The newly minted SoCal Materials Show decided that for its second edition it would move its location from the California Market Center to a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport to make it more convenient for vendors flying in from around the world and the buyers who want to see them.
Vendors came from as far away as India, Italy, Mexico and China to display their wide selection of topnotch leather, canvas, synthetic fabrics, thread, foam, thermal lining and components used in the footwear, auto, furniture and apparel industries.
“I personally like the CMC as a venue, but companies such as Skechers and Deckers said it would be easier for them if it were on the Westside,” said Hisham Muhareb, who co-owns American Events Inc., the show’s organizer.
The new location was helping the small show attract some big-name buyers from Vans, Toms Shoes, Skechers, Deckers, DC Shoes, Puma, Calloway, Disney, Tesla and Volkswagen.
While the first show, last January, attracted 87 vendors, this season’s event saw only 57 vendors attending. “Part of it is that the Spring/Summer season for footwear isn’t as strong as the Fall season,” Muhareb explained, noting that shoe manufacturers are working on their Spring/Summer 2017 collections because footwear companies often work much farther out than clothing manufacturers.
The July 8–9 trade show at the LAX Marriott had a relaxed vibe to it as teams of shoe designers browsed through the selections of multicolored leather, bright fabrics, sturdy shoelaces and other raw materials used in various industries.
“We came because it is local for us, and it is a nice change to check in with our suppliers,” said Samantha Ford, a footwear-materials developer at Vans, headquartered in Cypress, Calif.
She and a team of designers were checking out the wide selection of leather that is treated and dyed every which way imaginable.
Also roaming the show was a team from Toms Shoes, whose designers work just a few miles away in the company’s headquarters, located in the seaside Playa del Rey neighborhood of Los Angeles.
They were looking at the colorful suedes and leathers at Ecco Leather, headquartered in Denmark and represented by Pacific Leather Group in Santa Cruz, Calif. The leathers were soft and faded and shown in casual styles with leather laces.
“This is a good chance to see our suppliers and find new suppliers in our own neighborhood,” said Julie Mosiello, Toms Shoes’ director of materials. “This is how the job is done. You see what is new, who those suppliers are and what can be done in the future.”
It is also a chance for the materials buyers to check out various kinds of leather and components with the entire design team in one big room.
Most of the companies that set up booths at the show were from China or Taiwan and represented by West Coast salespeople. But leather companies from Mexico were also well represented. This was the first time that Cubasa, from León, Mexico, was at the show.
Cubasa is a 60-year-old leather company that does about 70 percent of its business in Mexico and 30 percent in the United States. But the company is hoping to boost sales on the West Coast.
“The show is a little quiet, but we think it is pretty interesting,” said Guillermo Hernandez Sr., Cubasa’s owner and grandson of the founder.
“We have not seen too many customers, but the ones who came by were very good.”
Ananth Srinivasan, a partner in Nova, a 30-year-old leather company based in Chennai, India, was attending his first trade show in the United States. Normally, the company does private presentations to shoemakers that are mostly on the East Coast.
But the company has decided to explore more West Coast ventures after meeting in April with Skechers, which recommended the Indian leather company participate in the show. Most of Nova’s leathers are made from sheep and goat hides.
The show had been good for the company, which met with buyers from Puma, Crocs and Yellow Box.
Many of the vendors have attended American Events’ other two shows, which feature footwear materials and other items. The largest of the shows is in Portland, Ore., which will have 230 vendors at the NW Materials Show in September. The NE Materials Show in Boston will have 120 to 130 vendors at its September event.
The NW Materials Show is popular because of the number of major athletic shoe companies and outdoor-apparel ventures in the area—not least of which are Nike, Adidas and Columbia Sportswear. Under Armour is moving into a 64,400-square-foot former YMCA building near downtown Portland as it expands its footwear collections.
But several trendy lifestyle shoe companies are headquartered in Southern California, such as Deckers, known for its Ugg boots and its Sanuk casual shoes and sandals; Toms Shoes, whose canvas slip-on shoes appeal to a hip crowd; DC Shoes for skateboard aficionados; and Rocket Dog for the younger set.
“There are a lot of smaller brands that are up and coming here that might not go to Portland,” said Patrick Ready, who is the sales representative for Shan Been Jeou Leather, a Taiwanese company known for its full-grain leather. “So we are trying to penetrate the market down here.”
Lezin of Ecco Leather was busy talking to a number of customers who were fascinated by the casual and colorful shoes displayed using Ecco Leather. “It helps us to show new and innovative products, and that keeps us fresh,” said Lezin, who noted that Ecco Leather has a strong research-and-development department that keeps on top of trends and develops new products.
The show, he observed, wasn’t incredibly busy, but the people who came by were asking lots of questions. “There is enough time to talk to people and have some serious discourse,” he said.