L.A. FINDS ITS NICHE
SPECIALTY SHOWS ARE ACTING LIKE BUSINESS MAGNETS TO DRAW NEW BUYERS.

Byline: Kristi Ellis / With contributions from Katherine Bowers

LOS ANGELES — Niche trade shows have grown significantly in this regional market and in many cases now act as the catalysts for the five major fashion weeks.
The CaliforniaMart and The New Mart are both hosts to a fistful of such shows, which run concurrently with markets and act as business magnets by drawing in hard-to-reach retailers.
Among the important shows in this trend are: the International Textile Show, ENK’s Pacific Champions, the International Swimwear & Activewear Market, Look and the junior and contemporary show — all at the CaliforniaMart — and Designers & Agents at The New Mart.

CALIFORNIAMART
The three-day International Textile Show has grown more than 40 percent over the past eight years. It features 350 domestic and international exhibitors, covering more than 200,000 square feet of exhibitor space. Typical attendance ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 buyers.
“The show has always been successful,” said Ruth McKeown, executive director of marketing with the CaliforniaMart. “It takes all of our available temporary space.”
She said she expects to have the same amount of exhibitors and buyers at the next show, Oct. 23-25.
McKeown noted that the show will continue to host international pavilions such as it has done with Texitalia, which is sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission. The Texitalia show, held in the mart’s fashion theater, has featured such Italian mills as Gamma Seta sas, Cuomo Srl and Rosati Spa. The lines represented a range of categories from better to haute couture.
The Look show, which features contemporary women’s and young men’s, has gone through many incarnations. It is a much smaller show than at its initial launch in 1996.
Mart officials moved the biannual show, which peaked at 245 companies and 408 lines, from the Los Angeles Convention Center into its own building in 1997, a decision based on timing and lack of support from major industry players.
Today, the show is housed in 25 temporary showrooms featuring 40 lines. A group of permanent showrooms in the building also participates.
The show no longer has its own fashion presentation. Mart officials folded a separate Look fashion show into its contemporary fashion shows on Friday night.
“The show is smaller because exhibitors became permanent tenants in the building or were picked up by multi-line showrooms such as Nikki Young,” said Karen Mamont, coordinator of markets, trade shows and special events for the mart.
Despite the changes, the show still draws top-notch stores, including: Hot Topic and a variety of smaller stores such as Dungarees, Curve, Yellow, Eight Ball and Lounge Fly, according to Mamont.
ENK’s Pacific Champions show, held twice a year at the mart, has a completely converse set of issues, having outgrown its space in the mart’s fashion theater.
Elyse Kroll, president of ENK International, the producer of such upscale trade shows as Fashion Coterie, Accessorie Circuit and Intermezzo Collections, said she has no plans to move, however.
“We are busting at the seams,” said Kroll. “At the moment, retailers are programmed to go there, and it is a very successful location for us,”she said.
“We have brought a lot of new talent to the West Coast,” Kroll continued. “These companies don’t have permanent showrooms there and for many, it is their first-time presence on the West Coast.”
The show, which features accessories, contemporary sportswear, sweater resources and bridge lines, boasts 45 exhibitors in 50 booths.
Past exhibitors include: Showroom Seven International with such lines as Whistles, Kazuyo and Alice Roi; M. Kalan and Rebecca Danenberg.
Kroll attributed the success of the show to the quantity and quality of retailers who shop it. At the April show, her niche drew approximately 500 buyers over a four-day period.
Although the International Swim and Activewear Market (ISAM) has eliminated its July show, all indications are that the October show should continue its tradition of selling out the 13th floor of the CaliforniaMart.
“We’re expecting about the same participation as last year,” said McKeown.
The October show, combined with a smaller April show, typically draws 90 exhibitors representing 125 swim and activewear lines. Most exhibitors take temporary space. Past exhibitors have included Jantzen, Anne Cole, Body Glove, Rampage and Speedo.
“The April show really piggy-backs off the women’s wear show to draw traffic,” said Barbara Brady, ISAM’s director. McKeown added that the October show gets its momentum from the unofficial junior market, which draws majors from all over the country.
Brady said ISAM’s October fashion show will be held at the Natural History Museum in downtown Los Angeles.
“Every year it’s a challenge,” she said. “Coming up with some place to do the event that’s large enough to hold everyone.”
Brady said she expects about 700 people to attend the show. A crowd of a thousand packed last year’s fashion show, but Brady credited the location for the mass attraction. “Everybody wanted to go to the Playboy mansion,” she explained.

THE NEW MART
This is home to the ultrahip, cutting-edge Designers & Agents, a contemporary and young designer apparel and accessories show that adds new names to its ranks every season.
In fact, the show will expand by 5,000 square feet in its next installment, Nov. 3-6, bringing the total square footage to 20,000, according to Ed Mandelbaum, a co-founder and partner.
“We had to turn good people away at our last show in April,” said Mandelbaum.
He hopes to accommodate those lines at the expanded show in November.
Designers & Agents holds its larger show twice a year, in November and April, in addition to a smaller version, named D&A Annex, in January and June.
Mandelbaum said the November show will feature an additional 20 booths, for a total of 75, and an additional 35 collections, for a total of 135.
Among those designers and sales agents at the April show who are expected to attend the November show are: Daryl K, Parallel, Great China Wall, J.P. & Mattie, Lotta, Spooner Prague, Sunde, Jill Stuart, Cimarron, Fragments, Kajani, Kristensen Du Nord and Brave New World.
He noted that the show is split evenly between accessories and apparel.
Buyer attendance has increased 20 percent per show and reached 500 at the April Designers & Agents show.
“We hope to be the big rainbow at the end of the tunnel as part of a group of people that transforms L.A. from a local market into a national and international market,” said Mandelbaum.

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