Hot Weather Creates Challenges and Opportunities at LA Market

Unseasonably high temperatures and unusually high humidity greeted buyers and exhibitors attending the recent Spring 2016 Los Angeles Fashion Market, which ran Oct. 12–15 in downtown Los Angeles.

Some said the hot weather kept local retailers away while others said it prompted out-of-town buyers to stay longer inside air-conditioned showrooms. For retailers, the hot weather across much of the country meant sluggish sales for Fall merchandise. As a result, some buyers had less money available for Spring orders and others were scrambling to fill inventories with warm-weather apparel.

That was the scene at LA Market—held at the California Market Center, The New Mart, theCooper Design Space, the Gerry Building and the Lady Liberty building—as well as at temporary trade shows Designers and Agents, Coeur, Brand Assembly L.A. Men’s Market, Shape and Select.

Strong Start at CMC


Ariella at Reichman Associates in the CMC


Happy Socks display at The New Mart


Marie Rafferty and Indigo Davis of Rich Honey at The New Mart

Many showroom owners at the California Market Center opened early on Sunday, Oct. 11, to meet with buyers who prefer to shop market over the weekend.

“The first two days were very busy—Sunday and Monday morning, especially,” said Peter Jacobson, owner of the Creative Concepts showroom on the CMC’s second floor. “After that, it was the usual market up and down—feast or famine.”

It was the same story at Reichman Associates, where Don and Velma Reichman were showing in a temporary space on the CMC’s second floor.

“Sunday is usually our best day, and it was again,” Don Reichman said.

The Reichmans recently began representing a new line, Ariella, which Don Reichman described as “trend right at great prices for extra mark-up.”

Ariella originally launched four years ago in New York but relocated to Los Angeles, where the line is now produced.

“They make it here, and people love that,” Don Reichman said. “From the first month we sold it to 35 stores, and we’ve been building ever since.”

For Jerry and Judy Wexler, who represent contemporary collection Mystree in their J. Wexler Sales showroom on the CMC’s second floor, market started busy but really picked up on Tuesday.

“We had a few appointments on Sunday,” Jerry Wexler said. “We were busy on Monday, but we were busier on Tuesday.”

Tuesday was a good day at LKay Showroom, according to owner Lindsay K. Mitchell.

“Tuesday morning was really good,” she said. “There were a lot of walk-ins and a lot of people from the Midwest and the South—there are a lot of new online stores in the Midwest. I got orders, so that was good.”

Mitchell rents space within the T&A showroom on the CMC’s fifth floor. T&A runs another showroom for its men’s lines on the CMC’s fourth floor.

Shala Theus, T&A brand manager, agreed that Tuesday was a strong day but noted that market overall did not seem as busy as in past seasons.

Creative Concepts’ Jacobson agreed.

“The customers that were here were writing,” he said. “[But] the markets today are not as they were in the past because you have 20 or 30 times as many markets for customers to go to. I see our customers in Berlin, Paris, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

Fred Postal, who runs a showroom on the CMC’s third floor, was upbeat about the turnout at LA Market, but he said, “Cautious is the byword.”

“Spring is selling, but because of the [hot] weather, retail has had issues,” he said. “I had a very good market, but I spent weeks on the phone [before] and sending mailers. We saw stores from East to West and in the middle.”

Action at The New Mart

If buyer traffic could be measured by how long it takes to get an elevator, then it was a traffic jam at The New Mart, where the two elevators in the nearly 90-year-old building were constantly jammed with people headed to the showrooms.

Traditionally, October is one of the strongest fashion markets of the year, and this year was no different, showroom owners at The New Mart said.

“This is our best show of the year,” said Jeff Polanco, a partner in Showroom 1205, which carries the brands Kalypso 7, Ruby Yaya and Bou Jeloud.

Buyers were generally optimistic and willing to spend on a brand if they felt it was versatile and different, Polanco said.

Because many of the buyers attending this Los Angeles Fashion Market had already previewed Spring/Summer 2016 collections at the various apparel trade shows in Las Vegas, they were now more certain in October about what they wanted to invest in for their stores.

Comfort, versatility and a soft fabric were some of the key points that many retailers were seeking when booking Spring/Summer merchandise for 2016. Michael Druskin, whose family owns the decades-old Len Druskin chain of specialty stores in Minnesota and Illinois, said he was looking for items that were different. “It has to be unique and comfortable and something that makes you feel good and is versatile,” Druskin said. “People are looking for more color these days.”

He said people are willing to spend a little more on certain clothing items if they are compelling or have personality. “People are more than ever willing to spend money if something speaks to them,” Druskin noted. “Price is not the first decision maker.”

Fabric is also really important, he said, noting that textiles should have a nice feel and hand to them.

At the Karen Kane showroom, Joyce Christensen said price points are still important but not as crucial as during leaner years in the recent past. Her sales territory covers 12 Western states, and retailers throughout the region are feeling more stable than in the past. “I’m not hearing many doom-and-gloom stories,” she said.

At the multi-line Rande Cohen showroom, business was busy during Los Angeles Fashion Market. “The energy level is up,” said showroom owner Rande Cohen, who said buyer traffic came in fits and starts to see her lines, which include P.J. Salvage, Peace Love World, Old Gringo, Crown Jewel and True to Myself.

She opened on Sunday, one day before the official start of market, and saw slow business in the morning and then brisker activity in the afternoon. “We would have two hours of not a lot, and then we would be jammed,” she said. “I am seeing that people are much more optimistic.”

But product is everything, Cohen said. Higher-end stores that carry more-progressive merchandise are willing to experiment with different looks, but more conservative stores are still sticking with the tried-and-true. “If it is slightly off, they won’t buy it,” she said, noting that a garment’s style, comfort and feel are the top-selling points these days.

At the recently opened Rich Honey showroom on The New Mart’s fifth floor, foot traffic wasn’t as brisk as on the other floors. But the showroom’s Marie Rafferty and Indigo Davis said appointments were coming in to view the Rich Honey line of contemporary basics made in Los Angeles of comfortable sweatshirt fabric that comes in dresses, flowy tops, cropped tops and bottoms wholesaling from $10 to $27.

One of the showroom’s eye-catchers was the wall of colorful Happy Socks they represent. It enticed Doreen Evans, the owner of theMountain Daisy activewear boutique in Evergreen, Colo., to wander in and check out the collection. “You always need socks in Colorado,” she said.

Cooper: The heat is all right


Hot as Hell at the Cooper Design Space

It was 93 degrees Fahrenheit on Oct. 12, the first official day of market. Conventional wisdom might have said that retailers would have stayed in their stores, but it was great for Sharleen Ernster, the chief executive officer of the women’s swim and lingerie line Hot as Hell, which took its LA Fashion Market bow at the Cooper Design Space.

“Everyone is in the mood to buy hot-weather apparel,” she said. Retailers who reportedly showed up to see the new line included Nasty Gal, Neiman Marcus, Free People and Revolve.

Leila Ross of Leila Ross Sales, who exhibited at the Cooper’s Cristina Angarola Showroom, said that the market was great for out-of-towners. She saw a lot of independent retailers from around the West but not as many from Los Angeles. Retailers included Skyz from Omaha; Milky Way of Crested Butte, Colo.; and Wild and Heart from British Columbia.

Israel Ramirez of the Siblings Showroom also saw out-of-town stores including South Moon Under, headquartered in Berlin, Md., and Evereve from the Minneapolis area. He estimated that retail traffic seemed the same as the October market the previous year.

The October market marked a milestone for the Ted Baker London showroom on the Cooper’s second floor. The showroom wrapped up the expansion and remodel that it had previewed at the August LA Fashion Market.

Earlier in the year, Ted Baker took over some of the space of adjacent showrooms to house the brand’s new collections, such as homewares and gifts. During the October market, the space unveiled a new setup, including a lounge and customized wallpaper, which features sketches of Los Angeles landmarks, said Jade Venison, the head of ladies’ apparel and accessories for the brand.

Annex at the Gerry Building


The annex of the Miriana Ojeda Showroom at the Gerry Building

The Gerry Building got some extra buyer activity during market when showroom owner Miriana Ojeda rented out a 10,000-square-foot exhibit space on the ground floor and sublet it to about 10 showrooms representing more than 20 lines, mostly made in Europe.

“I wanted to create a venue for innovative designers who cater to a contemporary woman,” said Ojeda, who has a permanent showroom on the building’s seventh floor.

During past market weeks, she has housed extra lines in her showroom or in a nearby empty showroom. But seeing the vacant ground-floor space of the building’s lobby inspired her to think big.

Sales reps were glad to have the inviting, airy space, which gave buyers plenty of room to maneuver among tall, green plants and a black-and-white–checked rug brought in for the event. But buyer traffic was a little more sluggish than anticipated.

“We love being here, but this market has been slow,” said Françoise Nowak of The Continental Look showroom in New York. She was showing two lines—jewelry label Tzuri Gueta and clothing line Catherine André—both from Paris.

Ojeda said buyer traffic at her showroom was not as busy as she had expected but was still decent. “The people who had appointments came and did nice business, and I picked up new accounts,” she said, noting Sunday and Monday were particularly good.

Other Gerry Building showrooms were pleased with the number of buyers who came by and left paper, but they noted that store owners were tempering their purchases because the unusually hot October weather was putting a damper on selling Fall and Winter merchandise.

Lady Liberty: Bohemian Popular

Traffic at The Globe Showroom was heavy on Monday and Tuesday, said Tracey Burton, co-owner and founder of the contemporary showroom at The Lady Liberty.

For the first day of the market, she reported that her team did not leave the showroom until 10 p.m. that night.

For women’s styles, the trend was colorful, loose and ethnic.

“There’s a lot of bohemian on the market,” Burton said. Globe was in tune with this market with its debut. For the Spring 2016 Los Angeles Majors Market, the showroom introduced Portuguese line Christophe Sauvat, which was reminiscent of clothes with a Moroccan angle.


THE ONE: Kristen Aguilera, owner of The One Showroom, seated at left, takes in a meeting. Eric Wheeler, partner in The One, is standing at right.

Business across the hall at The One Showroom was busy, as well. Kristen Aguilera, owner of The One Showroom, estimated that traffic increased 30 percent compared with last year.

The One Showroom saw leading boutiques such as Seattle-based Mercer during the market. It also saw a significant showing of department stores such as Saks, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. “They all like to come out for this market,” Aguilera said. “It’s a totally different energy in Los Angeles compared to New York. … They want to come [to Los Angeles] when everybody is here, so they can see the reaction to the different lines.”

For the recent market, Scanlan Theodore, an Australian designer label line, took its bow at The One.