LAS VEGAS — Yes, orders were filled and buyers discovered new lines across the nearly 20 recently ended trade shows in town this week. But there remains an overarching air of uncertainty as the industry and trade show model evolves to address a strong focus on going direct at both the trade show and vendor level.
UBM Fashion, which oversees 13 different shows in Vegas ranging from WWDMagic to FN Platform, is exploring ways of adjusting the traditional trade show model in a bid to reach the end consumer. Kelly Helfman, vice president of the WWDMagic, Project Womens and Fame shows, pointed to Intermezzo Collections’ New York vintage marketplace for consumers that proved successful in testing said types of programming and added they’re looking to do more of that as it continues to gain importance.
“Consumers now more than ever want to have a story,” Helfman said. “They want to have a story behind the brands that they’re actually wearing and they want to know more. So as these leaders within the fashion industry, it’s important for us to not only now connect buyers and brands but now consumers directly to those brands and, really, that’s the consumer telling us this. Millennials are interested to know everything and what’s involved with the brands they wear.”
Agenda has been one of the first to really embrace the concept of opening up its business model to a consumer-facing component with the Long Beach Agenda Festival, a one-day event mixing retail pop-ups, music, food, art and skate demonstrations. The event attracted 15,000 people for its first run and will continue on into next year.
“Without getting into specific numbers I will tell you that I definitely see a slowdown in the market in the U.S., which I think is going to have an inherent effect on any [trade] show anywhere it is,” Agenda founder Aaron Levant said ahead of the Agenda Las Vegas show held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center this week. “It’s probably undeniable that New York market week wasn’t as big as it was a couple years ago. I think that’s just an inevitable part of all of this. Retailers are folding up shop in record numbers. There’s less of them. Even the big ones are consolidating or filing for bankruptcy and then there’s the Amazon effect. Those things have really taken their toll. There’s just [fewer] retailers to go around, hence why you see us doing things to change our business model.”
In this light, Project Womens debuted a new partnership this year with Coeur trade show, the Los Angeles-based specialty trade fair. “With so many apparel boutiques looking to expand their offerings with lifestyle items, we thought it was a natural fit,” said Coeur cofounder Henri Meyers. Among the 15 non-apparel brands were fragrances, beauty products, home accessories, pet accessories and ceramics. “Stores can’t get by just selling clothes anymore,” said cofounder Lisa Elliott. “They have to offer something more to stay competitive.”
Helfman confirmed that overall attendance was better than expected while the vendors showing across the shows she oversees was about flat from the prior season in terms of brands and square footage.
“I felt like the shows were a little flat,” said Brien Rowe, managing director of the investment banking group focused on consumer and retail at D.A. Davidson & Co. “It seems like what used to be a three-day show is now becoming a two-day show. The last day was quite dead and, in speaking with clients and brands there, they tell me that increasingly buyers are not necessarily coming to the show like they used to. So buyer attendance felt a little soft. Contemporary felt soft.”
Rowe, however, noted streetwear as one of the bright spots along with brands who have a robust online strategy, pointing out his firm had several transactions under letter of intent from both the strategics and private equity, “but the interest is centering very much around our clients that have well-articulated, digital strategies and good growth in digital.”
Many brands have already gotten that memo and have taken steps to make the change.
Toky Castellanos, owner and designer of accessories firm We Are All Smith, marked a return to the PoolTradeShow at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center after a focus on selling direct in more recent years. He estimated about 75 percent of his business across the three days was from new buyers given most returning customers are more used to placing reorders online. His booth’s location, shared with Made in Mayhem, on an end cap adjacent to Project also helped.
“Having such a great spot and being neighbors with Project, I get exposed to a lot of vendors I otherwise would not have been exposed to, so it’s been great,” Castellanos said on the show’s final day. “I’m actually very surprised for how high the traffic has been for Day Three. People generally give up on Day Three and it’s been great.”
Fraser Ross of the boutique Kitross walked all of the Las Vegas shows and found a goldmine in immediates for accessories at WWDMagic, picked up shoes from the Kendall + Kylie line at FN Platform and reordered more Champion apparel. He noted greater flexibility on the part of vendors when it came to minimums and terms.
“What’s good about the trade shows is, I think a lot of people realize everyone needs business and everyone needs to help each other out right now,” Ross said. “It was a positive show for us.”
Here are highlights of some of the key brands at the shows.
Backstory: New York-based designer Julia Zhu launched Caara this season at Project Womens, aiming to offer a sophisticated, ageless take on fashion-forward dressing that attracted buyers looking for pieces for a 25-year-old customer up to 60-year-olds. Her runway inspirations include Comme des Garçons and Alexander Wang. Silhouettes skim the body, with dresses and skirts at midi length. Fabrics range from linen and rayon to denim and cotton twill in a palette ranging from white-on-white to khaki and olive.
Key Pieces: Striped shirting, linen midi-length dresses, jumpsuits, matching top and culotte sets, denim.
Prices: Opening price points are $78 for a heather gray T-shirt up to $150 for a jumpsuit. The denim pieces retail under $120.
Backstory: Peter Kim’s Los Angeles-based premium denim line has always had its finger on the pulse of youth; this season embodied by “It” celeb models Kaia Gerber and Gabriel Day-Lewis. This season, novelty is back in a way reminiscent of the early Aughts, with studs, lace-ups, racing waxed denim, stretch leather and even overalls making a comeback.
Key Pieces: The pink and white floral-printed trucker jacket and cropped jeans were a standout in the novelty category, while the micro-studded black denim trucker jacket and white lace-up fly jeans played to Hudson’s rock ’n’ roll vibe. The updated overalls were slimmer-fit, with cargo details.
Prices: $175 to $295; leather pieces start at $950.
Brand: Luxe Deluxe
Backstory: The Melbourne, Australia-based brand specializes in “casual luxury,” not disposable fashion. With an emphasis on textures over prints — think cotton lace, floral embroidery, crinkle silk and micro-pleats in black, white and blush — the line resembles an upmarket take on Max Studio in the Nineties.
Key Pieces: Embroidered drop-waisted chiffon dresses, lace bell-sleeve tunic tops and other statement-sleeve pieces.
Prices: $300 to $700 with a few pieces in the $1,000 to $1,500 range.
Backstory: Designer and founder Shadi Askari-Farhat renamed her Los Angeles label, formerly known as Tbags, in 2016. Since then, the elevated take on bohemian dressing has found traction at Saks, Revolve and Madison.
Key Pieces: Among the most fashion-forward looks was a midi-length denim skirt with a corset waistband, featuring Spanish-style embroidery on the ruffled hem. Rayon ruffled mini and maxidresses still rule, this season in mixed prints and hand-drawn florals. A blue-and-white plaid print was given the feminine treatment as a ruched, asymmetric sun dress.
Prices: Average price points for apparel range from $200 to $400 and accessories start at $40 for pom-pom purse charms and go up to $400 for oversized hobo fringed bags.
Backstory: Seoul-based designer Jinju Kang originally studied to become a broadcast journalist, but started her career working in the world of fashion event planning. Soon however, she realized she enjoyed the actual clothes more than the parties, so she went back to fashion school. Her line — founded eight years ago — started out with edgy biker-inspired looks but this season, inspired by silky printed fabrics, she softened her aesthetic to include ruffled tops and dresses.
Key Pieces: Kang’s washed linen cutout dress still had edge while maintaining the feminine softness of the overall collection. The mini buffalo-checked rayon-Poly blouse with the ruffled bib was a fun, contemporary take on Westernwear, while the long-sleeve, high-neck dress in a horse print had a high-fashion flair.
Prices: Most pieces average $120, while a premium fabric collection ranges from $190 to $1,300.
Brand: Paul & Joe Sister
Backstory: Paul & Joe Sister was created 10 years ago, 10 years after the Paul & Joe main line. Sister, designed by Sophie Mechaly, is more affordable and quirky. The collection is based on lace and animal prints (especially the cat, which is the symbol of the brand and part of its logo). Each season, the brand does a special collaboration; this season with Peanuts.
Key Pieces: A lurex and mesh striped shirt and scallop-edge shorts exemplify the girly Parisian spirit of the line, as does a pleated, tropical print skirt. The felines this season are rendered in peek-a-boo patches inside shirt packets, on button plackets and the backs of sneakers.
Prices: T-shirts range from $75 to $95; shirts are $165 to $195; dresses are $195 to $295.
Brand: Ranjana Khan
Backstory: Khan (who is married to designer Naeem Khan) has worked with other designers to create embellished looks for decades. Among them, Alber Elbaz for Lanvin, for whom she created the tulle-covered pearl necklace; Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier. In 2008, she decided to start her own jewelry line. Three years ago, after taking a two-year break, she returned with a collection inspired by her Frida Kahlo-themed birthday party. “I made some raffia earrings for myself and everyone wanted them,” she said. Next came fabric flowers, recycled fur and this season, feathers. “Our motto is go big or go home,” she said of the chest-grazing peacock earrings featuring trails of ostrich feathers.
Key Pieces: Ostrich feather, Guinea fowl, rooster tail, pheasant and turkey plumes adorn her colorful statement necklaces and earrings.
Prices: $50 to $500
Brand: Seven For All Mankind
Backstory: SFAM is one of the original Los Angeles premium denim brands. This season, it’s undergoing a reinvention, literally starting from the inside out. The deconstruction theme runs throughout the collection, from patched-together waistbands to a shirt made from an upside-down pair of jeans. The brand is also adding a streetwear touch with cropped French terry sweatshirts and logo track pants. Rounding out the collection are feminine white shirts. Its “We are Mankind” campaign underscores the inclusive vibe of the new collection.
Key Pieces: Patchwork cropped flairs, jeans with waistband hems, overalls and a dress featuring deconstructed pockets and waistband.
Prices: $169 to $248
Backstory: Named for designer Ivonne Magdalena, the line was launched in 2014 and is manufactured in Indonesia. Hallmarks include embroidered floral motifs and re-embroidered lace appliqués. Key silhouettes are fitted shifts with lace waistbands, as well as crop tops and pencil skirts with mesh illusion details.
Key Pieces: White eyelet off-the-shoulder styles, a yellow cap-sleeved, high-necked shift, a black ground floral print halter dress and a lilac lace romper.
Prices: $225 to $500
Brand: Zadig & Voltaire
Backstory: The French contemporary brand has exploded in the U.S. North American sales have increased 100 percent over the last two years and 2018 sales are projected to grow another 50 percent. The brand has opened nine new stores in the last 12 months including Century City, Melrose Avenue and Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Los Angeles and a New York flagship in SoHo later this month, followed by a luxury concept store in September at Madison Avenue and 65th Street.
Key Pieces: A floral camouflage maxiskirt, floral printed chiffon maxidresses, striped knits and graphic T-shirts.
Prices: $88 for a T-shirt up to $898 for a leather jacket.
Brand: Samantha Pleet
Backstory: Samantha Pleet started her namesake indie line not long after college where she went to Pratt to study fashion design. “I was very naive, not really knowing anything about the industry and that’s why I really dove in and just did my thing,” Pleet said of her official start in 2007. She made a name for herself with rompers and dresses nabbing the attention of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lena Dunham, Tavi Gevinson, Lorde, Haim and Jenny Lewis among others. For spring, the designer expands into shoes for the first time with chunky booties and sandals in a dreamy array of colors such as mint, peach and burnt sienna. “I did a collaboration with Wolverine a few years ago that lasted about four years and it was really great,” Pleet said. “It was successful but temporary and we’ve been wanting to launch shoes for a long time, but it’s just taken time to find the right factory and really get our ducks lined up for launching.” The shoe line is made in China at a female-owned factory.
Key Pieces: The tabernacle dress launched in 2012 and is what the brand is known for, with its twist details mirrored in a matching shoe for spring. There’s also the passion dress, a minidress silhouette with pockets and a mock-neck style. Pleet did it in a whimsical, but not overbearing print, for resort/holiday, which also comes in a bodysuit.
Prices: A bodysuit is $159, the passion dress is $279. The shoes range from $260 for the Tabernacle sandal style all the way up to the leather Legend boot which is $320.
Brand: Cuisse de Grenouille
Backstory: Parisian brand Cuisse de Grenouille takes its cues from the Sixties but infuses a laid-back surfer chic loved by founders and brother Lucas and Severin Bonnichon. The brand started in 2010 with a board short for men but has since expanded to include not only swimwear but a full collection for men and women. The line, made in Europe, in 2014 launched a collaboration with 14 boutiques globally for what it called its Surf in the City project, which offers travel guides for the cities in which the partner boutiques are located, along with a sweatshirt unique to that locale.
Key Pieces: The sweatshirts bearing the “Surf in the City” feature were popular with buyers in Vegas, as was a short-sleeve button-down top with subtle high-low detailing. The company’s dresses, such as drop-waist shirtdresses are also part of the relaxed-yet-chic vibe the brand offers.
Prices: Tie shorts are $153, a dress with a crisscross detail on the back starts at $325 and sweatshirts run anywhere from $135 to $218.
Brand: Marna Ro
Backstory: The Made in Los Angeles brand is carried in retailers such as H. Lorenzo and Please Do Not Enter. “We’re changing the vibe and we’re trying to make cool-girl clothes and just something hard to find that a lot of girls have to buy in men’s wear but the fit is better,” said designer Reagan Whitaker.
Key Pieces: Matching sets, such as an olive-green jogger-style pant and cropped military-style jacket, along with heavily distressed denim.
Prices: Pieces range from about $120 and go up to $550. Pants are around $350.
Brand: Petals and Peacocks
Backstory: The edgy brand was conceived in Vegas at the WWDMagic trade show, where couple and founders Victoria Velasquez and Ryan Mante first met. Together the two launched their brand the following year in 2011 and now sell the line direct through the company’s web site as well as retailers such as e-tailer Dolls Kill. The company in January expanded into accessories such as socks and sunglasses. “They’re all trendy and affordable,” Velasquez said of the sunglasses. “It’s not the $100, $300 kind. If it gets messed up, you can buy two or three pairs.”
Key Pieces: Graphics on T-shirts, sweatshirts, outerwear and now socks are what the women’s streetwear brand is known for.
Prices: Graphic T-shirts start at $34, a cropped hoodie is $60 and coach’s jacket is $70. Accessories such as socks are $14 and sunglasses retail for $20.
Brand: Look From London
Backstory: This 25-year-old Brooklyn brand straddles apparel and intimates but is always trying to remain true to the original concept of vintage-printed garments. Fishnets in metallics and sheer prints are made mostly in-house and have been picked up by retailers such as Free People. “We’re known for our prints,” said owner Tony Taylor. “If you’re into printed tights and you’re not carrying Look From London, then you’re not carrying [tights].” The line’s since expanded to tops, headwear and socks with raw edges. “We’re always looking for that edge in terms of accessories,” Taylor said.
Key Pieces: Printed fishnet and lace stockings with matching tops.
Prices: Most pieces are under $20. Socks are $15, while tops are $28.