Sam Ben-Avraham has mastered the pivot.
The Liberty Fairs trade show co-owner, who founded Project in 2003 before selling it to Advanstar Communications in 2005, is bringing Cabana, the swim and resort trade show he launched in Miami, to New York.
“I’ve had, like, seven lives in retail,” said Ben-Avraham, who is also known for operating Atrium stores, which have now transitioned into Kith shops. “When I had a store in Miami, my number-one category was swim. A lot of new brands came into that whole swim category around 2013 and we were looking for an elevated trade show experience.”
According to Ben-Avraham, who started the Cabana show with Janet Wong in 2013 during Miami Swim Week, holding a women’s-focused trade show in New York has always been of interest, but he had a hard time finding a consistent space — until now.
Cabana will take place from Sept. 16 to 18 at Pier 92 in New York. It will run alongside the Capsule women’s trade show, which will be located in Pier 94. Ben-Avraham said the venue will be transformed into a luxe, boutique environment with plush pink carpeting accented by gold fixtures. While the Miami show, which features around 250 brands, is comprised of mostly swim and resort assortments, the New York edition, which will include around 110 brands, will showcase more contemporary ready-to-wear with a selection of fashion-forward swimwear, resortwear, active and accessories. Brands will include Steven Alan Optical, Baja East, Thaddeus O’Neil and Dion Lee. The show will also include informational panels.
As the retail industry has suffered, so has trade show foot traffic, but Ben-Avraham believes the format will always be necessary from a logistical point of view.
“I don’t think trade shows will ever be irrelevant,” said Ben-Avraham. “As a buyer if I want to see everything I need to see, I have to visit a trade show. And I would never select my next season’s buy online. It doesn’t make sense. People are going to visit [fewer] trade shows, but they will never disappear.”
Ben-Avraham, who said he’s working with his team on revolutionizing the experience, doesn’t believe downsizing is the answer — he contends that if a show is merchandised appropriately, buyers will be happy — but he does think the trade show floor, specifically brand placement, has to reflect what’s going on in retail.
“Some brands have been sitting in the same position on the floor for the past 10 years,” said Ben-Avraham. “There’s a disconnect between what’s happening in fashion in general and what the trade shows look like. Because we are coming from a retail background, I’m very much in touch with what the consumer is buying and how that can translate to the floor.”
Although he’s received offers, Ben-Avraham said he has no immediate plans to sell Liberty or Cabana.
“I think we are still in the process of growing and exploring. For me this is actually the most fun moment of fashion. The landscape is changing and people are kind of lost,” said Ben-Avraham. “We created a brand that has a soul to it and I want the legacy of Liberty and Cabana to be around for a very long time.”
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