LA Market Draws Western Retailers Looking for Everything from Immediates to Resort
Business was surprisingly good during the June 6–9 run of Los Angeles Fashion Market despite a schedule that overlapped with several other regional markets as well as the California primary election.
Retailers from California and other Western states turned out to shop the permanent showrooms at the California Market Center, The New Mart, the Cooper Design Space, the Gerry Building and the Lady Liberty building as well as concurrent trade shows Designers and Agents, Brand Assembly, Select, ALT and Emerge.
The Los Angeles schedule overlapped with markets happening in Atlanta, New York and Dallas, but exhibitors reported seeing buyers from across the Western United States as well as Chicago and Florida.
Turnout at CMC
The June fashion market is a traditionally slower market than most, but buyers were walking the halls at the California Market Center.
“We had a different kind of market with retailers from all over,” said Kristine Cleary, whose third-floor Kristine Cleary Lifestyles showroom carries brands such as Fenini, Habitat, Nomadic Traders, Caite and Kyla Seo. “They are looking to fill in with Immediates and accessories.”
The catalog and lifestyle brand Soft Surroundings, based in St. Louis, visited Cleary’s showroom as well as buyers from the San Diego Zoo gift shop, who placed orders for animal-print scarves and several resorts that were previewing cruise lines.
At the Strategy L.A. showroom on the fifth floor, Dmitry Sviridov was seeing a few buyers for the various U.S., Canadian and European lines he represents, but he wasn’t overwhelmed. “It has been okay, but June is not generally a busy market,” he noted. He spends a lot of time on the road representing his brands such as Conrad C., Volt Design, Capote Collection and Nu Construction.
“People are buying closer to the season. The Holiday market doesn’t really exist anymore because people don’t dress up as much,” he observed.
Joyce Snyder—whose CMC showroom represents lines such as Stop Staring, Cherishh, Asian Eye Scarves, Maggy Rose and Teresa Marie for Heart of Haute—said it hadn’t been particularly busy but she was seeing specialty stores, catalog companies and better boutiques. “It’s a good little show, but I can’t say it’s great,” she said.
Busy start at The New Mart
For the showrooms at The New Mart that opened on Sunday, market got off to a strong start.
At the Rande Cohen Showroom, owner Rande Cohen started market at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.
“I thought I’d leave early, but I was here until 7,” she said. “It was steady all day long. It was definitely worth it.”
Cohen said she met with retailers from California, Nebraska, Texas, Washington and Oregon who were placing orders for Immediates as well as Fall and Holiday.
For retailers looking for gift items for Holiday deliveries, Cohen was directing them to crystal-studded flip-flops by Lori Jack, pajamas and loungewear by PJ Salvage, knit accessories by Wooden Ships, and Lisa Carrier’s candles and picture frames.
It was a “typical June” at the Allen Allen showroom, said owner Kari Carpino, who said buyers were primarily from Western states.
“I’ve heard mixed reviews about business from awful to great,” she said. “And I’m hearing [it’s an] election year a lot.”
Carpino said the company just shipped its Fourth of July merchandise, which is a typically strong delivery for the company, which bodes well for Holiday orders.
“Fourth of July is always huge and then they come back for Christmas,” she said.
At the WBC Clothing showroom, Desi Green said the turnout at market surpassed last June.
“I saw more people on Sunday [than last year],” she said. “They’re making shorter trips, which has been tough because they can’t get to see as many people as they want.”
Tuesday was surprisingly quiet, she said, adding, “Maybe because of election day.”
Buyers came from Illinois, Texas, Florida, Colorado and California ready to look at Holiday merchandise, Green said. But many were hesitant to place firm orders.
“They’re holding on to paper longer and not leaving it,” she said.
Cooper Design Space
This market, Bailey44 was showing out of its new showroom at the Cooper Design Space. The Vernon, Calif.–based contemporary brand had been carried by multi-brand showrooms in the past before but recently opened its first corporate showrooms on the East and West Coasts.
The market was a strong one, said Melissa Dench, senior vice president of sales.
“We’re so busy,” she said, adding that the company booked a lot of appointments but also saw several walk-ins, as well.
“We have a strong specialty-store following,” Dench said.
Retailers from California, Washington, Texas and Arizona were buying end-of-Fall and Holiday merchandise. Strong sellers included sweaters, pants, and bodysuits, Dench said.
“Our sweaters are doing incredibly well,” she said. “We do flat knit and fully fashioned. I’ve written a lot of pants and our bodysuits program continues to write in a big way. And they’re always looking for a holiday top or dress.”
Immediate deliveries were strong at the Siblings Showroom, said owner Israel Ramirez.
“Our lines are produced close to season. We have a lot of buy-now, wear-now merchandise,” he said.
Ramirez said he was mostly seeing California stores but did meet with buyers from Chicago, Nevada and “all Western states.”
“SoCal, I sense, is tough, but out-of-state people are happy with their business. It’s steady,” he said.
At the Seamless Showroom, Hannah Greene said traffic seemed light, but the showroom was busy with appointments.
“We have 30-plus appointments,” she said. “People are definitely ready to buy Holiday. Most have seen Fall already, so they were good to move to Holiday.”
Buyers came from across California as well as Texas and surprisingly “a lot of Florida—more than I’d seen in a while,” she said.
Cautious at Gerry
Showroom owners at the Gerry Building were noticing that retailers were unusually cautious during the June market. Stores were experiencing inconsistent sales that started at the beginning of the year. Particularly hard hit have been resort areas such as San Diego that rely on tourist traffic. A strong dollar is making it more expensive for foreigners to travel to the United States this year.
Julie Walls, whose showroom carries lines such as NYDJ (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans), Nic + Zoe and Bobeau, said she was surprised by the number of appointments showing up this time, but buyer budgets were not up. “I think buyers are being careful. I think they are really anxious and don’t have consistency in sales,” she noted.
She saw many out-of-state buyers from Texas, Washington and Idaho but not that many from stores from Southern California. “People don’t want to make the trek with the traffic,” she said. “And they can come here whenever they want.”
Brisk at D&A
It was a tightly edited mix of brands at Designers and Agents, but exhibitors reported strong business at the show.
“This show has been crazy. I did twice as much as the last show, in March,” said Kim White, designer of Los Angeles–based Kim White Handbags. “I saw a lot of new customers and existing customers and big stores. I was shocked. I did my numbers yesterday, and I was like, ‘Yes!’”
Christopher Seelig, owner of the New York–based Brothers and Sisters Showroom, was also pleased with the turnout.
“It was up from last year, a very interesting market,” he said. “I saw regulars and I saw a lot of new stores. We wrote a lot of Immediates, but most are Holiday [orders].”
Buyers were looking for special items, Seelig said, and “no-season brands, easy care, easy wear” were doing well.
“They always look for value, but it’s not about price,” he said. “It’s ‘Is this right for my customer?’ Whether that’s a $25 wholesale tee or a $300 leather jacket, it doesn’t matter.”
It definitely helps when the lines are retailing.
The showroom carries Illia, Go by Go Silk, Lola & Sophie, R&R Surplus, Jet by John Eshaya and Shelter Project, a newly launched line of shirts that benefits women and children in homeless shelters.
Business was brisk at the Minnie Rose booth.
“Since we’re from New York, they have to make appointments or they’ll miss us. We’re booked solid all three days,” said Mags Dombrowski, sales executive for the company.
Dombrowski said she saw retailers from California, Oregon and Washington as well as “a little Utah and some Florida, some Texas.”
Most were looking for Immediate deliveries and Holiday merchandise, she said. And the mood overall was good.
“People are upbeat this time,” she said.
In June D&A hosts its Green Room section for eco-friendly and sustainable brands. This season, Los Angeles contemporary brand St. Roche was among the lines showing in the Green Room.
“I was pleased to be asked to join this and be among like-minded designers and brands,” said St. Roche designer Sue Stamp. People are generally interested in the fabrics we use and the sustainable aspect [and they] are taking more notice of where things are made and how they are made.
Stamp uses fabrics such as organic cotton voile, hand-painted silk, Tencel and organic alpaca for her collection, which is produced in India, Peru and Los Angeles.
Traffic was busy particularly on the first two days of the show, Stamp said, adding that she got good feedback and landed orders from a couple of new stores.
Select x Emerge
The Select show, organized by the CMC, got a new companion show this June market, boosting to nearly 30 the number of booths at the event housed in the CMC’s ground-floor Fashion Theater.
New to the mix was Emerge, which highlights emerging brands. One of those exhibiting at the new event was Emily Valdez, who recently launched her Hawaii-based Yireh label of print-driven dresses, jumpsuits, tops and skirts made of rayon and manufactured primarily in Indonesia.
After starting her brand two years ago, Valdez decided to make her first foray into the trade-show world by signing up for Emerge. Until now, she has been selling exclusively to stores in Hawaii but was hoping to branch out to California with her resort-like apparel, which wholesales for $23 to $41.
“We do a lot of bohemian-inspired clothing with a modern-day twist,” said Valdez, who is the owner and designer of the collection, which has a very beachy feel to it.
By the second day, Valdez had gotten orders from two specialty stores—one in Florida and the other in Arizona. They bought dresses, tunics and rompers. “It’s been pretty good,” Valdez said of the show. “I’ve gotten a lot of business cards.”
This was also the first trade show for Vrishtee Bahl, who launched her Bunai line of women’s accessories earlier this year out of Northern California. For 12 years, Bahl worked in the computer and technology industry in Silicon Valley but decided to tap into her Punjabi roots to develop colorful purses, necklaces, bracelets and scarves.
She takes Indian designs and translates them into a more contemporary look for the U.S. market. “I saw there was a lack of color in fashion that has been very basic, and I wanted to bring in something with detail and a story behind it,” Bahl said.
By the second day, she had seen 10 to 15 buyers who wanted to see more-detailed line sheets for her collection, which wholesales from $50 to $100.
One of the more seasoned exhibitors at the Select show was Daniela Jelovac, whose Vyda Victoria line has been at the event several times.
Her booth touts the fact that her collection of Modal/spandex and rayon/spandex dresses, tunics and tops that wholesale for $40 to $65 is made in Los Angeles.
“The show is pretty slow, but you never know who you are going to meet, so I keep coming back,” said Jelovac, who is based in Irvine, Calif. “I have a lot of return customers, and there is always somebody new.”
Resort and more at Brand Assembly
With 38 exhibitors, Brand Assembly brought in a steady crowd to the top floor of the Cooper Design Space.
“It has been a great show,” said Hillary France, who co-founded the trade show with Alex Repola. “I was a little nervous because [the Los Angeles show] overlaps with the New York [Resort] market, but we have increased our buyer traffic from the last June show, which did not have an overlap.”
Opening day was strong, France said, with turnout from West Coast major retailers including Nasty Gal, Serafina, Ron Herman and Fred Segal.
This season was Resort-focused with the inclusion of more swimwear brands, including first-timers Paloma Blue, Onia and Red Carter as well as Camilla, which presented its first Resort collection at this show.
Elisa Bruley, owner of Pasadena, Calif., boutique Elisa B, was at the show to visit her existing accounts that don’t frequent Los Angeles on a regular basis. But she said she was also on the lookout for new brands.
“I took a few notes but didn’t write any orders,” she said. “It is an in-between market, so I only write if it’s something I really need or want. In addition to Holiday/Resort, I like Immediates such as tees and accessories that I need to fill in right away, and that’s been a challenge.”
Zoe Berman, account executive of Onia, works specifically with specialty stores and said the turnout at Brand Assembly was good. Onia carries swimwear, resortwear and ready-to-wear pieces but buyers were especially looking for swim, Berman said.
“We are well known for one-pieces and textured two-pieces as well as our new choker [bikini top],” she said.
Another new exhibitor was the Debut showroom from New York, which represents Bower and Flagpole swimwear.
“It’s been a good show for us,” said sales representative Helene Lai. “Most [buyers] tend to write orders in New York or in Miami for the SwimShow, so we came here for the first time to get brand exposure.”
Flagpole’s suits are produced in New York from Italian fabrics. The line, which retails for $300 to $400, is sold in Barneys New York, The Line and Net-a-Porter.
Sisters Lindsey Schwartz and Kayla Schwartz were also new to Brand Assembly. The two design handbag and accessories line Miscere. The made–in–Los Angeles collection features interchangeable handbags and accessories such as clutches with adjustable straps and shoe accessories.
“Basically, we are a mix of haute couture and fast fashion that deliver high-quality bases but offer add-ons to constantly keep up with trends—stripes for the Hamptons or shearling for Aspen,” Kayla Schwartz said.
The designers launched two years ago but officially debuted last year. As first-time exhibitors, they felt it was important to immerse themselves into the market. “We had a few walk-ins, some appointments from people we emailed, and there are soft orders in the works,” Lindsey Schwartz said.
Sydny showroom is a longtime exhibitor at Brand Assembly. The Costa Mesa, Calif.–based company serves as both a distribution agency and showroom for Australian brands, including MLM Label, We Are Kindred, Ministry of Style and Auguste.
Rather than Resort, buyers were still looking for Holiday, said Sales Director Emilie Lewis.
“We definitely pulled more Resort, but they seem more excited for Holiday,” Lewis said. “It has been a great show, but we always have steady shows with appointments, placing orders and leaving paper. We cannot hope to get traction with just walk-ins.”
Activewear & Lifestyle Tradeshow
A handful of booths populated the ALT show on the CMC’s 13th floor.
Returning again was Aimee M, a Los Angeles yoga pant line launched by Jin Ryee a few years ago. The brand is known for its colorful print-driven bottoms made from polyester/spandex. Pants wholesale for $34 while recently launched hoodies made of recycled fabric have a wholesale price of $38.
Sales manager Maria Frausto said the show was okay but basically slow. However, she had two orders placed by Forever 21 and Tahoe University. A third order was called in by a distribution company.
Another returning vendor was Katie Tomasetta, whose Elektrix Love line of rock ’n’ roll–inspired leggings and tops are made of fabric developed from recycled plastic bottles. Tomasetta attended the show last year when it was known as Shape and wanted to check out the newly named event. “It’s very slow and a lot smaller,” she observed, noting she counted 13 exhibitors but the ALT catalog listed 16.
New to the show was Meg Remien, who last year started her collection of pajamas and loungewear under the Raven & Crow label. Remien is new to the fashion industry. After breaking six bones in her back skiing two years ago at Mammoth Mountain in California, Remien had trouble finding comfortable clothing to wear while she was laid up for six months and then in a wheelchair for another two months. She started researching fabrics and came up with a local textile mill selling a bamboo and organic cotton blend she fell in love with. From there, she created her line. Everything is made in Los Angeles with wholesale prices ranging from $25 to $36.
She has been selling her collection of comfortable loungewear online and on other e-commerce sites but is looking to expand into stores. She found the show to be slow but was hoping to meet up with more buyers.
Joseph Esfandi of LA Society was having better luck for his Chinese-manufactured fashion activewear line, which wholesales from $12.50 to $17.50. This was his first ALT show, and he was pleasantly surprised in the interest that buyers had in his 2-year-old line. “We decided to give the show a try and it has been good,” he said, noting he met with some people for potential private-label business and a few discounters.
Consistent at Lady Liberty
Traffic was light but business was consistent at the Lady Liberty building.
The Globe Showroom carries a host of stylish, mid- to high-end brands, including White and Warren, Christophe Sauvat, One Grey Day, Sam and Lavi, Rebecca Vallance, TRYB212 and Smythe. The showroom experienced consistent foot traffic at this season’s LA Market with a mix of retailers placing orders and taking notes,” said Tracy Burton, co-owner of the bicoastal showroom. With a variety of appointments and walk-ins, Burton said, “Ninety percent of traffic comes from appointments, which is a key strategy for a great market. We are seeing more walk-ins,
which is also great as buyers are still discovering the Lady Liberty building.”
Burton said retailers we split between those looking for earlier deliveries and those looking further out.
“We are seeing a division with what buyers are needing. For some, they are looking for a very pre-Spring-driven product and then the remainder, a more versatile product that their girl can buy and wear for the November/December deliveries,” she said.
One Showroom owner Kristen Aguilera had positive feedback from this season’s market as well. Aguilera said her brands sit well together so it allows buyers to shop for their customers in one setting.
“I am relaunching Jachs Girlfriend. I launched [the line] back in 2008, and then they went corporate. Now, we are working together again. It goes hand-in-hand with Blank. They are a good reflection of each other, and they sit at a sweet price point, averaging $100 retail,” Aguilera said.
Aguilera said some higher-end boutiques are bringing in lower-priced brands. One of those is Brazilian swimwear line Marley Club, priced roughly at $149 retail, constructed well and cut from quality fabrications. Similarly, Shlimp and Ulrich is retailed priced between $140 instead of $250 and has a good turnaround, Aguilera said.
Although June market is typically smaller, buyers are looking for Immediates but are also writing for Holiday, Aguilera said. Aguilera mainly met with existing accounts, such as Planet Blue and Azalea, but also had about five new retailers stop in, including a pilates store in Alabama and a few online accounts. “They are replenishing their stores, and buyers have more to spend. Retail is up, and they are doing great,” she said.
Elsa Dannerstedt, brand manager of Getting Back to Square One, the knitwear line under the umbrella of Citizens of Humanity, met mainly with appointments but had a few walk-ins. Reoccurring retailers and specialty stores—including Revolve, Kalifornia Jean Bar and Jill Roberts—visited the showroom, which also carries Citizens of Humanity’s luxury denim line, Goldsign, and A Gold E, an opening–price point premium jean marketed toward a younger customer.
“GBTSO has done really well with rib [knits]. But because we started as a Ponte-driven line focusing on leggings and it’s not a yearlong fabric, we started to focus on expanding our ribs into dresses and top assortments. It has been getting a good response,” Dannerstedt said.