Yes, I will be in Las Vegas again for my bi-annual walk and talk fest around starting Monday morning.
I don’t quite do the the 20 shows mentioned in the article but I’ll go close. I usually skip the sourcing shows so you can put me down for about 18.
The Vegas round of trade shows is the big kahuna of US fashion trade shows. It is hard to imagine that we need that many apparel options but obviously we do.
In the article, you will hear from a couple of people who I know, who I used to buy Wildlife Works from me in my days as National Sales Manager, who are long time LA retailers and who I respect – Fred Levine of M.Fredric and Diane Merrick of the Diane Merrick boutique in Los Angeles.
I’ll be filing a full report on my website early the following week, and blogging and posting all week as I go.
All around it has been a very unusual start to the year in the fashion world. The retail side continues performing slowly after a soft holiday season. The wholesale side has been convulsed by the arctic weather in the east that have made getting to the trade shows Iditarod-ian … Mush!
My agent contacts tell me they are seeing demand for immediate goods as buyers fill in on orders they were wary of writing during the Spring14 wholesale selling season last year. And many buyers have skipped the east coast trade shows because of the weather.
So it is shaping up as an interesting week. I expect strong buyer traffic but wonder how far out they will be willing buy given the continued chop on the economy.
All will be revealed by this time next week, Dear Reader. Keep your eyes on this space.
Loving Las Vegas: Retailers Share Tips for Navigating the Las Vegas Trade Shows
By Andrew Asch | Thursday, February 13, 2014
With 20 apparel, footwear, accessories and sourcing trade shows taking place in Las Vegas market at the same time in February, thousands of brands are competing for attention, and the ambiance can be thrilling, festive and, ultimately, exhausting.
From the massive MAGIC Market Week—including MAGIC Men’s,WWDMAGIC, Project, Pooltradeshow, FNPlatform, WSA@MAGIC, ENK Vegas, the Tents at Project, Project MVMNT and Sourcing at MAGIC—toMRket, Accessories the Show, Stitch, which was part of Modern Assembly—which also includes Liberty, Agenda and Capsule—to CurveNV, Women’s Wear in Nevada (WWIN), Kidshow and the OffPrice show, there is a lot of ground to cover.
California Apparel News asked retailers who have been going to the show for decades for advice on how to survive the show, how the week has changed over the years (MAGIC was headquartered in Los Angeles during the Reagan administration) and what is next for fashion.
Giving memories and much-needed advice are Fred Levine, co-founder and menswear buyer for the M.Fredric chain of boutiques, which is headquartered in Agoura Hills, Calif.; Colleen Winter, founder of Chico, Calif.–based e-commerce emporiumLulus.com; Don Zuidema, co-founder of West Hollywood, Calif.–based boutique and fashion line LASC; and Diane Merrick, owner of the Diane Merrick boutique in Los Angeles.
How long have you been going to MAGIC? How has it changed?
FRED LEVINE: I’ve been going to MAGIC since the early ’80s, when it was a men’s apparel show. I was strictly a women’s apparel retailer at the time but found it important to check out the trends in designer denim lines. They were just emerging at that time—lines likeJordache, Sassoon, Chemin de Fer, etc.—and the MAGIC men’s show was the only place to see them all under one roof. More than 30 years later, I’m still attending!
The show evolved from a limited men’s exhibition to a full apparel and accessories show for men, women and even kids. As an apparel retailer, I feel that if there is one show to see, it’s this one. It’s so complete and covers every aspect of product and retailing needs. Even without leaving paper at the show, a retailer can get a feel for the buzz in fashion, what designers seem to be breaking out and what direction is being taken in denim, skirt lengths, jumpsuits, dresses, etc. You can walk the various shows and almost by osmosis take in a “feel” for what seems to be trending. And now, with the cutbacks mandated by a tough economic climate, it’s possible to cut down the travel dollars and the time commitment to one grand show. Lisa [Levine, partner and womenwear buyer at M.Fredric] and I no longer find it mandatory to make trips to Europe and New York since we feel that MAGIC gives us enough exposure to trends. In a few days we come back home filled with a handle on what’s happening in our industry.
COLLEEN WINTER: I’ve been going to MAGIC for 18 years, since 1996. It has really gotten bigger. There are all of these shows-in-shows. Instead of just having MAGIC, there is FNPlatform, ENK, Pool, Project, —there seems to be so much to see! It makes it hard for a buyer to see everything. Combining shoes with clothes is the most difficult for us. We have to carve out time for MAGIC’s footwear show, WSA, as well as Platform, and we still see all the apparel.
DON ZUIDEMA: Probably since the mid-’80s. It was the first MAGIC show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. They had the bubbles in the parking lot—similar to what Project is doing now with The Tents. Big, white, inflatable structures made out of vinyl fabric at the convention center. As the show kept growing, they kept building these bubbles in the parking lot. There wasn’t Pool, Project. There weren’t any sub shows. Now the producers of the shows set themselves apart, improving on what they do, so there is uniqueness to what they do. That is how they appeal to retailers.
There have been so many new shows that have come along. It has increased competition among shows. Each show elevated itself to respond to the current market, and the ways that shows merchandise themselves has considerably improved.
DIANE MERRICK: About 30 years. … MAGIC was one great big huge show in the Los Angeles Convention Center. I remember that they were obsessive about moving to Vegas. They wanted to move to Vegas because it was the better venue. There was more glitz and glamour. There were more things to do at night.
It was a men’s show and eventually brought in women’s. It wasn’t great, not until WWDproduced the WWDMAGIC show. But the whole ball didn’t start rolling until Project came in. They got hip lines; it became more of a place to go and see. MAGIC, Project and ENK are very upscale.
What shows do you shop?
FRED LEVINE: We try to cover as much as possible. We start at MAGIC to see some of the juniors trends that seem to be influencing the entire women’s apparel direction. Then we visit ENK to see many of our existing vendors to see what they’re coming up with for the following seasons. Then we do Project to see an amazing array of men’s product and hopefully find some new resources. Men’s product is slow to change so if we come across something new and exciting at the show, it pays the price of admission by injecting our men’s collection with something fresh.
DON ZUIDEMA: Liberty Fairs, Project, Curve, MRket, Capsule, MAGIC and Agenda.
What shows do you shop?
DIANE MERRICK: MAGIC twice a year. There is Pool, MAGIC, Stitch. I also go to JCK in June. It’s the big jewelry show in Vegas. It is breathtaking. They have bowls of diamonds, rubies on the counters, but you almost have to give your first born to get into the shows. You have to show invoices, a retail lease, a valid driver’s license and resale numbers. If you bring a friend, you have to go through the whole thing over again.
Vegas seems to encompass everything, but Fashion Market LA has everything, too.
How do you pace yourself and not get exhausted?
FRED LEVINE: We pace ourselves by resting up for the big week and then force ourselves to take breaks for meals even if we are on a roll and don’t want to stop. We’re both in pretty good physical shape, so that helps—especially when we slide on our running shoes for what amounts to a fashion marathon. Advanstar, which owns and manages the show, has been amazing in helping out at this challenge of covering it all in a few days. They have a program set up for retailers who own larger-sized chains—we’re probably the smallest of the group. It’s called MAGIC Select. This program offers us airport transportation and transportation to and from the different show venues. They also assign us a concierge who makes sure we are well taken care of with our hotel reservations, entertainment and other needs. Advanstar really has made our trip so low maintenance that the stress and hassles of travel are pretty much eliminated so that our energy isn’t sapped. Makes sense from their end, too, because they wind up with retailers who are more energized and welcome the trade-show week instead of dreading typical out-of-town hassles.
If we pace ourselves right, we can enjoy the nighttime dinner dates or vendor parties. Lisa and I really enjoy spending some personal time with our business partners, some of whom we have known for more than 30 years. We love our industry and the personalities. MAGIC is the one time we can experience the lighter side and share good times with the others. Having fun is so important to a fulfilling experience in this tough industry and in such challenging times. We try not to overlook this, and MAGIC gives us this opportunity.
COLLEEN WINTER: We go to a lot more regional shows to make sure we don’t miss on a brand and to make sure that we see everything new. We also like to order close to our ship dates. During the last month, we’ve tried to see as many vendors as we could before MAGIC, so we could get our orders in. Otherwise, we might miss them at MAGIC. It is too big, and trying to do clothes and shoes, by the time you throw in ENK and Project, it is too many things to see. We dress comfortably because it is all about business for us. It is comfort first, fashion second. We get there at the moment MAGIC opens. We’re always the last ones to leave, when everyone is closing their booths and turning off the lights. We need every second. Every time we hit a new booth, we split up and each take a section, then we come back and discuss. We know to make decisions quickly. We know right away if something it going to be a super seller. A lot of people tell us that we’re the most efficient buying team. We know exactly what the Lulus girl wants. We know who our customer is. When you don’t know who your customer is, you’re trying to please everyone.
DON ZUIDEMA: I can think back to a few years ago, when I took assistant managers to the show, they all thought it was fun and there were a lot of pretty booths. But three-quarters through the day, they ask, “How do you do this?” It’s about pacing ourselves. I map out what I’m going to do during the shows. I plan my day rather than be scattered.
Shoes always have to be comfy, something that will work well with concrete floors, and do well with walking—it is a priority. I’ll wear some great Nike shoes (one is called the Lunar, one is called Free) because they are really comfortable.
DIANE MERRICK: I wear sneakers. When I get to shows, I lose track of time. I don’t get tired. The minute I hear there is a show, I’m off and running.
What fashion trends will we be seeing in fall?
FRED LEVINE: I wish I had a clear answer for this, but I’m sadly at a loss. There has been a lot of sameness in the past few challenging years, so we haven’t seen much freshness from the contemporary designers. Maybe because they’re playing it safe these days? But we remain optimistic and hope that the recent modest recovery will uncover some risk taking by the designers and possibly charge the consumer with a reason to buy and change out what’s hanging in their closets.
We’re hoping that we see someone taking the reins with body design, color, fabrication or something that will pop! Then we can bring it home to our customer and present an exciting Spring/Summer collection in our stores. We need “Wild! Fresh! New! Fun!” so our customers can find the must-haves to express themselves and their optimism going into healthier economic times.
COLLEEN WINTER: We really are interested in statement coats this year. We’re also going forward with plaids, midi lengths and prints. We’re into slouchy sweaters. It’s something we did well with last year. We’ll go with asymmetrical slits and skirts this year, maybe some menswear as well. We try to buy as close to the ship date as possible since trends change quickly. We don’t like to buy far out.
DON ZUIDEMA: We’re seeing denim. It is not as strong as in the past, [but] denim is slowly coming back. We’re seeing some great knits, some great sweaters and jackets. Also trending are some technical fabrics, comfortable pants and sweats. There is a lot of emphasis on technical fabrics, but they are being bought in the contemporary market.
DIANE MERRICK: We’re positive with everything that has to do with leggings, flowing tops, a lot of cashmere, beautiful fabrics. Everybody is looking for loose, wonderful pants with a great look. Jeans have really fallen off. I don’t see ladies asking for jeans. But things can change in five minutes.
How do you prepare for the Las Vegas shows? Do you do any research beforehand?
FRED LEVINE: I prepare by just observing what people are wearing in the streets in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice, Silver Lake and some of the trendsetting areas of LA. I can get a better handle on the latest looks in denim, dresses, slacks, accessories, etc., by studying what clothes people are shopping in and dining in instead of what’s on the shelves of the leading retailers or in the magazines. Maybe not too scientific, but it’s worked for us over the years. Being married to my buying partner, Lisa, and being big brother to M.Fredric’s kids’ buyer, Mardi Fox, and scouting fashions with them makes it a nice and an easy way to study the fashion scene on the streets of LA!
COLLEEN WINTER: A month and a half before MAGIC, we set appointments for vendors going to the show. We see the lines before MAGIC. We try to see as much as we can before the show. It gives us more time to seek new vendors.
With long-term vendors, we’re meeting with them almost every week. MAGIC is the time to meet new vendors. We do leave time to walk the rows. We love finding new companies. I wish there was more time. We barely stop for lunch; we bring lots of nuts. The best is high-powered protein nuts, usually almonds.
DON ZUIDEMA: I try to plan out—I got four days to try to plan out what shows I can attend in those days, and in those days I’m accumulating information and making a list. I also don’t make appointments. I do “stop-bys”—I’ll stop by and take a look. I’ll walk the shows and see people I’m not familiar with. We need to keep being challenged and see what is going on.
Part of it is being there, it is just inspiring, seeing a lot of great ideas, talking to fellow retailers and friends in the industry. They give some insight. In some way, it’s a chance to be inspired by the others. You never know what you might find around the next corner.
DIANE MERRICK: Just magazines and the Internet. I like to be surprised. I don’t like to have preconceived notions before I get to the shows.