CALA Show Sees Upswing in Retailers in San Francisco

For Kenny Gandalfo, the San Francisco Bay Area trade show CALA was busy. He saw 24 accounts in two days at the most recent Aug. 30–31 run of the event.

Gandalfo is a representative for contemporary lines Z Supply, Black Swan, Others Follow and Rag Poets. At CALA, he saw leading Bay Area boutiques such as Ambiance SF from San Francisco; Bella James from San Jose, Calif.; and Perle from Sonoma, Calif.

He believed that the show’s influence is beginning to spread outside the region’s borders. He saw boutiques from Florida, Atlanta and Palm Springs, Calif. Show producers also reported seeing boutiques from Canada and Washington state.

But the show focuses on women’s contemporary fashions and accessories geared for a Northern California boutique retailer. The August show marks the second year that CALA has produced the trade event at the picturesque Fort Mason Center in San Francisco’s Marina District. On a clear day, a visitor can see Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge from the waterside venue.


BAY AREA SHOW: CALA has developed a reputation as a contemporary trade show focused on a Northern California boutique retailer. Its producers said that retailers from Canada and the Pacific Northwest shopped the August run of the trade show.

According to producers, 418 brands exhibited Resort and Spring 2017 collections at 141 booths. CALA runs five shows annually at Fort Mason. All shows have a capacity of 140 to 155 booths, said Robert Murtagh, a show organizer.

Buyer attendance increased with 746 buyers visiting the recent show compared to 659 buyers one year ago. The recent CALA show focused on Los Angeles vendors with 82 percent of the show’s vendors being based in Los Angeles. The rest came from Northern California and New York City, Murtagh said.

Other retailers visiting the show included San Francisco boutiques Two Skirts, Margaret O’Leary and Two Birds. Stitch Fix, an online subscription and personal-shopping retailer, also headquartered in San Francisco, was seen at the show. Also shopping CALA were buyers from different Northern California locations of Pure Barre fitness studios.

Jackie Bartolo of Los Angeles’ Jackie B Showroom said that CALA is scheduled at a tough time. Many retailers are vacationing. Others are wrapped up in back-to-school activities with their families. The show also is scheduled just a couple of weeks after the massive MAGIC trade show and its satellite events in Las Vegas. “We covered a good amount of NorCal people at MAGIC,” Bartolo said. “But many did not go to Vegas. I see them at CALA.”

At CALA, Jackie B Showroom exhibited brands such as Raven Denim; Banjara, a collection of knits and wovens; RahiCali, which features garments made out of rayon as well as crepe fabrics; RD Style, which offers outerwear; and Lady Dutch, a contemporary collection.

For Meg Trollan, the show is a jumping-off point to building up her Northern California business. “We schedule road trips around the show,” Trollan said. She is sales manager for Good hYOUman, a Los Angeles–headquartered fashion line that prints inspirational messages on its clothing. The line has recently been producing activewear.

Israel Ramirez of Los Angeles’ Siblings Showroom said CALA was a place to see half of his showroom’s Northern California retailers. He typically sees the other half at LA Fashion Market shows in the Los Angeles Fashion District. He said of CALA: “It’s one of the more productive shows out of the regional shows we do. … We had a good, steady flow of people coming into the booth.”

The Siblings booth doubled in size from a 4-by-5 booth managed in the past for most of its CALA appearances to an 8-by-10 booth for the recent August show.

The Siblings booth represented lines such as Veronica M, Tiare Hawaii, Noa Elle and Handloom, a Turkish kimono line. Ramirez said that the Northern California style of the show’s attendees is different from the Los Angeles style of attendees but not as different as some would say. “It’s not as young. A lot of it is for moms and wives,” he said of the Northern California customer. “They’re fit and they don’t want to dress conservatively. They want to dress trendier.”

Bri Bohanon, a manager and assistant buyer for the Viva Diva boutique of San Rafael, Calif., said that her shop keeps its own counsel for style. “We have LA inspirations,” she said. But the store’s founder, Amy Anderson, and her staff spend time finessing specific looks for longtime clients.”We buy stylish, wearable clothing,” Bohanon said of the boutique, which started business in 1997.

At the show, she saw a lot of camouflage clothing. “The military look came back,” she said. “We’re still buying a lot of plaids and leggings.”

Clothes with a 1990s fashion inspiration also had a heavy presence at the show.