January Market in L.A. Brings Out Buyers Preparing for Spring/Summer

Despite three days of pouring rain, January’s L.A. Market Week spelled success for many brands, some of whom opened on Jan. 13, ahead of the official Jan. 14–16 run. The typically slow market saw buyers picking up Immediates and preparing for Spring/Summer 2019 ahead of next month’s Las Vegas shows, which are running on an earlier Feb. 2–7 schedule, not the traditional mid-month dates.

Buyers enjoy quality time at the CMC

At the California Market Center, show organizers reported buyers in attendance included The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Gilt Groupe Japan, Hilton Hotels, Kitross, Everything But the Princess and The Four Seasons. With the expectation of a slower show, Becca Dawson, senior manager of marketing at the CMC, reported that her team was pleased with the turnout.

“It’s right before WWDMAGIC, so anyone who is not looking to travel to MAGIC can get a lot of their buying done here,” she said. “January is our smallest [market] of the year, but it was what we were expecting.”

Showrooms at the CMC reported a nice stream of traffic that allowed buyers to enjoy an intimate atmosphere while shopping its brands. At the showroom Perlman Rep and International Brands in America, which carries Molly Bracken, Desigual, Matt & Nat and Tolani, representatives saw buyers looking for a calm environment to enjoy the market experience.

“It was a good market, but it wasn’t crazy, so they can spend a lot of time here compared to when they’re in Las Vegas or on the road,” Chief Executive Officer of Perlman Rep David Perlman said.

With an emphasis on carrying trusted brands, the showroom’s representatives saw buyers from sellers of luxury goods, including local boutique Boulmiche Beverly Hills, who wanted to secure finely made goods at an excellent price.

“Buyers are looking for later Spring deliveries,” sales manager Felicia Klunk said. “The young contemporary market seems oversaturated now, so they are looking for a competitive price point but really nice quality and stuff they’re not going to see anywhere else.”

Many showrooms reported sales for Immediates and Spring, while others were pleasantly surprised when buyers showed up to order for the second half of the year. At United Kingdom–based brand Superdry, Edward McNaboe said that new clients were placing orders for Autumn/Winter 2019.

“Outerwear is our bread and butter, but a lot of people are excited for our premium line, The Edit Collection. One of our local buyers from 707 stopped by yesterday,” he said. “As big as L.A. is, this market is quite small, so it’s a nice, condensed show. Our meeting yesterday was three hours—at MAGIC, I would never get that amount of time with a customer.”

In town from Bermuda while visiting a friend in the Los Angeles area, Sharon Bartram, who owns the 27th Century Boutique, decided to shop at the CMC. She placed orders with Sympli and Adore searching for Immediates and Fall to suit her clientele of businesswomen ages 30 and above.

“My clientele is 95 percent locals,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve been here. My friend just moved to Los Angeles from Philadelphia. I will return to this show in October.”

At the Label Array show on the building’s 13th floor, Scottsdale, Ariz., makeup artist Mary Beth York at her M.B. York booth was selling her colorful vegan handbag line, which launched in December 2018 and wholesales for $60. Many of the retailers who stopped by her booth were from Oregon, New Mexico, San Diego and San Clemente, Calif.

Launched September 2018, ma­de–in–Los Angeles women’s brand Sur La Côte made its first trade-show appearance at Label Array. OwnerAlly Melideo received orders for her eco-friendly pieces, which wholesale from $35 to $63, and looks forward to the March show.

Matchmaking buyers and brands at The New Mart

Showrooms at The New Mart reported positive traffic, with buyers placing orders for Immediates and Spring/Summer. At the Niche showroom, which carries the lines Billy T and Knitwit, Suzie Hart and her business partner, Lisa Ozur, said retailers were putting pen to paper for pieces wholesaling from $23 to $118.

“Our buyers are looking for things that are easy and priced well,” Hart said. “That under-$100 classification is resonating. We’re hearing a lot about it.”

Tina Snow, who traveled down from Santa Barbara, Calif., and who reps The Phoenix boutique in Big Sur, was searching for boho-style pieces.

“I’ve been placing orders for Immediates all day,” she said. “I am trying to buy for the season, but I will buy out-season for something like Johnny Was.”

Hosted on the third floor of The New Mart, Designers and Agents provided a diverse mix of independent brands that attracted a steady stream of buyers from California, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Spain and Tokyo. Show organizer Barbara Kramer revealed that exhibitors who don’t normally show in January registered for this show, which provided more diverse options for serious buyers.

“The brands that participate have business to do and have that delivery, so they need to get the business in,” Kramer said. “The buyers are in an up-tone mood.”

For Love Tanjane, which is made in Ojai, Calif., by Sonia Erneux, the brand saw business from buyers hailing from Baske, a boutique in Santa Barbara, Calif. The brand acquired new accounts and saw existing partners, who placed orders for the high-end tie-dye designs, which wholesale from $88 to $174.

“We’ve had a small number of notes and a decent set of orders,” said sales representative Chris T. Wilson. “It’s been a steady flow of traffic.”

The American Colors by Alex Lehr booth saw buyers from smaller shops, such as Seattle-based Red Ticking and a buying office that represents several hotels throughout the United States. Buyers were putting pen to paper for the Santa Barbara, Calif.–based brand, which wholesales for $60 to $98.

“We always do October and March, but I had to be out here anyway, so January made sense to get a head start after the New Year before things really ramp up in February,” Lehr said. “We don’t do New York in January, so this was a good opportunity to get things going.”

Shopping for her Cardiff by the Sea, Calif., store Sea + Wander, Jackie Karnavas was pleased with the pace of the show as it allowed her to take her time. She placed orders with Kim White accessories and jewelry brand Avant Garde.

“We are shopping for Spring, Summer and Fall. I am doing chunky [accessories]—bring that back. They’re fun,” she said. “I would tell other buyers to take their time. Every line has something to offer, but if you’re in a rush you can’t take it all in. Taking your time expands your horizon and takes you into new things.”

Cooper showrooms make rain work for them

Out-of-state retailers made up a significant portion of the market’s business at the Cooper Design Space. Many Los Angeles and Southern California–area retailers decided they were not going to drive to downtown Los Angeles on rain-soaked freeways, said Ryan Anderson, a sales associate with Cooper’s Focus Showroom.

“They’re going to see us later,” Anderson said, but out-of-towners were undaunted. The Focus showroom was exhibiting the Nicole Miller line in addition to the debut of the Marie Oliver line. London-based line Charli also was reintroduced to the showroom after a hiatus, said Sylvana Lankshear, Focus’s owner.

The Noella Showroom also got a bump in traffic from out-of-state retailers. The Austin, Texas–based Cove and Lovecraft Boutique shopped the Cooper, as did Elements from Dallas and Smith & Main from Bellevue, Wash.

Heavy rain can benefit a market, said Whitney Hughes of the 2448 Agency, which made its L.A. Market Week debut at the Cooper, exhibiting the brands NSF, Icons, Parrish and Japanese footwear line Suicoke.

“People are staying in the building,” Hughes said. “They’re not in a hurry to go outside and walk in the rain. All of our appointments showed up. We also had some walk-ins,” Hughes said.

Israel Ramirez of the Siblings Showroom said that business at the January market was good but not as good as in the past. “It takes a lot more work. We have to offer more perks to get retailers in here.”

Perks included a free lunch—tacos from high-end downtown Los Angeles restaurant Pez Cantina, which is owned by Ramirez’s family.

A secret for success during a market with bad weather, or any market for that matter, is calling retailers to make sure that they will visit, Leah Gordon, sales manager for Bandolier, said. The accessories brand runs a showroom in the Cooper lobby. “We do a lot of outreach and legwork,” Gordon said.

Brand Assembly marked the biggest January show of its six years producing trade shows in Los Angeles, Hillary France, the show’s founder, said.

On the 11th floor of the Cooper Design Space, 95 brands exhibited, almost doubling last year’s outing of 52 brands.

Shopping this show were Los Angeles–area retailers Boca, Heist, Elyse Walker and Revolve. Retailers from outside Los Angeles shopping the show included online emporium Shopbop, Pitken County Dry Goods of Aspen, Colo., and New York City–based retailer Olive & Bette’s.

The week’s heavy rains did not stop business, according to vendors and retailers. “Work is work,” said Hilary Barrett, a buyer for the Boca boutique in Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades area. She and Boca owner Denise Mangimelli were buying Summer and pre-Fall inventory for their shop.

Nina Frank, a sales executive for the Minnie Rose brand, said that the rains did not dampen the enthusiasm of buyers. “We had great appointments. Everybody came,” she said. On the last day of market, Minnie Rose took 45 appointments, Frank said.

Chris Seelig of the Brothers & Sisters Showroom said orders were big. “[Retailers] were writing whole collections. It was not so item driven.” Some labels exhibited at Brand Assembly’s year-round Los Angeles space, located on the Cooper’s mezzanine level. Those included Trina Turk, Black Halo, Amsterdam Heritage and Amuse Society.

Slower market for Gerry showrooms

During L.A. Market Week at the Gerry Building, Karen Kearns Sales introduced Italian women’s label La Bottega Di Brunnela. The linen sportswear collection had not been sold on America’s West Coast before the showroom’s debut, said Kathie Muni, manager of the showroom.

Muni and showroom owner Karen Kearns said that the rain slowed buyer traffic. Otherwise, the market felt like a typical January market with appointments coming in as the showroom opened new accounts, Kearns said.

Down the hall from Karen Kearns, at the Julie + Stuart Marcher Showroom, Stuart Marcher said that this L.A. Market Week was being hurt by competition from other trade shows. “MAGIC being two weeks earlier this year is sucking all the air out of the regional shows,” Marcher said. During the show, the Marcher showroom displayed lines such as Elliott Lauren and Nally & Millie.