ENK International is repackaging its first trade show, The Collective, in an effort to modernize and expand the reach of the men’s wear event.
This story first appeared in the December 10, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Collective, which caters to classic vendors, and denim and contemporary showcase Blue will be combined into a new show called ENK New York. The Collective, rebranded as The Designers Collective, will be a segment of that event, along with Blue. In addition, the new show will leave its longtime home at Pier 94 on Manhattan’s West Side for a new location: The Tunnel and La Venue in Chelsea.
ENK New York, which will run from Jan. 17 to 19, marks a significant departure for ENK’s strategy for men’s wear — one that underscores changing standards for trade show production and reflects the evolution of men’s retail.
“One truth in fashion is that you have to change to survive,” said Elyse Kroll, founder and chairwoman of ENK International. “Just as brands have to move forward, so do we.”
The new show will be smaller — about 150 vendors instead of 240 — with a more intimate and updated look. The format will be modeled on ENK Vegas, the company’s successful West Coast show that launched three seasons ago. “I knew that we had a good formula for Vegas,” Kroll said. “It’s small, concise and well-merchandised. It made sense to replicate that here.”
ENK New York will share the Vegas show’s minimal, open plan design — uniform white booths will replace custom buildouts — and some exhibitors from Vegas will double down for the New York show. “There are going to be natural synergies between the shows now,” said Mike Sampson, the director for both ENK New York and ENK Las Vegas.
The new show will represent a wider swath of the men’s market. In addition to its contemporary and classic showcases, ENK New York will introduce two sections: Tomorrow, dedicated to emerging designers and brands from around the globe, and Clean, which will focus on men’s grooming and hygiene.
“It’s a growing category and one that has proven very successful for the retailers that have been willing to try it,” Kroll said of men’s grooming. “It’s a new category that not enough stores are exploiting.”
The emphasis on new designers and emerging categories reflects Kroll’s larger strategy for ENK New York. “We want to be leading the market,” she said. “Our job now is to direct retailers and show them the future.”
ENK stressed it is not walking away from the traditional men’s wear business. “The market needs classic; it always will,” Kroll said. “Old is good, but if you want to be part of what we are doing, you need to be able to move forward too. It’s about repackaging what’s trusted.”
The launch of ENK New York comes as new entrants to Manhattan trade show market have intensified competition for exhibitors and traffic. MRket, in particular, has made a successful bid for parts of The Collective’s business, as well as its personnel. Charles Garone, former director of The Collective, left ENK in November to join MRket as director of sales for Vanguard, a showcase he is launching that is geared to the contemporary market.
Kroll acknowledged that after 20 years, The Collective, the show she helped found in the early Eighties and which launched her in the trade show industry, was in need of facelift. “It was time to move on,” she said.
The Designers Collective, as it was initially called, is recognized for playing an important role in the evolution in men’s wear. It was the first trade event that catered to the better and luxury end of the business, and helped many domestic and international brands become established businesses. “We really were doing something ground-breaking,” Kroll said. “Designers wouldn’t have dared to exhibit at a trade show before then. It wasn’t done.”
Brands confirmed for ENK New York include Theory, Victorinox, Ben Sherman and Citizens of Humanity — all exhibiting at Blue. Unconditional and Company of We are slated for Tomorrow. Nio and New York Shave have signed on to Clean, and Allen Edmonds Shoes, 7 Diamonds, Agave, Canterbury of New Zealand and Ted Baker are locked in for The Designers Collective.