The first Los Angeles Fashion Market of 2015 proved to be surprisingly upbeat for many exhibitors, who reported seeing steady traffic from primarily West Coast retailers.
The show kicked off on Jan. 11 at the California Market Center, the Gerry Building and select showrooms at The New Mart. Jan. 12 was the official start for The New Mart and the Cooper Design Space as well as the Designers and Agents, Select and Brand Assembly shows.
The January show typically draws a smaller crowd than the big Fall and Spring markets in March and October. Although most showroom reps reported seeing local buyers, a few said retailers traveled from Washington, Arizona, Michigan and Hawaii to shop the show.
Walking the CMC
Buyer traffic at the California Market Center was on the slow side. While no one was breaking any records, there were signs of brightness.
Recently, the Karen George & Co. showroom on the third floor tweaked its interior space, lifting the carpet to reveal industrial concrete floors. The showroom owner changed the lighting, painted the walls and took out some tables to create more space. The result has been more buyer walk-in traffic. It also helps to be right next to the elevators.
Sande Zipser, a sales rep at the showroom—with five lines, including Poema, Sisters and Bagoraz—said business had been steady. “This has been the best market for this time of year,” she said.
She and showroom owner Karen George said buyers coming in seemed to have a more optimistic economic outlook for the future.
At the T & A Showroom on the fifth floor, sales representative Shala Theus said Sunday was the busiest day for market. Mostly out-of-town buyers were visiting during the first days of the event, which ended on Jan. 14, but local buyers said they planned to pop by the showroom on Jan. 15 or 16, when things were less hectic. “People are buying Immediates and things to be delivered in March and April,” Theus said. The showroom carries 12 young-contemporary lines that range from Dear Creatures, Eight to Four and Paolo Hernandez to Colombian lines Color Siete and Rosé Pistol.
For new showroom Le Meilleurs Inc., also on the fifth floor, this was a disappointing market for its young contemporary lines Kaii and Bttn. Phillip Kim, the showroom’s sales rep, said he had some appointments, but the walk-in traffic was disappointing. “The foot traffic that walks in may only have one boutique, or they are trying to start an online store or they are thinking about opening a store,” he said.
Having Fall merchandise in stock was a boon for showrooms. Robert Friedman, who for years has had a self-named showroom on the third floor of the California Market Center, said he got Fall orders for his Canadian line Frank Lyman Design.
“I got some good appointments and good orders, but in general it was slow,” he noted.
Consistently busy at The New Mart
Some showrooms at The New Mart opted to open a day early, on Sunday, Jan. 11, which proved to be a busy day.
“Sunday was probably our busiest day,” said XCVI’s Matthew Gill, who said traffic throughout market was split between locals and out-of-town buyers.
“They seem to be excited to be seeing Summer,” he said.
For Rande Cohen, owner of the Rande Cohen Showroom, Sunday was “fabulous.”
“It was one of my best days as far as quantity and order writing,” she said, adding that Sundays are always a hit with buyers.
“They appreciate working on Sunday. It’s not as crowded,” she said.
In addition to local retailers, Cohen said she was seeing “a lot of Arizona and a lot of Hawaii.”
Cohen said her lines—including Ann Ferriday tops and dresses, Crown Jewels T-shirts, Peace Love World’s beach-themed casualwear, Old Gringo boots, and Fickle’s made-in-LA pieces—were well received.
She was particularly pleased with the reaction to PJ Salvage sleepwear and loungewear.
“My reorder business was off the charts—and I don’t say that very often,” she said.
Diane Vonderheide, owner of The Vonderheide Showroom, also got off to an early start on Sunday but said the good turnout continued throughout the market.
“We had traffic every day,” she said.
For Liza Stewart, owner of the Liza Stewart showroom, the market was surprisingly good.
“January in LA has traditionally been a fairly strong market, but we were all surprised,” she said. “The environment was super positive. Our buyers were very open to try new resources. We’ve had a lot of openness to quality and that price structure for fine fabrications.”
Good business at Cooper
For many showrooms at the Cooper Design Space, buyer traffic and sales were better than expected at LA Fashion Market.
Israel Ramirez, owner of the Siblings Showroom, said his women’s contemporary showroom enjoyed the best sales of a January market since it started business in 2009. “Traffic was up slightly,” Ramirez said. “[Buyers] were committed to buying more.”
However, a crowded trade-show calendar has many showroom owners keeping an eye on the next shows.
On Jan. 14, the last day of the LA Fashion Market, Patrick Heitkam of the Ted Baker London showroom shipped the U.K.-headquartered line’s Autumn and Winter 2015 collection to the Project New York show, which runs Jan. 19–21. However, he said that the recent run of the LA Fashion Market proved valuable for his company.
“It gives us a head start on the season,” Heitkam said. “If [an item] looks like it is going to be a bestseller, then we can produce more stock.”
So far, buyers have been interested in outerwear for men and prints on dresses for women.
At the Noella showroom, the only new looks displayed during the January market were the pre-Fall looks from its client Sachin & Babi, headquartered in New York. Lien Vets, Noella’s owner, said her other clients would introduce their Fall looks at the Coterie show in February.
At the recent run of the January market, Mikey Herlo exhibited the Cotton Citizen brand men’s line at the Community Service showroom and saw retailers such as American Rag, Fred Segal and Ron Robinson. Other retailers seen at the building included Evereve, headquartered in Edina, Minn.; KSL Resorts; and Nordstrom.
Going gently at the Gerry
The Gerry Building wasn’t overwhelmed with buyers, but there were a few wandering the halls. As Bea Gorman was showing a visitor around her Salt & Pepper Showroom, which she shares with Emmalena Bland, two buyers walked in and said, “We’re looking for jewelry.”
They were in luck. The showroom carries an Israeli line of jewelry called Zzan, which has been doing extremely well, Gorman said. The line recently sent new items to update the showroom’s collection.
Gorman said this show helped her open up new accounts for Zzan and the Australian line Banana Blue, which sent samples from its Fall 2015 collection for market week. “In general we have had an okay show, but the reaction to Banana Blue has been fantastic and customers have come in and placed orders.”
The showroom is also carrying a new sweater line called Santiago Knits. It is designed by Julio Santiago, an Argentine designer, and is hand loomed in Los Angeles from light materials such as silk, linen and viscose. “We had a lot of customers who told us they don’t want wool sweaters,” Gorman said.
Business at the Vertigo showroom, whose owner, Shawn Far, also owns the Gerry Building, was very subdued for the mid-tier line of women’s clothing. “It has been pretty slow. It is typically not our best market,” said account executive Natalie Curiel.
Busy at Lady Liberty
The January market proved to be a busy one for the showrooms of the Lady Liberty building. Showroom owners and staff claimed higher retail traffic compared with last January.
Leary Forteau, a sales rep with The Park Showroom, estimated that he saw 20 percent more traffic compared with last year.
“I haven’t seen traffic like this in January. It was definitely busier,” he said.
Forteau considered it more remarkable that buyers browsed The Park’s men’s brands because the LA Fashion Market is typically considered a women’s show. Forteau saw retailers such as American Rag, Kitson and The Den in Carlsbad, Calif.
The January market was a time for introductions at The Park. Brands making their showroom debuts included Michael Stars’ men’s line as well as New Zealand brands I Love Ugly and Thing Thing.
At Lady Liberty’s The Globe showroom, Tracey Smith, a co-owner, estimated traffic increased 30 percent for her contemporary showroom, which represents brands such as Sam & Lavi, Tryb and Torn by Ronny Kobo. “People are ready to look for Fall,” Smith said. “They’re not so many people looking to fill holes,” Smith said of retailers ordering Immediates. Boutique retailers such as Madison, Ron Herman and American Rag visited The Globe, as did retailers from the Midwest and the Rocky Mountain West.
Bright spots at Select
On the CMC’s main floor was the better contemporary–brands show Select. There were some 24 accessories and clothing brands that displayed their lines inside the Fashion Theater. The traffic inside the theater, where the aisles were wide, was sparse.
“It has been pretty slow, I think, for everyone,” said Bridget Eldred, a sales rep for the contemporary women’s brands Vava, Voom and James & Joy. “But we have had a few orders come in.”
Voom, designed by Joy Han in Los Angeles, is a consistent participant in Select.
Another regular participant in the show is New York–based Magaschoni, a luxury line with a reputation for quality fabrics. On display were mostly sweaters made of cashmere or cashmere blends, but the company also makes dresses, pants, jackets and blouses.
David Merk, Magaschoni’s senior vice president of sales, said the show was going well for him. “The traffic has been somewhat spotty, but the accounts we contacted have come in. We haven’t seen a lot of new accounts,” he said.
Broad reach at D&A
While there were many California retailers shopping the Designers and Agents show at The New Mart, many of the exhibitors reported seeing buyers from across the country.
“It’s been all over the place—Dallas, Chicago, Florida, Australia,” said Christopher Seelif, owner of the B&S Showroom in New York and a longtime D&A exhibitor.
“We always do well at this show, Seelif said. “In January, we do really well.”
Seelif said the retailers are optimistic but also realistic.
“They want things they know will sell, but they want special things,” he said.
The lines carried by the B&S Showroom are casual lifestyle collections with an “LA–meets–New York vibe,” Seelif said. His lines include New York–based Go by Go Silk and Lola & Sophie, Los Angeles–based Illia and R&R Surplus, which is based in Arizona but made in Los Angeles.
Another longtime D&A exhibitor, Mattie Ilel, designer of Los Angeles–based J.P. & Mattie, said she was seeing a mix of Southern California buyers but also had appointments with retailers from Hawaii and Colorado
“It gets crowded first thing in the morning, and then the appointments start,” she said on opening day of the show.
This season, J.P. and Mattie introduced bags made from recycled leather jackets mixed with the detailed hand embroidery done by Hill Tribe artisans in Southeast Asia. Some of the styles incorporated details such as jacket pockets in the final design. The company also introduced a group of hand-embroidered tunic tops in an ultra-lightweight fabric.
Los Angeles designer Bryan Emerson was a new exhibitor at D&A, showing her Bryan Emerson line of hand-dyed luxury scarves.
Emerson said she decided to show at D&A because she was looking to land more California accounts, and she did, adding that she saw retailers from across Southern California as well as buyers from as far as Colorado.
At the Brand Assembly show, a mix of returning exhibitors and new contemporary lines met with buyers in the Penthouse of the Cooper Design Space.
Tuesday was a busy day for Elizabeth Lewis, owner of The SYDNY showroom, a long-time exhibitor at Brand Assembly who opted to show inJanuary for the first time.
Lewis represents and distributes Australian lines such as Tiger Lily, Ministry of Style and a new line, Auguste, which features boho-chic pieces such as floral dresses and rompers.
A few of Lewis’ lines were showing Summer collections, and some were showing “a little Fall.”
Retailers are optimistic and “excited to try new things,” Lewis said. “They’re looking for more special pieces. The big deterrent last year was the weather, which you can never predict.”
This season, Los Angeles label Rachel Pally showed in two locations: the company’s longtime showroom, Hatch, at The New Mart, as well as at Brand Assembly.
Nicole Lustigman, who represents the line on the East Coast and was in Los Angeles to show the line at Brand Assembly, said she was mostly seeing West Coast buyers, although she added, “I had two from Michigan.”
Designer Ada Komorniczak was showing at Brand Assembly for the first time with her Sacramento, Calif.–based belt line, Ada Collection.
“We’ve been looking for placement here in Los Angeles,” Komorniczak said. “We are a California-based company but haven’t been doing any LA markets for the last couple of years. We like the layout of this show. So far it’s been great. I’ve been able to reconnect with some retail stores we had down here.”
Exhibiting at a show like Brand Assembly also gives Komorniczak a chance to show buyers how to tie her belts and style them with pieces from the other exhibitors’ lines.
“Belts are a special category,” she said. “Stores that have been carrying us for years say the belts help sell the clothing. It’s an interactive accessory.”