Eeny, meeny, miny, moe — make your choice — New York Fashion Week: Men’s or MAGIC.
A shift in dates by Project, the flagship men’s wear trade show of the MAGIC Marketplace in Las Vegas, to a week earlier in February is forcing many brands and retailers to choose between the two events or, in the case of smaller designers, create extra samples in order to have a presence at both.
NYFW: Men’s will run Feb. 4 to 6 in New York City while Project will run Feb. 5 to 7 in Las Vegas.
Already Liberty Fairs and Agenda have had to leave their longtime home at the Sands Convention Center in order to align with Project’s dates and have secured a spot in downtown Las Vegas for their shows.
Sharifa Murdock, co-owner of Liberty, said she’s aiming to deliver a different experience this time. Liberty will be held at the World Market Center, which she described as an “open space with four big tents” that will allow Liberty a clean slate to “create what we want. We’re going to do something brand new,” she said.
That will include “a lot of activations” that will offer a “fresh” take on the trade show scene. “We have to change something. The whole landscape of trade shows has changed dramatically and it’s all about an experience. So you either do something different or get out.” Murdock expects around 450 brands to show at Liberty, about the same as in the past.
Project, which is larger and generally draws over 900 brands to its Las Vegas show at Mandalay Bay, has also been working to enhance the experience for attendees over the past few seasons, offering more educational opportunities and amenities.
Although the overlap in dates with the CFDA is unfortunate, Informa PLC, the company that now owns Project, said it will do its best to navigate around the conflict.
“Our partnership between The Council of Fashion Designers of America and UBM Fashion, now Informa Plc, was created to help emerging and established designers get their collections in front of retailers as well as enhance retailer matchmaking services and provide market guidance for new CFDA members,” said Tom Nastos, president of ready-to-wear for UBM Fashion.
“We recognize the overlap with MAGIC, which runs Feb. 5 to 7, 2019, in Las Vegas and NYFW: Men’s, and are committed to working alongside the CFDA, our brands, retailers and media to ensure they are supported to best fit their needs. The overlap was an unfortunate result of external events and overall logistical challenges with market changes in addition to MAGIC venues’ unavailability in Las Vegas over the historic dates. Informa is working to ensure that this conflict will not occur in the future. We remain dedicated to the partnership and support of American designers,” he added.
Tommy Fazio, men’s fashion director for Project, acknowledged the problem but said there is actually very little overlap between the trade show and the participants at NYFW: Men’s. “The attendees are very different,” he said. Even The Tents, Project’s designer play, only has a few brands that show in both places. “It’s largely a different market,” he said, adding that Project expects to go back to its historical dates, which are around Feb. 12, in 2020.
Adding another wrinkle to the picture is that Mike Sampson, a trade show veteran who was with UBM for over 12 years, has teamed with Zappos to create a new direct-to-consumer show in Vegas that will coincide with the trade shows this time around.
Called Commotion, the exhibition will be held Feb. 5 to 7 in the burgeoning downtown area of the city, near where Liberty will be held. Commotion’s Instagram page boasts it will be “a disruptive and experiential event for fashion and lifestyle brands to provoke and inspire.”
“We’re going to be breaking the mold of the walking zombies,” Sampson boasted, colorfully describing the traditional trade show scene with buyers walking the aisles at large convention center spaces in search of brands. “I want to disrupt the trade show environment.”
Commotion will offer “music, art, food and excitement,” he said, and will include fashion brands seeking to sell directly to customers, either onsite or through Zappos’ e-commerce platform. Sampson is targeting 50 brands for the first edition of the show, including those in the sportswear, premium denim and accessories categories along with others selling headphones, sound systems and even cars. He is still finalizing the participants, but said that Maurizio Donadi, the creative director of Atelier & Repairs, will be overseeing a customization shop at the site.
Others who have committed to participating include Matias, a high-end jeans and outerwear brand; Nobis, a Canadian dual-gender outerwear label; The Grand Voyage, a footwear and accessories brand, and Pkg, a backpack and travel accessories company.
Attendees will not be charged to attend the inaugural event and Sampson is expecting it will draw more than 2,000 people a day.
“We’re always happy to be a part of something that brings companies closer to their customers and being able to do that in our own community of downtown Las Vegas is even better,” said Audrea Hooper, head of fungineering and special events at Zappos. In 2013, Tony Hsieh, the chief executive officer of Zappos, dedicated $350 million to revitalize downtown Las Vegas, a project that is ongoing.
Commotion is just the latest direct-to-consumer play that is becoming a trend within the fashion industry as brands seek to break out of the traditional trade show mold. The leader is ComplexCon, a streetwear-skewed festival/trade show in Long Beach, Calif., that was created by Agenda’s Aaron Levant and Complex magazine and has a large fashion component. The show last November drew around 50,000 people who purchased about $25 million worth of product.
Hypefest, a shopping event and festival created by Hypebeast, was held earlier this month at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Denim Days, a festival targeted to denim enthusiasts, was held in New York in September and will move to Nashville on Nov. 10 and 11.
But while these festival-style events are gaining enthusiasts, the traditional trade show is not going away anytime soon, as evidenced by the angst that the date shift has caused in the market for exhibitors, retailers and editors.
Durand Guion, group vice president of the fashion office for Macy’s, is trying to work out what he’ll do in February.
“It is disappointing that these two important events overlap,” he said. “We certainly celebrate and support a more robust NYFW: Men’s and feel it is an important way to showcase established and especially new design talent. However, the February trade shows in Las Vegas are where we finalize our seasonal buys, conveniently shop new brands as a team and also take advantage of being on the West Coast to visit our stores. We’ll be forced to make some difficult decisions as it is not possible to be in both places at the same time. Hopefully this will resolve itself going forward.”
Mark Beckham, vice president of marketing for the CFDA, agreed that while there is not a huge overlap of attendees at both events, it will present an issue for some. As a result, he’s working with Informa to see how any conflicts can best be addressed.
He said applications for participation will be going out to the CFDA members on Oct. 29 and a preliminary schedule for NYFW: Men’s is expected to be ready before Christmas.
One partial solution would be to frontload the New York shows and put more of the big-name designers on the calendar on Monday, the day before the trade shows start.
But if Billy Reid or Todd Snyder, for example, were to show on Monday, it would also impact New York Men’s Day, the showcase for emerging designers spearheaded by Agentry PR. Agentry historically has six designers present simultaneously in the morning and another six in the afternoon.
Erin Hawker, founder and owner of Agentry, is resigned to the fact that some of the CFDA designers will also be showing on Monday but is more concerned about the impact it will have on the smaller labels.
“Smaller designers don’t have the staff or multiple samples to be able to do both,” she said. “So they’re going to have to choose. It’s a shame that this overlap is shutting emerging talent out of one or the other.”
Courtenay Nearburg of Krammer & Stoudt, which has shown in the past few seasons at New York Men’s Day as well as at Liberty in Las Vegas, is one of those brands. “This move by Project is hurting companies like ours,” she said. “If we’re in New York, we can’t be present to meet with buyers in Vegas.”
She’s determined to do both and is incurring the cost to create a second set of samples for her agent, Peregrine Showroom, to bring to Vegas while she and creative director Mike Rubin participate in NYFW: Men’s.
Zachary Prell has participated in both events over the years. “We were on the calendar for four seasons and now hold appointments in our showroom during fashion week,” he said. “But given how important sales are in this climate, we’re going to divide and conquer.” So the company president and the sales team will work The Tents at Project while he remains in New York. “We feel like we’re stretched in two directions,” he said.
Matteo Maniatty, creative director of Descendant of Thieves, is also creating two sets of samples so he can have a presence at both Liberty and NYFW: Men’s. “We’re doing the morning session of New York Men’s Day and then I’ll fly out to Vegas,” he said. “But it’s going to be a tricky thing.”
Add to that the change in location by Liberty. While Maniatty said he enjoys visiting downtown Las Vegas, “are people really going to go there? I’m sure Liberty will pump things up and it’ll be a good show, but they may lose some people,” he said.
Peter Trainor, founder and designer of Max ‘n Chester, is still poring over what he’ll do in February. The brand typically shows during NYFW: Men’s as well as at Liberty in Vegas. “If I had to choose between New York Fashion Week and our showroom or Las Vegas, I would definitely choose New York,” he said. But he already has two sets of samples and is leaning toward also being a part of Liberty’s new show downtown. “We definitely have to think about it,” he said.
Billy Reid said that although the final decision hasn’t been made, he expects his brand will have a presence in both New York and Vegas. “Logistically, we may be a little thin, but we have two different teams,” he said. Even so, it will force the company to incur more costs. “It’ll put a strain on the management team, which will want to be at our show as well as in Vegas,” he said. “If the trade show was in New York, it would actually be a tremendous benefit, but when they’re separate, it’s hard.”
Reid may also do his best to show early so those wanting to attend both could do so. “We like going early, so we’ll see,” he said.
Patty Leto, senior vice president of merchandising for the Doneger Group, which hosts a large meeting in Vegas for its retail members, said that with the exception of a few fashion office merchants, the overlap doesn’t seem to be an issue for most stores.
“They’re more concerned that it’s the weekend after the Super Bowl,” she said.