When it comes to denim and the menswear market, the Vegas trade shows are on the pulse. At Project, Liberty Fairs, Capsule and Agenda held February 12 to 14, organizers prepared for Fall ‘18 with a fresh approach for both buyers and brands. Newness and innovation continued to be buzz words while trending topics such as the dual gender movement, design collaborations and social responsibility are pushing the market forward. Organizers revamped their layouts to make the show floors easier to navigate and added activations to highlight key brands and platforms to educate attendees on relevant issues facing the industry today.
Here is our rundown of trends and highlights from Vegas.
Dual Gender Focus:
At Project, which is held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, reorganizing the trade show floor and investing in a new LED lighting system were key priorities for UBM Fashion. Project Women’s was relocated to a new revamped area making it a destination on the show floor and to accommodate the expansion of The Tents next season. The section, which includes men’s denim, contemporary and designer brands, will be expanding to include women’s and more dual gender collections. “The most exciting part of what we’ve done here at UBM Fashion was to integrate women’s and men’s together and to create this dual gender contemporary marketplace,” said Tommy Fazio, Fashion Director of UBM Fashion Group. He noted the combination is key for the specialty store driven show. “We’ve done an extraordinary shift in the layout of the floor so it makes it easier for the stores that shop both mens and womens,” Fazio added. Project Women’s, he noted is getting bigger. “We say this is men’s, but 70 percent of it is dual gender,” he explained adding that many brands including denim labels, have women’s offerings. Liberty Fairs offered over 100 core dual gender brands and the movement will continue to grow according to Liberty Fairs Co-Founder Sharifa Murdock. The youth she said are leading the way. “I see that being more of a focus. I see that to me is where people are going with fashion. I feel like it needs to start being genderless. I think the youth is what we need to listen to and the youth are telling us they don’t want labels. They don’t want that. They want to be who they are – man or woman. It’s important for us to follow suit,” she said. “I’m a big proponent of listening to the young people because we adults think we know everything because we’ve been there, we’ve seen it. But I think they have some really strong insight on what’s happening.”
Exclusivity, collaborations & more
With the retail market is challenging both stores and brands alike, Liberty Fairs is pushing forward by providing more value and inspiration for exhibitors and buyers. “We want to bring some sort of energy and relevance to the trade show world and back again,” said Murdock, who explained that a special area called The Five Pillars was created to showcase the five key points the show feels are important to people in the industry today. “We think that people are thinking that exclusivity is important, collaborations are important, activations are important, being technically savvy is important and anything that has to do [social responsibility],” she explained. “It was important for us to basically focus on those five pillars at the show. The Five Pillars lounge was created Murdock said to show retailers how brands are creatively addressing and innovating the market. For example, the area showcased an exclusive leather jacket by Schott, a design collaboration by Levi’s X Poggy and products that are innovative and socially responsible such as WeSC’s gender neutral collection. “We want to give buyers a sense of ‘Hey, maybe we can do that in my store,’” said Murdock.
Knowledge is power. And in an ever-changing marketplace, knowledge is more important than ever. Educating brands and retailers is a focus for Project, MAGIC and the Modern Assembly Shows. “We’re trying to give some sort of platform where buyers can get more from us,” said Murdock. “We’ve created this programming called Assembly where we have speakers within the industry and outside of the industry speaking on panels that we feel are relevant to what’s happening in the industry,” she explained. Speakers included Bobby Hundreds, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, The Hundreds; Jaden Smith, celebrity and entrepreneur; and James Bartle, CEO/Founder, Outland Denim. “We have to continue to try feed as much information as possible,” said Murdock. “I think us giving something as simple as that platform for people to come in and see, they feel like they’ve gotten something out of it. So, trade shows are no longer just ‘Oh, let me write an order. I can [also] learn, I can educate, I can market, I can meet and collaborate,’” she added.
No matter whether buyers, exhibitors or show organizers feel the denim market is up or down, it continues to be a primary focus of the Las Vegas shows. Denim brands are front and center on the show floor at Project and Liberty Fairs added emphasis to the category this season by creating a special Indigo section and lounge devoted to denim brands. “I definitely feel like denim is going to be back in a resurgence and I wanted to get ahead of the game and try to get all the indigo, all denim people, together and really come back in a harder way,” said Murdock. Hudson Jeans, Nudie Jeans Co., PRPS. Edwin Jeans, Slate Denim Co. and Outland Denim were key brands at the show this season. Fabric innovation continues to be a driving force for denim. Technology is creating more options than ever before with stretch fabrics, innovative knits and performance capabilities. Denim trends continue to span the gamut from clean to distressed and ‘80s and activewear-inspired. “We’re seeing all this innovation in fabrications – stretch, active. This whole active influence. It’s just how do we integrate this technology in fabric into men’s?” said Fazio. Mavi, a key brand at Project, he noted has many great fabrications and new fits. The collection is cleaned up for Fall and 99-100 percent of the line now incorporates stretch including a new Sporty Denim knit fabric and Mavi White Edge premium denim. “That’s very rare for denim brands to launch four or five new fits on a show floor,” he said. According to Eric Martin, Owner of The Park Showroom, athleisure continues to be a key influence. “I think that after the jogger phase, people really got used to stretch twills and comfortable pants and stretch denim as well. People really got used to comfortable jeans,” Martin explained. “I think the days of rigid denim are probably few in numbers. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to wear a pair of rigid denim. There’s no logic behind it. Unless you’re a true denimhead and want to wear it a certain way, even three percent stretch can make a world of difference.”
Quality & Craftmanship
How do you stand out in a sea of brands? Create a unique view point with high quality, handmade products and a compelling brand story. Karto takes a hand loomed, hand woven approach to making denim with natural fabrics and dyes. The collection has a workwear meets British tailoring twist and utilizes Ikat dying processes from Japan and India. LA-based denim brand S.M.N has returned its focus to creating clean rigid denim and utilizes exclusive Japanese selvage denim for a capsule collection created once a year in Japan. The capsule, which has been a big hit for the brand, is available at top retailers such as Ron Herman, Blue In Green and Martin Patrick 3. The line is focused on creating denim with an authentic hand including denim featuring stretch fibers. “We’re trying to return denim to making authentic denim feeling fabrics, that’s what we’ve been most excited about,” said S.M.N East Coast Sales Director Diego Dominguez. Lifestyle brand Raga Man is finding success with its unique brand story and by utilizing natural materials and handmade techniques. “I think people are looking for newness and freshness,” said Martin, who explained that Raga Man has a rich look and vibe as well as the cultural background behind it - and it works. “You see people like ASAP Rocky and Harry Styles wearing similar type gear. This is all made in India, hand blocked, all natural vegetable dyes, organic. That’s what’s new and fresh,” said Martin. “They have an interesting story… California culture meets India. That’s a cool collection to sell because it has a story behind it.”
Design with Purpose:
Having a purpose and sharing the love are not just for the few. Brands with social responsibility and philanthropy initiatives – and a purpose - are in demand. Toms set the bar by giving shoes to a person in need with each pair of shoes purchased. And more brands are following in their footsteps. “We are seeing a lot of people are requesting philanthropic brands,” said Martin. Popular brands offered by The Park include Wakami Global, which supplies business training and jobs for rural artisans in Guatemala and n:Philanthropy, who gives a percentage of their net proceeds to pediatric cancer research and animal welfare charities. “People are into giving back,” Martin explained. “You can’t change things on a macro scale, but on a micro scale you can make things a little bit better in your world and try and equalize the negative stuff coming in from news and media and the constant bombardment of negativity that surrounds us all,” he explained. Grunge streetwear brand People Vs. he said gives its wearers a platform to make their own statement. Denim brands are also taking note. Whether its creating hydroless washes at Jean Shop or utilizing recycled plastic from the oceans at G-Star RAW, denim brands are finding ways to make a difference. Outland Denim is a premium denim brand to note which is transforming the lives of women by helping them escape exploitation from the sex trafficking industry by providing jobs and rehabilitation in the brand’s factory in Cambodia.
Outerwear and outdoor-inspired clothing is a category that is poised for growth. At Project, Fazio noted a 13 percent increase in international brands from Scandinavia and Canada especially in the outerwear category. With a renewed focus on the outdoors, nature and travel, expect an increase in functional clothing and outdoor-inspired offerings. “It’s a big outerwear season,” said Fazio. “I haven’t seen so much fur in so long. We’re seeing a big shearling, fur outerwear story.” From stylish parkas to plaid shirts and Sherpa lined jackets, there was plenty of outdoor gear on the show floor. Stand out looks at The Tents included Billy Reid’s luxe, fur-lined parka, textured plaid outerwear and a matching corduroy jeans and jacket set. For brands like Relwen, the outdoors serves as ongoing inspiration. Not only is the utilitarian style clothing functional and made with quality construction, the brand was on point in the fashion department. The Ohio-based collection, hit all the right notes for Fall ‘18 with soft wearable textures, quilted jackets, bold plaid shirts, military-inspired parkas and a denim supply pant.
Retro sport brands are back with a vengeance. Kappa, the mega brand from the ‘80s and ‘90s made an impact on the Liberty show floor with its logo driven track suits, long sleeve shirts, shoes and bags. For women, there were plenty of fashion forward looks including oversize dresses, kitschy overalls and matching track jacket and skirt sets. The brand has been making waves for the past few seasons by collaborating with high fashion labels such as Faith Connexion as well as partnering with Opening Ceremony and creating a capsule for Barneys New York. At Agenda and Capsule, trendy ‘90s era Champion looks made a statement on the trade show floor with fashion forward styles including metallic parkas and logo driven sportswear. Retro sport brands have been touted by Agenda Founder Aaron Levant for the past couple seasons and the look is here to stay. The Lockr vintage store showcased cool retro ‘90s looks in the Enclave area of Agenda. And iconic sports licensing brand, Starter, made a statement with its sport- inspired apparel including its logo-driven women’s line of fresh crop top and skirt sets, flashy jackets and sporty hooded dresses.