The mood at the ASR trade show in San Diego, California this past weekend brought to mind a famous Beach Boys’ lyric: "Everybody’s goin’ surfin’… Surfin’ USA." Of all the action sports featured at the show, surfing was clearly the most prominent. The sport’s growing influence was evident in everything from an explosion of new boardshorts to bright tropical-inspired prints and beach-like details in designs from the more fashion-driven brands on display.
Held September 5 through 7 at the San Diego Convention Center, the show featured more than 700 brands from the surf, skate, snow and streetwear sectors. Most exhibitors reported strong business and growing optimism toward future growth. The general consensus, though, was that surfing had officially replaced skating as the shining action sport of the moment. Jammed booths at surfing legends such as Quiksilver, Billabong, OP and Rusty gave weight to this theory and a new surf-inspired apparel line of abstract print boardshorts from surf sandal giant Reef was further evidence of this trend. Likewise, tropical prints and retro-preppy designs from the likes of Alphanumeric and Ambiguous showed that the seaside may have replaced the skatepark as streetwear designers’ favorite place for trendspotting.
Another strong trend at the show was the emergence of women’s and juniors’ lines. DC Shoes launched a juniors’ line comprised of military, active, fleece, denim and chino/basics groups, NC Collective offered its first – and extremely impressive and pretty – first full women’s collection, and Australia-based Gallaz proved once again that skate girls don’t have to dress like their male counterpoints to look cool. Gallaz’s spring/summer ’04 collection featured a multitude of ’80s looks such as big asymmetrical belts, neon pink plaid miniskirts and tees and off-the-shoulder tops with big pink polka-dots for a "Kelly Osbourne Becomes a Skater Chick" feel.
Meanwhile, active guys in spring ’04 will probably be turning in their passé oversized shorts and logo tees for somewhat dressy, European-inspired looks. Distressed collared shirts with details such as hand whip-stitching, reverse screenprints, dobby patches and striped fabrics sewn on the bias were especially popular. Subtlety and reconstruction – whether in washed-out color palettes or decorative detail – seemed to be a popular direction pursued by many men’s exhibitors such as Globe and OP.
This trend was also prominent at Agenda, the breakaway independent trade show featuring 49 brands, which was held across the street from ASR in a former warehouse on Friday and Saturday. Directional cut-and-sew items from emerging labels there such as 614, Jedidiah, Nikao Youth Project, Brown Sound and the highly original forensics-themed Apexmuseum from Long Beach, California, showed that the immediate future of streetwear design will be chock full of quiet quirks, exposed seams, and fabrics and colors most often associated with preppy menswear departments of the 1950s and ’60s.
However, both shows weren’t just about surfing, tailored reconstruction, and retro prep and ’80s looks. Nature – especially trees and birds – was a popular new theme explored by hemp brand Livity, Syndrome from Chicago, Vapors, and LRG, among many others. Likewise, almost every brand offered its take on the now ubiquitous (and apparently still red-hot) trucker hat. The overabundance of this headgear even inspired LRG to offer a witty graphic tee on the subject. Featuring a picture of a black mesh cap, the shirt ironically says: "Nice Trucker Hat."
The next ASR will be held in San Diego on January 17 through 19, 2004 and the next Agenda will run January 17 and 18, 2004 also in San Diego.
(Christopher Blomquist, North American Features Editor)