reflects top trends each season.
“We’ve grown out of people calling us,” Mandelbaum said. “But we’re getting to the point where it’s time to shop the market, see where our voids are and invite people that fill the voids.”
Mandelbaum and partner Barbara Kramer also produce The Annex by Designers & Agents, a smaller show that runs in January, June and August. Mandelbaum estimated the next Annex, slated for Jan. 11-14, will double its exhibitor base to 40 and draw 500 buyers.