The Spring |Summer 2015 Los Angeles Fashion Market was not just slow traffic but to some degree no traffic at the California | Market Center. I spent time [day 2 of a 3 day show] walking through the SELECT Contemporary Show which was practically empty. In talking to many of the exhibitors they said that the show, so far, had been slow. They are seeing this quiet buyer turnout as a trend in prior shows from this year alone. This is no exaggeration – the parking attendant commented as well. He said compared to a year ago, his ticket sales are half what they were, and therefore had to lower his price.
So what is going on? Is this a dying business model? Major trade shows in New York and MAGIC in Las Vegas draw major department store and chain store buyers. The local markets, like Los Angeles, pull from the local independent, boutique, and e-commerce retailers. They tend to buy close to need [for at once shipments]; cannot afford to travel due to expense and leaving their store for a period of time. But what about newness in the market, both in product and new up and coming brands/designers? Are retailers [and their consumers] responding to lack of innovation in the market. I spoke with one of the new emerging designers in the SELECT Show, Singapore-based designers Melchor Guinto and Charles Cua who made their SELECT debuts. They shared a booth with Pia Gladys Perey, a Manila-based designer. They, too, commented on a slow market and yet surprised for their first time.
Showroom vacancy appears to be high at the California Market Center. Renting a showroom or exhibiting at a trade show is costly to designers, brands, and their sales agents. The trend toward doing business online has grown and many indie retailers choose to do so, however, just like buying fine art nothing replaces seeing and touching the product before purchasing. Buyers come to do business and leave to go back to their business. They want it simple. These events have become highly leveraged with ‘over the top’ booths and pretentiousness. Drop it all along with the high costs and let’s get back to buying great product without all the fanfare.
What’s next? For the emerging designer and independent retailer to connect, let’s be open to unique options of exposure and exchange.