MAKING DIGITAL MAGIC
Informa Markets Fashion Makes a Successful Move to Digital During Launch
Launching Sept. 1, Informa Markets Fashion allowed the show to go on with its digital trade event that saw its MAGIC anchor and sibling shows run online through the NuOrder platform. Following an announcement in July that the onsite apparel-and-fashion trade events, originally planned to be hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center in August and rescheduled for September, would be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Informa began working to build a digital event with the Los Angeles–headquartered business-to-business e-commerce platform NuOrder.
“This show season, MAGIC Digital is showcasing a wide variety of product for the women’s young contemporary and trend buyers,” said Kelly Helfman, president of
WWDMAGIC, Project Womens, MICAM Americas and Sourcing at MAGIC.“As we continue our event into October, we are loading more rich, shoppable editorial content to better highlight our partner brands as well as updating with timely industry insights and resources found in our ‘Learn’ section. The greatest advantage to having a digital platform this season is the ability for our buyers to consume any and all of our content at their leisure—no matter where they are located and between times—from now until Nov. 1.”
Beginning with the Sept. 1 unveiling of MAGIC, Coterie, Project and MICAM Americas, the online events afford opportunities for buyers to meet with brands as many areas of the United States slowly emerge from lockdowns and businesses return to selling without the pressures of traveling. Starting Sept. 15, Sourcing at MAGIC launched in order to support businesses that are searching for supply-chain solutions for their apparel businesses.
“We have seen our Virtual Showroom technology change the interface of trade shows on a global scale,” said Heath Wells, co-founder and co–chief executive officer of NuOrder. “It’s important for brands to be able to provide an experience that is unique and interactive, and we are proud to be able to deliver our platform to the world’s largest digital trade show.”
Making MAGIC digital
Catering to the buyer who is looking for on-trend pieces in women’s young contemporary, MAGIC Digital was organized into categories including Immediates, new brands, made-in-the-USA, inclusive sizing, staycation, self-care, working from home and those that were selected by Helfman herself. Helfman mentioned that notable brands showing via the digital platform include Line & Dot, Toby Heart Ginger, Miss Me, Moon River, Velvet Heart, RD International, Be Cool, Ever B, Girl and the Sun, Iena, Max Studio, Things Between and WKNDER Los Angeles in addition to IMFC Incubator program brands RE ONA and London Grant. The IMFC Incubator supports emerging Black fashion designers. In attendance from the buyer side were representatives from ASOS, Anthropologie, Revolve, Urban Outfitters and Bloomingdale’s.
As a sales representative for the sustainable brand Fabina LA, Yoon Choi was pleased with the turnout on the digital platform. Selling the Nicole Ko–founded, Los Angeles–based, domestically manufactured line, Choi saw interest from buyers who were based in different areas throughout the United States, including along the East Coast, from Southern states such as Georgia, and Northern regions in New Jersey and Brooklyn. She also saw traffic from stores based in Utah, Texas and Arizona who were interested in the brand’s unisex, seasonless pieces, particularly its sets, which are manufactured using bamboo.
“This is a newer brand based on sustainable, recycled at an affordable price point so it’s a new clientele,” Choi said. “This is very different, getting it on the screen and having to get it through the website and message them or do an email. It’s helpful, and I am getting buyer hits and inquiries so it’s definitely more helpful than me just reaching out to a hundred stores. It definitely has an audience.”
While Choi was finding success through the new MAGIC Digital offering, as she sold comfortable pieces in hemp and bamboo that range from $25 to $60 retail, she mentioned that there were challenges. Success in this type of sales environment requires engagement, which she was quick to note is a necessity for brands.
“It’s different because you have no social contact, so it’s an adjustment,” she said. “It’s a way to reach out to multiple buyers in a small amount of time. It’s also an opportunity for new brands, brands that are producing differently now, like how we are producing sustainable clothing at affordable prices. It’s still keeping you engaged, but you have to be active in using it every day.”
Representing Saints & Hearts, a women’s brand based on South San Pedro Street in downtown Los Angeles, sales manager Sunny Park was receiving a lot of interest for the new brand that only exhibited at one onsite MAGIC show in the past. Buyers from the East Coast, southern United States, California and Puerto Rico were interested in Fall pieces and holiday items.
“We have some sequins, people have been buying our bell-bottom denim jeans in various colors, Fall outerwear and tops in olive and rust mostly,” Park said. “We’re getting a lot of customers that are reaching out to view the line. We haven’t generated many sales yet, but we’ve had a lot of inquiries about our products. They contact us directly and ask about the products. We’re waiting to see. It’s still early.”
Creating an environment in which a MAGIC buyer is afforded special show treatment is also key for Park. Selling from basic to expanded sizing, with pieces ranging from $12 to $35 wholesale, Park mentioned that MAGIC attendees are provided a first glimpse into trends that will be released from the brand, affording a feeling of exclusive access.
“We are updating our newest styles, which we haven’t showcased at a showroom or online yet. They are getting to see a firsthand look at what is coming out from us as well as our in-stocks,” Park said. “We are reserving some quantities for MAGIC as it is, so we are not touching those units and they are getting first dibs.”
Project Digital finds space for new vendors and veterans
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused a number of in-person trade shows to be canceled, Jack Watkins, owner/designer of the Los Angeles–headquartered brand Propaganda Agency, found himself scrambling. “How are we going to get our styles to our people?” he asked. He decided to try his first virtual trade show. Project Digital also happened to be his first outing with Project. He made good reports on the show so far, which is devoted to men’s, dual gender, apparel, accessories and selected footwear.
“We’ve been getting interest from a lot of people we never knew existed,” Watkins said. Retail price points for his men’s knitwear brand, which he described as modern retro, ranges from $250 to $600. Another benefit of the show is that it forced his brand to innovate, Watkins said.
“If anything good has come out of COVID-19, it forced us to reckon with how things are done in a digital world,” he said. Propaganda Agency specifically ramped up working on wholesale platforms such as NuOrder.
Brands exhibiting at Project include G-Star, Hudson, Joe’s Jeans, Mavi and Robert Graham.
A Project veteran making a debut at the virtual show was The Rad Black Kids, which is headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., but is manufactured in Portugal.
Thulani Ngazimbi, founder of The Rad Black Kids, spoke on a Project panel on sustainability and fashion in August 2019 in Las Vegas. He also exhibited at Project Tokyo in Japan last year. He wanted to exhibit at Project Digital because the Project organization has always supported him. Show staff looked for opportunities to shine a spotlight on his brand, such as speaking on a panel.
“They really looked out for Black-owned businesses before looking out for a Black-owned business was cool,” Ngazimbi said. At Project Digital, The Rad Black Kids introduced tux-style jackets along with other androgynous streetwear looks. Retail price points range from $18 for socks to $220 for a tuxedo blazer.
Lizette Chin, president of Project and Magic Mens, said the virtual show would mark the show’s debut for IMFC Incubator designers and brands such as Hamid Holloman and Leimart Park Threads.Project Digital also would present editorial content such as WGSN’s trend roundup “Tech Survivalist: Spring/Summer 2021.”
Coterie vendors and retailers try new pace
The San Francisco–headquartered casual-apparel brand Marine Layer produced its first virtual-trade-show booths both at Coterie Digital, a show devoted to elevated women’s styles, and at Project Digital. It showed its Fall/Holiday 2020 line and its Spring 2021 line.
Andrew Graham, the brand’s director of wholesale and custom, said that the show enjoyed a solid start. “The first couple days were relatively busy,” he said. “My biggest complaint is that we can’t engage the buyers when they are first looking at the brand. They need to request access, and only at that point can I reach out to introduce and tell the brand’s story. Once they do connect, it’s been really great.” Retail prices for Marine Layer are $39 to $225.
Lisa Kline relaunched her e-commerce site, ShopLisaKline.com, in June. She also talked about having to adapt to a different pace when working virtual trade shows.
“When you do [an in-person] trade show, you are immersed in the show, your whole day is about the show,” she said, while noting that virtual trade shows often don’t maintain the same focus.
There are a lot of distractions when working from a remote location. However, buying continues to be overwhelmingly influenced by the pandemic. “I’m looking for things to be comfortable at home—oversize sweaters and pullovers with hoods. I’m looking at activewear. People are really focused on working out at home.” Even her high-end consumers are being careful with money, which has caused her to be more careful with her ordering. “’I’m not ordering anything out. I’m just doing immediate things. I’m trying to test the temperature of things and see what’s going on,” she said.
Colleen Sherin, president of Coterie, said that retailers across the board visited the show including Revolve, Nordstrom and Rent The Runway. The digital show offered special features such as brand interviews and a trend showroom byWGSNcalled “Simply Human: Contemporary Womenswear Trends for S/S21.” She forecasted that the show would offer new editorial features inOctober.
Brands exhibiting at Coterie Digital include House of Waris Botanicals, Illesteve, LaQuan Smith, The Kooples, Kleed Kimonos, Joie and Ramy Brook.
MICAM Americas Digital finessing virtual-show routine
The Bed Stü brand is making its virtual trade-show debut with MICAM Americas Digital, which served as a footwear market for women and men.
Jason Wiese, the vice president of sales for Lake Dallas, Texas, organic-leather footwear-and-accessories brand, said that he and his team already have a routine working with virtual-trade-show booths at MICAM.
“Retail customers click on the brand in NuOrder. If we are interested in the retailer, we will do more vetting to see if we can open them as an account,” he said. “If the Bed Stü team wants to find out more about the customer, and the customer has already previewed the Bed Stü virtual showroom, we can provide the customer line sheets, a YouTube video presentation, as well as 360-degree photography of the brand’s goods through NuOrder and later follow up with a live-chat video presentation.”
The 360-degree photography aims to provide multi-sided views of an item, lending an experience similar to an in-person trade show. At the virtual trade show, the brand has mostly seen independent shops as well as new retail ventures. Since boutiques and independent shops are buying closer to season, Bed Stü has mostly been showing Fall 2020 pieces and some Spring 2021 styles. Retail prices points for the brand range from $195 to $335 for women’s Fall 2020 and $125 to $245 for women’s Spring 2021 styles.
Noting that there is strength in camaraderie, Helfman said that the virtual event would fill a void to show that the different industry categories are stronger together.
“Our event this season has really fused the footwear and apparel communities together, filling a much-needed gap by convening the global fashion and footwear communities,” she said.
Brands exhibiting include Aetrex, Blowfish Malibu, Camper, Cougar, Carrano, Frye, Lines of Denmark, Mephisto, Strole and Voile Blanche.Retailers registered at the show include Amazon, Zappo’s and Journeys.
Expanding sourcing solutions digitally
Following its Sept. 15 launch, Sourcing at MAGIC will run through Dec. 15, affording access to manufacturers, suppliers and service providers. With 630 exhibitors hailing from 25 countries, Helfman revealed that attendees would have access to 25,000 products from potential supply-chain partners.
“We have a strong representation from China, Vietnam, Colombia, Peru and Canada with a regional focus on South American manufacturers and suppliers and strong representation from Brazil in footwear,” Helfman said. “Also, at launch today, we have a total registration of 2,700 qualified buyers, which include notable buyers from Bealls Stores, Fruit of the Loom, Pacific Sportswear, Vans and Zulily.”
In addition to connecting suppliers to brands and designers, Sourcing at MAGIC features additional tools to help the industry navigate through the next few months and into 2021. Fashion for Profit’s Frances Harder will present the “State of the Industry,” “Checkpoints to Starting a New Brand,” and a question-and-answer session with Simona Racek and Ray Bowman from the Small Business Development Center regarding funding for small businesses. Informa will announce additional offerings throughout the event’s three-month run.
Following its launch in 2019, business-to-business platform Serai was in attendance for its second Sourcing at MAGIC, yet this is the company’s first time as an exhibitor. With its innovative approach to identifying the specific needs of brands and retailers to match with the offerings of manufacturers, Serai’s growth manager Finn Hefferon sees extraordinary opportunities in the business of apparel and was looking forward to engaging with potential clients during this edition of Sourcing at MAGIC.
“Our brands and retailers today are looking to connect with very specific manufacturers in specific markets. They need a portal to access a database of suppliers online, and to exchange information with their partners,” Hefferon said. “Manufacturers today are looking to use Serai to amplify their digital presence, and showcase their most unique capabilities to our network of buyers. All of our users are also looking for enhanced analytics and information, as well as access to trade and manufacturing solutions.”
While the event opened on Sept. 15, suppliers were already fielding interest from potential partners. For Wei Lin, general manager at Solution Knitwear, attendees were connecting to learn more about the company’s specialty fashion knitwear. Solution Knitwear has offices in New York with a factory in China where sweaters, cardigans, knit dresses and knit skirts are manufactured. This was the company’s first Sourcing at MAGIC appearance, which was drawing attention from attendees in California, Texas and Arizona.
“It’s going pretty well. We got some new connections with buyers. Today is the first day, so I think there will be more connections made in the coming weeks,” Lin said.
While most interest was focused on general knitwear, Lin said that many potential partners were interested in seamless pieces. Noting that his company was working with new whole-garment machinery from Japan, Lin was excited to discuss this offering in addition to the trend toward responsible manufacturing.
“For now, because of COVID-19 and what is going on in the world, people are focusing more on sustainable manufacturing and eco-friendly materials. There is a big trend going on right now, and at our factory we provide sustainable yarn for our customers,” Lin said. “That is one of the biggest trends. That is what the customer wants. They want it to be environmentally friendly. They are more cautious about what they are getting.”