OK, I must have seriously been walking around with my eyes closed at Los Angeles Fashion Market Week last week in the downtown fashion district. I just did not see the activity that industry newspapers and bloggers have been reporting.
Apparel News reported, “There was a certain buzz in the air at Los Angeles Fashion Market for Fall 2013, held March 11–14 at the various showroom buildings in downtown Los Angeles.” …… “For the hordes of retailers who flocked to Los Angeles Fashion Market, budgets were up even if shoppers were having to be nudged to make a purchase.”
The press release from the California Market Center had the same upbeat tone.
Hey, I’m all for upbeat. In economics, many times, perception is just as important as reality. But I just wasn’t seeing or feeling it.
My general feedback from showrooms, agents, designers and industry types was that the week was flat.
Many think that the trade show schedule at this time of year is so impacted that buyers suffer “trade show fatigue”, particularly if the buyers have done the Vegas shows, then gone straight to New York for Coterie, etc.
Others think that out-of-state buyers are reluctant to come to LA for market week like they used to due to cost and a preference for getting their buying done in Vegas were they can have some fun at the tables or shows.
The international buyers don’t seem to be coming to LA in the numbers they used to. Between Paris, New York and Vegas, there is no need for them to.
I have also heard chatter that LA is not considered the fashion center it once was; that it hasn’t been a fashion destination for a while. This might be true for now but is definitely cyclical.
It also has to be remembered that California has been hit harder than the east coast by the now 5 year old recession. Despite glimmers of improvement, retail in CA has a long way to go.
Designers & Agents
Four times a year, on the usually vacant third floor of the New Mart, you’ll find the Designers and Agents showcase. This is usually my first stop. Being a destination booth show, Designers & Agents provides a good read on the energy and buyer activity of the whole week.
Known in shorthand as “d&a”, it was close to full with 120 booths and 130 brands of contemporary men’s and women’s basics, separates and denim, shoes, hats, bags, jewelry and accessories. On Monday, there was excellent energy and buyer traffic. It was quieter when I dropped by on Tuesday.
One of d&a’s regular exhibitors, Christys’ London debuted their sharp new range of snap-back caps, Brooklyn Hat Co. The caps come in full cloth crowns and trucker mesh backs.
d&a was not as busy as usual for this time of year which pretty much sums up the vibe of the whole week.
The Showroom Buildings
The New Mart and Cooper Design Space buildings had reasonable buyer traffic but not what I expected.
The Coeur accessories booth show on the top floor of the Cooper Building had 50 booths with 60 brands showing. I liked a lot of the collections. Foot traffic was slow.
The California Market Center contemporary floors were quiet when I was there.
COLAB are going to be a huge hit in the US. COLAB is a unique eyewear experiment. Every season they collaborate with 5 fresh artists, musicians, designers and/or creatives to concoct a completely experimental look for a range of limited edition, high quality eyewear. You might have seen their Anthony Lister Campaign taken up by blogs and magazines around the world. They have worked with some incredible people including Stefan Marx, Kill Pixie, Geoff McFetridge, Jonathan Zawada, Eboy, and The Presets just to name a few. The integrity and always evolving nature of the brand concept has already opened doors such as Colette Paris, Conran Tokyo, Grandpa Stockholm and many more.
I am looking forward to hearing how the Fall 13 selling season progresses. Let’s hope the optimism expressed by some about last week is real. I still have my doubts that the industry is sustainably improving as much as reported. Then again, my financial background and the false dawns of the past few years have made me a skeptic. Like I have said so many times in these blogs, I’ll believe it when I see it. But when I do, I’ll be just as happy (and relieved) as everyone else.