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Domestic Trade Shows Evolve to Keep Up With Demand

Sustainable and conscious-driven fashion takes center stage while organizers double down on core missions.

This year’s domestic trade show calendar reflects a market experiencing change in its reaction to a shifting retail landscape. In response, show organizers are not just opting to put on a fresh face for buyers this year, but are reconfiguring events and venues to meet demands.

Included in the playbook is embedding innovation, sustainability and digital convergence into broader, more traditional trade show themes. There’s also an intensified focus on children’s wear and streetwear as well as a brighter spotlight on emerging designers — with “newness” and “new ideas” springing from the pages of show agendas across the market. From a logistical perspective, some events have seen calendar changes, such as the men’s Project event in Las Vegas — which now overlaps with New York Fashion Week.

On the East Coast, the Children’s Club is returning to the Jacob K. Javits Center In New York Jan. 6 to 9 with Curate, the highly selective showcase highlighting the industry’s most elevated children’s collections. The strategy behind Curate is to connect retailers with innovative designers in contemporary children’s fashion. The brands will be presented in a modern and product-centric display. Children’s Club showcases every category of children’s clothing, from newborn to age 12, layette items, fashion accessories, footwear, toys and gifts.

Returning for its second season, Project Women’s, formerly Intermezzo, focuses on emerging and established women’s brands and will feature contemporary collections, denim and accessories. Among the brands being shown are Anouk, Rachel Pally, Sundress and Velvet by Graham & Spencer. Project Women’s will also run concurrently with Accessorie Circuit.

One highlight of Project Women’s will be Oasis, a prestigious showcase of emerging and noteworthy brands, and Conscious Collections, a presentation of sustainable and cause-oriented brands. A sampling of brands at Oasis include Anthony Urso, Arsayo, Dena Roy, Entre Reves, Fig & Bella, Global Girls, Harshman and Say the Sun.

Coterie, which highlights women’s apparel, accessories and footwear designers, will have several “neighborhoods,” including: Edit, curated luxury and contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories for women; Tmrw, advanced contemporary lines and emerging designers with global perspective; Footwear, luxury footwear for women; Beauty, apothecary and beauty products for women, including more natural and clean beauty brands; and Vintage, unique and luxury curations for retailers and private collectors. Among the vintage brands showing are Morphew, Kitschtopia, Classic Coco Handbags and Peaches ‘n’ Cream Vintage and Orlando Vintage.

In collaboration with the Conscious Fashion Campaign at Coterie, supported by the United Nations Office for Partnerships, Coterie will recognize more designers and retailers who are incorporating the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Brands and designers that are working to end poverty, protect the planet, practice sustainability and raise awareness through meaningful philanthropic and customer engagement initiatives in an effort to transform our world through fashion will be showcased at Coterie. A panel discussion is in the works. Coterie will also feature fall-winter collections from Colombia and Brazil, including luxurious leathers and high-quality knits. Meanwhile, Moda will be showcasing an upscale mix of modern contemporary rtw collections targeting consumers in the moderates space. The brands that participate at Moda have a distribution range that include boutiques, specialty doors and department stores. Brands that have shown in the past include Karen Kane, NYDJ, Donna Salyers’ Fabulous Furs and Mitchie’s Matchings.At Fame, organizers are positioning the show as a destination for retailers looking for fun, trend-driven fashion for women. The rtw brands that show at Fame target the younger contemporary consumer. The show includes a section called Fame2Go, featuring trend jewelry and accessories for cash-and-carry, and wholesale orders. Brands that have shown in the past include Gracia, Monoreno, Staccato and Thread & Supply.This year, organizers are reiterating their place and purpose in the market. For many, this simply means reminding the market of the show’s mission.

Designers & Agents, for example, has been a platform dedicated to independent brands and helping them gain exposure with cultivated, fashion retailers. President Ed Mandelbaum said, “The mission at D&A has been consistent, to be responsive to the needs of the retailers and designers that our platform serves. We have been able to accomplish that by focusing on the creative integrity, quality and authenticity of the collections that exhibit at D&A. It sounds simple but this is the foundation of our identity and frankly that of every great retailer as well.”From his perspective, the real challenge is for stores “facing a changing landscape.” Mandelbaum said, “The growth of e-commerce, the direct-to-consumer brand model and Instagram shopping have had a significant impact on brick-and-mortar shops. As a trade show, it puts us in the eye of the storm, our role is to bring product to the marketplace that will enable retailers to distinguish themselves from the rest and refine their identity. That is the bottom line.” For the women’s-only Capsule show, the goal is to convene independent labels with established industry brands. Organizers aim to offer companies and artisans who favor feminine, youth-driven designs with an emphasis on craftsmanship and attention to detail. Capsule inspires the progressive, culturally aware woman to keep her ahead of the curve of what’s next in fashion.

This spring, Liberty Fairs acquired Capsule, a men’s and women’s apparel and accessories show that had been owned by Reed Exhibitions since 2014. Reed, the leading event organizer, holds 500-plus events in more than 30 countries and owns the surf and streetwear-focused Agenda trade fair. Created in 2007 by the New York-based fashion consultancy BPMW, Capsule stages multiple men’s and women’s shows each year in New York, Paris and Las Vegas. A Berlin edition was shuttered two years ago.

Capsule started as a men’s-focused show staged during men’s market weeks and has made its mark by showcasing independent, high-end designers. In 2010, it launched its first women’s edition in New York. In September, the Premium Group purchased a minority stake in Liberty Fairs Fashion Group, a deal that will serve as the precursor to a strategic alignment between the two trade show operators and bring the Liberty, Capsule and Cabana shows to Europe and Premium to the U.S.

On the West Coast, there are plenty of shifts taking place.

The action sports and streetwear trade show Agenda’s flagship Long Beach, Calif., iteration was scrapped by organizers in favor of a festival format taking place in the summer. The Long Beach version of Agenda, previously held biannually, was the largest of the locations and was the city where founder Aaron Levant started the show a decade ago.

Rob Weinstein, vice president of marketing for ReedPop West, said the decision by Agenda parent Reed Exhibitions to shelve the business-to-business show in Long Beach was based on what executives were hearing from vendors.

“We only exist to serve them and what we got from them was the need for a consumer-facing event on this type of scale and that is where their interest lies,” Weinstein said.

Agenda Las Vegas is the remaining Agenda show specifically for the trade and comes back to Nevada in February. Weinstein confirmed, at least in the near term, the focus remains on a business-to-business offering with no plans to convert the Vegas iteration of the show into a similar consumer-facing festival.

There is change still for Agenda Las Vegas, along with Liberty Fairs as the shows relocate to downtown to The Pavilions at World Market Center.

The move marks a departure from the Sands Convention Center, which is where Agenda and Liberty have been held for a number of years. The shows being held at the Sands, from a logistics standpoint made it easier for buyers to access other Las Vegas shows on the Las Vegas Strip. Complimentary car service will be offered to the new location from the Mandalay Bay and Las Vegas convention centers in a bid to make getting around easier for buyers.

Elsewhere in Vegas, trade show organizers for WWDMAGIC continue to explore digital integration with the physical shows. MAGIC Online launches in February to provide wayfinding and directional tips to buyers, in addition to making personalized suggestions of what vendors should potentially visit based on an individual’s profile.

The goal with MAGIC Online, explained Informa Fashion Group managing director Mark Temple-Smith, is to shore up efficiencies in the buying process while in Vegas. It’s part of a $15 million capital infusion from Informa Fashion Group to be funneled into various developments, including new technologies.

Informa acquired UBM earlier this year, bringing into its fold WWDMAGIC, Coterie and Project among other shows.

Informa reported buyer pre-registration for the upcoming WWDMAGIC up 50 percent from the year-ago period.

Looking at the men’s market, it’s clear some juggling is required this season. While the New York trade shows in January remain unchanged — running in late January after the conclusion of the European runway shows — anyone wanting to attend the February shows in Las Vegas are now presented with a conundrum.

Because of a shift in date by Project due to a venue issue, the shows were moved ahead by a week and will now run Feb. 5 to 7. But that pits them directly against New York Fashion Week which will be holding its men’s runway shows from Feb. 4 to 6.

To lure people to the desert — and align with the Project dates — Liberty is relocating its show downtown to the World Market Center where it will offer a show with “a lot of activations” to mix things up a bit this time around.

Agenda, which has been a longtime partner of Liberty’s, will also be hosting its show at the World Market Center. Interestingly, this is the only traditional trade show Agenda will hold since its flagship event in Long Beach is being converted to a consumer play.

At Project, which will remain at its longtime home at Mandalay Bay, the show will include a partnership with the Metropolitan Fashion Cluster of Montreal for the second season as well as MRket@Project to spotlight sportswear and accessories.

At its New York and Vegas editions, N:ow at Project will be part of the mix. The concept, which is a collaboration with WGSN and Highsnobiety and centers around the hot streetwear market, made its debut in Vegas in August and will be added to the New York show in January.

The New York and Vegas men’s shows also have a new overseer. Lizette Chin has been named president of men’s wear for Informa, which owns Project, and is being charged with growing Project and MRket. Tommy Fazio, who had overseen the shows until last month, was snagged by Liberty to serve as a consultant to both of its upcoming shows to help acquire brands and retailers to attend.

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