Influential in 2002

Friday, December 13, 2002

This year was a year of transition. The economy showed signs of recovery but remained weak. Retailers and manufacturers, by and large, took a cautious stance. And consumers continued to spend—but much more judiciously than in years past. Amid all this uncertainty, several individuals, organizations and events stood out as influential over California’s apparel industry. Some made their mark through adaptation— whether by finding ways to work with existing legislation such as AB633 or by breaking away from a troubled parent company. Others did not let the uncertain times derail efforts to seek out new business. And many continued their campaigns to promote the local industry and local designers.

There was a spirit of cooperation in 2002, in which companies and people put aside competitive issues to continue to build, support and sustain the apparel business in Los Angeles.

And there were instances in which people and organizations stood out by setting an example for others to follow.

Taken as a whole, those individuals and entities who made themselves influential in 2002 gave retailers a reason to come to California, companies a reason to stay in California and the local industry a reason to be proud of the work done in California.

California Apparel News’ list of influential people, companies and events in 2002 follows.

California Market Center

The California Market Center (CMC) continued to reposition itself as an integrated apparel, gift and home accessories center this past year, following last year’s deal between Hertz Investment Corp., owners of the California Mart, and the Dallas Market Center (DMC).

DMC executives officially took over management of the building in February, forming Market Center Management Company (MCMC) to oversee both marts. In July, MCMC again extended its reach, to China, working a similar management agreement with the Shanghai Mart.

The CMC launched its first in a series of debut gift shows, unveiling large-scale renovations on five floors of the 13-floor center’s “C” wing, and plans to have 10 gift floors completed by mid-2003. Eventual plans call for half of the 3-million-square-foot center to house gift and home resources. CMC executives have also been promoting the crossover potential for buyers by encouraging all tenants to remain open during both apparel and gift markets. In addition, building executives encouraged tenants to network with one another by hosting the first Vendor Blender event, which allowed gift and apparel tenants to introduce themselves to one another during a series of informal meetings.

The DMC is also joint venturing with U.K.-based DMG World Media and George Little Management LLC, operators of the California Gift Show, to form the California International Gift Market, to be held concurrent with the California Gift Show.

CMC executives also took the lead in organizing Los Angeles Fashion Week, hosting a series of meetings with editors, event producers and designers, which culminated in a Fashion Week Calendar first published in November on the newly created Web site L.A.FashionWeek.com.

Port Negotiators

The threat of strike, the strike and the backlog of goods at California ports—these were the issues that plagued importers in California this year. The apparel industry— along with many other industries— watched and waited for the better part of the year for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents shipping companies, to hammer out a new contract. The threat of strike hung over the negotiations up to and after the ILWU’s contract expired on July 1. Even without a new contract, workers kept receiving goods even as importers scrambled to re-route shipments or fly goods in before California’s 29 ports closed. In September, the ports did close when talks between the two groups broke down. For nearly two weeks, shipments sat unloaded at California’s ports and newly arrived ships waited to dock. In early October, President Bush reopened the ports under the Taft-Hartley Act, which imposes an 80-day “cooling off” period on the negotiating parties. Finally, in late December, the two groups reached a tentative agreement, resolving hot-button issues such as technological improvements that would allow for automated tracking and receiving of goods at the ports and job security for the union clerks who had been doing those jobs by hand. The ports are now up and running and there is no longer a backlog of goods. Still, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. estimates the costs due to the port closures and the resultant delays at $6.28 billion.

Joe RodriguezExecutive DirectorGarment ContractorsAssociation of Southern alifornia (GCA) and Apparel Contractors alliance of California (ACAC)

Rodriguez spent the greater part of 2002 working on AB633, a piece of legislation that was crafted three years ago to extend the liability for labor law violations across the apparel production supply chain. Rodriguez, with his supporters, campaigned against the California Labor Commissioner’s proposed regulations for the law, arguing that they violate equal protection under the law and compromise fair competition within California’s garment industry. GCA and ACAC went so far as to retain legal assistance from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton to help with the cause. When the implementation of the new regulations took effect in October, Rodriguez shifted gears, getting the word out about the regulations and assisting contractors to meet the demands of the state.

Previously, Rodriguez spent more than 23 years as an officer of and stockholder in Tobias Inc., a now-defunct domestic men’s sportswear manufacturer. As GCA’s executive director, he represents 1,200 contractors who employ about 75,000 garment workers in the state, and this year marks his seventh as executive director for ACAC. Rodriguez’s supporters include the American Chinese Garment Contractors Association, Northern California Chinese Garment Contractors Association and the Korean American Garment Industry Association.

Sweatshop Watch/Garment Worker Center

Two of California’s most vocal workers advocate groups, the Oakland-based Sweatshop Watch and the Los Angelesbased Garment Worker Center, stayed in the forefront of workers’ rights issues this year thanks to several high-profile victories for their cause.

Sweatshop Watch helped 240 Chinese immigrant garment workers from San Francisco-based Wins of California receive nearly $1 million in back wages from the California Labor Commission. The group also saw several years worth of effort on behalf of 30,000 garment workers in Saipan pay off when the workers, who argued that they worked in substandard conditions manufacturing apparel for U.S. brands including the Gap and J.C. Penney, were awarded a $20 million settlement.

The driving forces behind the two organizations are Sweatshop Watch’s Nikki Fortunato Bas and the Garment Worker Center’s Kimi Lee.

Founded seven years ago, Sweatshop Watch is a coalition of 30 labor, community, civil rights, immigrant rights, religious and student organizations committed to eliminating the exploitation of low-wage workers. The group first became visible in the mid-’90s when it assisted El Monte sweatshop workers obtain housing, food and medical care; it also launched its first campaign, called the Retailer Accountability for El Monte, which resulted in workers receiving $4 million in unpaid back wages from retailers.

The daughter of Filipino immigrants, Bas was a volunteer in environmental justice, economic justice and immigrant rights for the Asian Immigrant Women Advocates’ Garment Workers Justice campaign before joining Sweatshop Watch in 1997.

Last year, the non-profit grassroots organization opened the Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles as an educational and support outlet for the industry’s workers.

Lee, whose mother raised her on wages earned as a sewer in a San Francisco garment factory, served as field director for the ACLU of Southern California and as a researcher with SEIU Local 1877 before joining the Garment Worker Center.

Kent Smith

Kent Smith, director of the Los Angeles Fashion District Business Improvement District (BID), is the fashion community’s link to government, security and consumers. In addition to his post on the BID, Smith sits on the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency’s Project Area Committee and on the boards of directors of Fashion Business, Inc. and the International Downtown Association, a group that champions creating vital and livable urban centers.

With more than 200 stores and about 20 planned construction projects in the district in 2002, Smith’s guidance was integral to the planning process. The Fashion District saw a new childrenswear building, the LA Kids’ Mart, come online at Pico and San Julian, as well as Maple Fashion Walk, a new men’s wholesale mart at Maple and 15th streets. New residential conversion projects under development include Santee Court, the Bartlett Building and the Pacific Electric Building. In addition, Smith helped secure $6 million in grants to augment the $3 million paid annually by the district’s property owners so that assessments could be kept at 2001 levels.

And the BID approved an expansion plan that will incorporate a stretch of land between 9th and 12th Streets east of San Pedro Street. The annexation will be official in 2004.

Smith also helped to steer effective marketing campaigns, which brought in additional traffic to Fashion District stores.

The district’s logo was redesigned and the BID’s Web site (www.fashiondistrict.org) nearly tripled in the number of visitors over last year.

Mark Weinstein/MJW Investments

Mark Weinstein’s MJW Investments was at the core of the Fashion District’s revitalization in 2002 and plans will continue next year. The company’s most visible task was to open the historic Gerry Building to the trade. The ninestory Art Deco building, once a gritty manufacturing center, opened this summer to an assortment of contemporary apparel and accessories. Under Weinstein’s and leasing director Larry Hudson’s management, the Gerry, with its industrialfinish show space, glass walls and natural light, appears to be adding a young and hip element to the Fashion District not seen since the emergence of the New Mart a few years ago. The building hosted a number of young companies such as Eisbar during Los Angeles Fashion Week and is the permanent home to cutting-edge companies Mocha Lounge, BCN and others.

MJW’s other big accomplishment was gaining approvals for its nearly 800,000- square-foot Santee Court, a mixed-use village that will encompass residential, retail and commercial space spread over several blocks in the Fashion District. The project stands to be the model showcase for urban renewal in Los Angeles.

Steve Needleman Anjac Fashion Buildings

Steve Needleman is one of the key players in downtown Los Angeles’ urban revival and his efforts are helping to restore the area’s historic core. Needleman’s Anjac Fashion Buildings, which owns the historic Orpheum Theatre and the Grand Olympic Auditorium, brought in some high-profile traffic in recent months. The VH1 Music Awards were held at the Olympic, and the newly renovated Orpheum (which won a preservation award from the L.A. Conservancy) hosted the Ovation Awards, for theatrical performances, and the American Choreography Awards. Next year is likely to find both venues sought-after locations for fashion events.

Anjac is scheduled to complete a residential project above the Orpheum next summer with 37 live-work lofts catering to local designers, artists and the like. Needleman, who sits on the Figueroa and Historic Core boards, is extending his efforts to education— he was recently named president of the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College Foundation, which raises funds for the school’s fashion department and other concerns.

Anjac also has a number of buildings in the Fashion District that serve as important space for apparel manufacturers and designers.

Dov Charney President/Founder American Apparel

Dov Charney wants to change the way the garment industry is perceived—and he plans to do it by setting an example. The ebullient president of American Apparel has parlayed his background selling U.S.- made T-shirts on the streets of Montreal into a fast-growing—and highly visible— player in Los Angeles’ apparel industry. Charney launched his imprintable T-shirt business in South Carolina in 1991 and relocated to Los Angeles, shuttering the East Coast side of the business, in 1998.

Charney is as concerned with the internal environment of his company as he is with the bottom line. To that end, Charney has instituted a policy of paying a living wage of up to $12 per hour to the 800-plus workers employed in American Apparel’s knitting and sewing facility located in the produce district of downtown Los Angeles. He also upgraded lighting and machinery in the plant, with worker safety in mind. And he offers comprehensive health coverage to his employees. According to Charney, he can do all this and turn a profit— by instituting more-efficient means of production and by manufacturing and marketing a better T-shirt. Charney has also taken a stand on domestic manufacturing, choosing to divest himself of ownership in a sewing facility in Mexico and consolidating production in Los Angeles.

No stranger to self-promotion, Charney is not afraid to broadcast his strategy to the press—or the world, for that matter. This past year, American Apparel and its employee policies were featured in a documentary that ran on PBS.

Rick Caruso Developer and Founder Caruso Affiliated Holdings

They’re never easy, but the massive projects Rick Caruso tackles usually draw strong kudos for the Pepperdine University law school grad whose latest venture, The Grove, a $160-million open-air shopping center in the midst of urban Los Angeles adjacent to Farmers Market, opened last March. Caruso, who hasn’t grown up in the retail or real estate worlds (his father founded Dollar Rent-A-Car), has developed a reputation as a retail attacheacute;—he builds shopping centers that also serve as town centers for communities, and he seeks buyin from the neighborhood. That delicate touch served him well in creating a modern shopping space next to kitschy Farmers Market, where habitueacute;s feared a cultural shift at the 68-year-old landmark—from the traffic to the parking fees to the new, corporate veneer. So far, the $1 parking fee for two hours has kept shoppers happy, and the arrival of retailers Nordstrom, Pacific Sunwear and Anthropologie has found an underserved, fashion-forward audience. (The jury is out on the traffic.) The Commons at Calabasas and the Promenade at Westlake are two other developments Caruso opened in the last six years. Caruso’s next venture is the proposed Glendale Town Center project, a $150-million mixed-use development on 15 acres in Glendale’s downtown district. Plans for the site came and went for 15 years until Glendale awarded the project to Caruso. In a test of Caruso’s diplomacy, Glendale city officials are already looking to reduce the residential portion by 40 percent, a move that could affect price negotiations for the land.

Forever 21

Vernon, Calif.-based juniors retailer Forever 21 made the news this year responding to criticism from labor activists. But the other story is how the husband-and-wife owners of the privately held company, Koreans Don and Jin Sook Chang, parlayed an $11,000 investment into a $400 million business in 18 years. Their retail success is one example of the growing influence of Korean manufacturers in Los Angeles’ garment district who are catering to the demanding needs of clients who need quick-turn clothing. The Changs have relied on trendy fashion, low prices and daily deliveries to generate about $475 per square foot each month, with prime locations pulling in $1,000 per square foot, at their portfolio of about 145 stores. Opening 30 stores annually, the Changs have also tweaked their formula with their Forever XXI concept, a larger flagship with locations in Texas, Miami, Chicago, Edmonton, Canada and California at the Beverly Center shopping mall. Still, the company had the dubious benefit of being on a Sweatshop Watch–sponsored billboard in Los Angeles in August, which claimed the retailer uses sweatshops to produce its clothes. Forever 21 officials have vigorously denounced the accusations, and a federal judge in March dismissed lawsuit claims of unpaid wages and poor working conditions at contracting shops used to make Forever 21 clothes. The case remains in appeal.

Gen Art

Gen Art’s Fresh Faces in Fashion show has become a central event in Los Angeles Fashion Week’s Spring lineup since its inception on the West Coast in 1998. Gen Art was founded in New York in 1990 to spotlight up-andcoming talent in film, music, fine art and fashion. Fresh Faces in Fashion’s high-energy runway show has become a must-attend event for a virtual who’s who of the L.A. fashion industry. The West Coast wing of the organization, under the leadership of West Coast director Megan Griffith, made good on its plans to expand its events offerings this year. In addition to film previews and art exhibitions, Gen Art kicked off a few fashion tours that traveled around the country, thanks to corporate sponsorship from Chrysler and specialty liquor label Pucker.

California Fashion Association

The California Fashion Association (CFA) is the voice of the apparel industry in California, under the leadership of executive director Ilse Metchek, president Lonnie Kane and co-founder and counsel to the organization Stan Levy. The three form a powerful foundation and source of information for the 7-year-old organization. Levy, an attorney with Manatt Phelps Phillips, is the legal resource, keeping manufacturers abreast of the latest legislative developments. Kane, a co-founder of contemporary misses line Karen Kane, is the voice of the manufacturer, often serving as a moderator at CFA forums. And Metchek is the muscle behind the organization, using her extensive knowledge of the industry and its key players to take the apparel industry cause—and its concerns—to Sacramento when needed, anticipate the needs of the CFA members and organize forums and seminars on the latest issues.

The expertise of Metchek, Levy and Kane came into play at the CFA’s Apparel Industry Summit in June, during which members of the apparel industry and California Labor Commissioner Art Lujan discussed labor issues, recent legislation and other matters affecting the apparel and textile industry. (The California Apparel News was a co-sponsor of the summit.)

This year, Metchek and the CFA went international, helping to bring in trade delegations from Africa, Great Britain, France and Russia. The tireless Metchek also traveled to Tokyo with the Designers & Agents trade show and to Guadalajara, Mexico, to attend the InterModa trade show to investigate export opportunities for California companies.

And Metchek was a speaker at an export summit sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), during which she stressed the value of the California label and its cacheacute; with overseas consumers.

CIT Commercial Services

Last year, the CIT Group merged with Bahama-based Tyco International to become the largest factoring resource in the world. Within a year, being a subsidiary of Tyco didn’t seem like such a favorable position, as news broke of Tyco’s escalating debt and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the company’s accounting practices. CIT Group split with its parent in July with an Initial Public Offering valued at $4.6 billion, short of Tyco’s plan of between $5 million and $6 billion and well below CIT’s estimated worth, at the time, of $11 billion.

Newly independent, CIT Group set up headquarters in New York with offices in Los Angeles, Dallas, Charlotte, Danville, Va., and Hong Kong. By mid-2002, CIT had financing assets totaling $4.5 billion and offered specialized services such as Select Customer Credit Protection, which provides credit protection for manufacturers considering doing business with customers whose creditworthiness is uncertain due to company reorganization or turnaround.

Before the split with Tyco, CIT argued that its strength was its size, which made it flexible enough to handle factoring and other financing services for a wide range of businesses. Today, the company makes the same claim. CIT Commercial Services, the division that handles apparel and textile financing, has customers ranging from small businesses with sales volume around $2 million to large companies with sales topping $500 million. In addition, the Commercial Services division is a unit of CIT Commercial Finance, which includes the Business Credit division that handles asset-based loans for companies looking to expand either through capital investment or acquisition, as well as debt and turnaround financing and debtor-in-possession financing.

Locally, CIT is represented by Mitch Cohen, senior vice president and Western Regional manager of CIT Commercial Services. Cohen, a frequent speaker on financing issues for the apparel and textile industry, has participated in panel discussions hosted by the California Fashion Association.

Designers & Agents

When Designers & Agents (D&A) burst upon Los Angeles four years ago, it was the talk of market week—and deservedly so. The New York-based trade show featured a line-up of exciting, new contemporary resources—both East and West Coast-based—in a light-filled open exhibition space in the New Mart.

Four years later, the show is still a must-attend for contemporary buyers. And the original concept—a tightly edited juried show of contemporary designer resources—still carries through. D&A is held twice a year, during Spring and Fall fashion weeks in Los Angeles. A smaller D&A Annex show is held three times a year during Los Angeles’ smaller market weeks. D&A has expanded over the years, taking up additional space on the New Mart’s third floor. And this Fall, the show moved to a second venue—another light-filled open exhibition area on the Cooper Building’s 11th floor.

This year also saw show producers Barbara Kramer and Ed Mandelbaum taking their show on the road, first to Tokyo in March, where they set up about 20 booths featuring more than 40 collections at the Modapolitica gallery in the city’s garment district. Then, the two took D&A to New York in September for a show in a loft space on Manhattan’s Westside. Featuring some 65 exhibitors and more than 130 collections, the show ran concurrent with Fashion Coterie.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) made good on its 2001 initiative to encourage economic growth and business retention by forming the Economic Development Group (EDG), under the direction of Bernadette S. Kirkwood. The EDG was charged with seeking out new local businesses and small- and medium-sized businesses on the verge of expansion.

One of EDG’s most prominent efforts was the grant given to Fashion Business, Inc. (FBI), a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization that assists up-and-coming design firms develop the business skills they need to succeed. The grant helped fund FBI’s new Training and Resource Center in the New Mart. EDG assistant director John X. Chen now sits on the board of FBI.

The EDG also gave assistance to the California Market Center (CMC) for the building’s renovation of its gift floors. The CMC received $300,000 in financing from LADWP’s Utility Infrastructure Loan Program, which helped fund energy- conserving lighting in the new showrooms.

Among the assistance LADWP offers to small- and mediumsized businesses in Los Angeles are electric rate subsidies for businesses that relocate to one of Los Angeles’ Enterprise/Empowerment Zones, information on engineering requirements and building codes to help fasttrack business permits, workshops about available business tax credits, solar power pricing incentives and economic development training and outreach. Additionally, the LADWP’s Utility Infrastructure Loan Program provides assistance to local companies looking to expand their capital investments. And the Smooth Power Program provides assistance and financing to companies that require a higher level of power quality and reliability.

Ethan Eller and Steve Hirsh

In a spirit of cooperation, the New Mart’s Ethan Eller and the Cooper Building’s Steve Hirsh put aside day-today competition to stage the Designers & Agents (D&A) show in a split venue during Los Angeles Fashion Week in November.

Technically, the two entities are not in direct competition. Eller is the manager of the New Mart, a 74-year-old building housing contemporary showrooms featuring labels such as AG Adriano Goldschmied, Anna Sui, Betsey Johnson, Custo Barcelona, James Perse and Juicy Couture. The New Mart is currently at 100 percent occupancy with tenants including Hatch, Mix and Studio West.

The Cooper Building is a family-owned and -run enterprise. Father Stanley owns the property, but son Steve runs the daily operations. Locals remember trekking downtown to the Cooper Building to shop for designer bargains, but in recent years, the building has shifted focus to light manufacturing and business-to-business services. The building is the headquarters for labels such as Corey Lynn Calter and Church Girl, for Los Angeles-based companies such as juniors manufacturer Blanc Noir and for retailers Bebe and Wet Seal’s Arden B. The D&A show also served to introduce the Cooper Building’s newly remodeled 11th floor, which features a skylight and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Eller and Hirsh’s partnership allowed New York-based D&A to add more collections without moving from its original location at the New Mart. The two buildings promoted the venture with D&A and, when they found that retailers needed a little extra encouragement to travel between the two venues, they made signs with footprints and the show’s logo running from one building to another.

The teamwork between the two buildings and D&A was an effort to serve the greater good, explained Hirsh.

“We are working hard to keep our shows in the Fashion District, he said when the deal was announced. “We really want to enhance the value for the buyers.”

Los Angeles Designers

With each succeeding season, the Los Angeles Fashion Week calendar has more events than the last. This past November, the calendar included more than 35 fashion events, which, once again, sent editors, buyers and fashion fans racing from show to show. Los Angeles fashion has been spotlighted in national and international consumer magazines such as Vogue and Japanese Harper’s Bazaar. Even the entertainment press is getting into the act—Hollywood Reporter has a fashion issue featuring local events, and in November, Variety profiled several L.A. designers.

The fashion week news in 2002 was about IMG, producers of New York’s 7th on Sixth fashion shows. The question on everyone’s minds was, Are they planning to stage a similar event in Los Angeles? While IMG shows never materialized in 2002, the company did announce its intentions to host an event starting in April 2003. It remains to be seen how the IMG event, to be called Mercedes-Benz Shows L.A., will shape up, who will be involved and how it will be received. But whether or not IMG’s event gets off the ground, it’s clear that Los Angeles’ designers have proven they have what it takes to get local, national and international attention. And they have proven that even without a bigbudget, central event held under one tent, there already is a Los Angeles Fashion Week.

Action Sports Retailer Trade Expo (ASR)

This year, Action Sports Retailer turned 21—and won the battle for Back-to- School. This year, the biannual trade show devoted to action sports and all the accompanying hardware, accessories and apparel added a Back-to-School show in the Spring and found itself in direct competition with Orlando, Fla.-based trade show Surf Expo for the Back-to-School business in California. ASR’s dubbed ASRBack2Skool, was held in Huntington Beach, while Surf Expo’s debut Back-to-School show, BTS West, was held in Anaheim.

Both shows were quiet but included heavy hitters in the surf and skate industry: ASRBack2Skool had World Industries, Hurley International, Ocean Pacific (OP) and O’Neill; BTS West also had OP and O’Neill, as well as surf powerhouses Quiksilver and Billabong. But when ASR secured a 10-year endorsement from the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA), the showdown was over. Surf Expo retreated, opting to host its Back-to-School show on the East Coast only. ASRBack- 2Skool has been renamed ASR Fall and will return to Huntington Beach in March.

Frances Harder Fashion Business, Incorporated

Frances Harder is the founder, president and executive director of Fashion Business, Inc. (FBI)—and she’s the 2-year-old non-profit’s public persona, turning up at industry events to support FBI members, reinforce the FBI message and seek out new support for the organization. The group helps up-and-coming design firms fine-tune their business skills by offering business training courses on such issues as securing financing, drafting a business plan and finding a sales representative.

In March, Harder landed three grants that enabled FBI to expand its headquarters from 800 square feet to a 4,800-square-foot space that houses a showroom, computer lab with 25 computers, photo studio and training room. The trio of grants—totaling nearly $300,000—came from the City of Los Angeles and the Department of Water and Power.

Harder has also landed the support of Mayor Hahn’s office and district councilman Nick Pacheco, both of whom turned out for FBI’s annual fund-raiser in June, when members of the fashion community were treated to a tour of the new facilities and a fashion show featuring some of the group’s members. At that time, Harder also announced the group’s name change from Fashion Business Incubator to Fashion Business, Incorporated. FBI followed that up with a runway show held at the California Market Center (CMC) during Los Angeles Fashion Week in November.

The tenacious Harder has proved herself to be an unflagging advocate for FBI and its 200 members. FBI is housed in space donated by the New Mart, and FBI members have been given subsidized space in the CMC during past markets.

West Coast Exclusive

Spin-off shows were the attraction du jour at MAGIC International this year, and nimble Los Angeles-based West Coast Exclusive was one of the marquee attractions holding its own against the behemoth trade event. Begun four years ago by Larry Hymes, Hyela S o b l o s k y , Herb Goetz and Stevie Goetz, West Coast Exclusive began as a regional show for menswear, growing from 35 exhibitors with about 75 lines to 70 exhibitors with 300 lines, including Kenneth Cole, Jhane Barnes and Joseph Abboud. Show organizers wanted to create an intimate, relaxed setting where buyers and sales reps had more time to conduct business and foster better relationships, so since the show’s inception they staged it at the W Hotel in L.A.’s Westwood community. Their success prompted the move to Las Vegas for two shows in 2002 as well as a name change from West Coast Collective. The Spring 2003 installment at Las Vegas’ Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino drew more than 600 retailers from mostly better specialty stores in California, Florida, Michigan, Texas and Indiana. West Coast Exclusive’s next venture will combine the show with Urban Rocks Fashion, an apparel and music showcase and conference focusing on high-end urban looks.