Swim Collective and Active Collective Offer an Opportunity for Brands to Plan for 2019

Blending Swim + Active

As of Thursday, January 10, 2019

ANAHEIM, Calif.—During the Swim Collective and Active Collective shows held Jan. 7 and 8 at the Anaheim Convention Center, buyers and manufacturers from the swimwear and activewear industries met to plan their 2019 partnerships as the two segments become increasingly intertwined.

Despite its smaller scale compared with the August event, this January’s show saw buyers placing orders for Immediates in the active and swim categories as vacationing ski-and-snowboard enthusiasts hit the mountains and hot tubs and retailers prepare for spring break.

“When we started merging the shows together, it would be 40 percent crossover where now we’re closer to 70 percent,” said Rachel Nobles, the buyer-relations manager for Swim Collective and Active Collective, organized by Emerald Expositions. “The January show is traditionally a little smaller than August. The active side has been consistently growing while swim is always larger in the summer, based on buying cycles.”

This sentiment was reflected by buyers who walked the show floor. With locations in North Dakota, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Colorado and Texas, Scheels sporting-goods stores carry both active and swim categories, but its buyers were focused on activewear during this show.

“Our swimwear buyers come in August but don’t come to this one. January is not a time when they’re buying,” said Kathy Botnen, the retailer’s line leader, who was walking Swim Collective to report on trends to her colleagues.

Botnen, waiting to place orders after she returned to her office in Fargo, N.D., was searching for activewear pieces that transition from the gym to work to leisure. “We’re looking for multiuse things you can wear for yoga and working out but also fashion. It’s a bonus if you can wear the piece to work,” she said.

On the manufacturing side, Andréa Bernholtz, former chief executive of Rock & Republic, was showing her Calabasas, Calif.–based Swiminista brand, made from sustainable fabrics and offering versatile sizing, that wholesales from $25 to $48. She felt that traffic was heavier on the first day but was happy with the way show organizers accommodated attendees and planned the floor layout to promote buyer focus.

“It’s a place to get discovered,” she said after meeting with buyers from Texas, Louisiana, Northern California, Canada and online retailers. “This show is easy to shop. It’s not too big, not too small, and they have nice amenities for buyers.”

Northern California native Akasha Marie launched her made-to-order, ethically manufactured swimwear brand Naked Swim in 2017. The January 2019 edition of Swim Collective is her first trade show as she prepares for the Cabana show in Miami later this year.

She enjoyed meeting representatives from e-commerce site Net-a-Porter and smaller boutiques as she promoted her swimwear, which wholesales from separates at $37.70 to one-pieces at $62.

“For smaller designers, I think this is a good show for getting your brand out there and getting your foot in the door,” she said.

Established brands were happy to see an uptick in swim interest following a slower season in September. At the Beach Bunny Swimwear booth, Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Iannazzone was fielding Summer orders through June but also had traction for Immediates from the Costa Mesa, Calif., brand.

“For January it’s been really good. In August, our lines are larger because we’re previewing Resort and Spring,” Iannazzone said. “We do at-once buying here. We have current accounts that were quiet because Fall was rough for swim. They came in and are ready to make at-once buys because we hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Entering swim for its first season, Los Angeles fashion brand Johnny Was reported a lot of buyer interest during the show. The brand saw this show as a good starting point before entering swim season.

“We’re really going into the swim world, and it was important to do this show to let people know that we’re here and prepping for Miami in July,” said Rose Macke, a sales representative for the brand. “Neiman Marcus is already a customer, and they are doing fantastic with it. Now we’re going into swim-specific stores at this show.”

Get active

On the activewear side, exhibitors had mixed opinions about traffic. For Carlsbad, Calif., après-workout brand Alp-n-Rock, its first Active Collective show yielded high traffic from buyers, who came from California, Arizona, Texas, Alaska and the online shop ASOS.

Vice President of Global Sales Kerry Vail said many retailers were taking notes for Fall 2019, but others needed Immediates for ski-and-snowboard enthusiasts who are headed to winter-resort areas such as Aspen.

“We didn’t bring the collection with us, but because we use Nu Order’s new mobile app we were able to go back to our Fall 2018 line sheet. If someone wanted a jacket right now, we could put it in their cart right away,” Vail said. “If I had to do it all over again, I would bring some Immediates.”

In addition to the January Active Collective show, Vail will head to the New York edition, being held Jan. 24–25 at the Metropolitan Pavilion, where she will tell the story of the post-workout label, which also has a philanthropic arm benefiting the global girls’ education initiative Room to Read.

For Nicole Zabal, owner of the Sherman Oaks, Calif.–based activewear brand Nicole Alex, the show was an opportunity to transition from direct-to-consumer to wholesale. After launching in May 2018, Zabal chose to take her line to the wholesale market and was offering pieces from $35 to $60. As a made-in-Los Angeles brand, she received attention for her commitment to domestic manufacturing.

“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Oh, you’re made in L.A.? I love that,’” she explained. “The buyers care. Maybe it’s because they can get it quicker because shipping isn’t an issue.”

Buyers were also searching for offerings that would help their clients optimize performance. As the founder and chief executive officer of Chicago-based ballet-apparel and pointe-shoe brand Russian Pointe, Aleksandra Efimova and her associate Sasha Danilishen wanted to learn about new trends in fabric technology during their first time at the show.

“They [show organizers] said there were 250 brands. We didn’t count, but it kept us very busy for two days,” Efimova said. “The diversity and quality of craftsmanship with the stitching and fabrics was high. The competition is so tough.”

For the pair, a few brands such as Alo Yoga, Prana and Naked Princess stood out. “The quality of the design, it was simple but sophisticated,” Danilishen said of the qualities that attracted her to Naked Princess.

Representatives from the new eco-friendly activewear line Oshen Active wished traffic had been a bit heavier and more aligned with their brand, but they saw the show as an opportunity to educate buyers regarding their bamboo-fabric alternative to traditional activewear textiles.

“We have such a different product, so we’re trying to enlighten people to this no-plastic product,” co-founder Tammy Keller said. “Buyers are so used to their go-to people. They don’t always understand that nylon is plastic.”

The Marina del Rey, Calif., brand will travel to New York in February and was hoping to utilize Active Collective as part of its entrance into the industry with wholesale price points ranging from $50 to $118. As part of its efforts, Osh­en will show at the New York edition of Active Collective and return to Los Angeles for The Fit Expo being held Jan. 26–27 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“We just launched,” co-founder Jeffrey Gold said. “Our first New York showroom appointments will be in February. So this is still part of the prelaunch process, getting to know the people.”