MAGIC Trip Report: Malia Premi

When one makes that final journey to Mecca, how does one even begin to document that journey? I’m talking about the “fashion” Mecca located in Las Vegas. Each February and August, the fashion industry flocks to Las Vegas for one of the most influential four days in the business – the MAGIC Marketplace. For those of you who have attended in the past, you know that it’s a market filled with great energy, visual stimulation and sensory overload, just like the city of Vegas itself. For those who have never made the journey, you do owe yourself the experience. Whether you’re a veteran or a newbie, there is an internal energy that everyone at the show shares the same “garmento” bond.

Most of us will have our own reasons for attending these shows. My intentions were to treat the experience as a research trip. I am from Portland, OR and currently developing a high-end kid’s line. I have had over 15 years experience in the apparel industry and currently doing part time/freelance work for Nike as a product developer. It’s actually a great gig as my day job. I have designed and sold custom children’s clothes on a very small scale. I have wanted to start my own business for years, but it wasn’t until I came across Kathleen’s book last fall that I finally acquired some courage to take that plunge. Even with all my years of experience, I have learned so much from Kathleen’s in depth coverage. Thanks Kathleen for your inspiration. It was such a thrill to meet you in person.

MAGIC, Pool, and Project were just part of the trade-show scene in Las Vegas. Others included upscale men’s show, The Exclusive, at the Sands. The Venetian hotel also housed the ASAP Global Sourcing Show, the Off-Price Specialist Show and Accessories, The Show, as well as two new shows–Curve, for lingerie and swim, and the E.C.O. Trade Show, for environmentally friendly apparel, textiles, home décor and other products. Women’s Wear in Nevada, which caters to the misses and updated market, returned to the Rio Convention Center and opened a day before MAGIC. There was the greatly anticipated new invitation-only mini show Fo Show Fo Sho and new comer United both located at the Alexis Park. Los Angeles-based swimwear show ISAM made an appearance for the first time in February at the Hilton Convention Center. The show joined the MAGIC lineup two years ago as an August-only show but expanded this season to a biannual schedule. Also at the Hilton were MAGIC’s accessories offerings. MAGIC’s Sourcing and Fabric section returned to the Las Vegas Convention Center with more exhibitors spread across a larger swath of the South Hall. Phew!! As one can see it is virtually impossible to hit all the shows. Although, like most things in life, you get out of it what you put in.

Currently, I am working on expanding my kid’s line with hopefully a big launch by the Spring 08 market. I went to MAGIC mainly just to walk the shows and check out the so-called potential competitors. I already have some initial samples and marketing strategies, therefore, I was seeking some validation as well. Is what I’m doing already saturating the market? Or is there a need for my niche? For those out there who want to enter the children’s market, I’m happy to report that this is the fastest growing segment in our industry and there is plenty of room for all of us baby! It was great to see how certain companies set up their booths should I decide to one day be an exhibitor. The big disappointment was that there was a much smaller representation in the MAGICKIDS section (I spoke with other DEs from this field and they also shared the same sentiment) basically, just three aisles worth of exhibitors, we were all expecting so much more in this area. One good thing is that the Kid’s area was located next to Juniors, which had a huge offering. Since junior trends trickle down to children’s, it was great to see all the latest styles, very inspirational. Other children’s wear manufactures were mixed in with their parent companies. For example, BABY PHAT was located in the street-wear section along with its parent company, PHAT FARM, located upstairs in the South Hall. By far, the street-wear section was my favorite. Loud rap music and liquor everywhere!

You can be from other segments of the business and still get energized walking through there. Mainly because it’s very youthful, it’s hard not to get pumped up when you’re surrounded by young, vibrant people looking to make their mark. Some booths had walls to resemble a night club feel, complete with bouncers. You needed to be a legitimate buyer with an appointment to enter. I loved that exclusivity they put on their products. It creates an industry buzz. Brilliant marketing. A word of advice to those looking to exhibit in this category: Make sure you have a live hot models wearing your products and offer free beer to your buyers, because after a while, it’s hard to differentiate from all the labels and you gravitate towards the booths with the most energy. Basically, in the 40 minutes I spent walking this section, I felt as though I was constantly in a rap video. Now you get the point?

One area lacking for DEs was MAGIC Sourcing. This was one of my reasons for attending MAGIC. The selection of fabric and trims was not what I had expected for such a big show. Most of the suppliers are from overseas and want high minimums. Although the MAGIC directory will come in handy should my business expands because these were very good sources. I suggest if you are looking to source a wide selection of fabric that cater to DEs, check out the Los Angeles Textile Show upcoming in April. It’s held at the California Mart in the Garment District. This is an advantage because there are so many fabric jobbers within a few blocks from the Mart with fantastic prices for under 50yds. If anyone out there plan on attending, let me know, I would love to meet and walk to the show together. Besides it’s my old stomping ground and I’m very familiar with the garment district.

Sorry, side tracked, now back to MAGIC. I quickly walked PROJECT and highly recommend that to any upcoming labels. It was very cool. They gave away the greatest show bag complete with a watch! Definitely for the uber hip crowd. Although how many designer looking denim jeans and foil print tees can one handle? Maybe I was delirious by now, but everything started looking the same. In closing I wanted to mention that the seminars are a must. Worth every penny of my trip. I didn’t take a lot of personal notes during these seminars, since most speakers suggest you leave a business card and they will gladly email you the power point presentation. Yes, Kathleen I was one of the people who attended the Building a Brand Icon seminar hosted by the F.B.I. organization.

One other favorite seminar is the How to Start a Fashion Line hosted by Mercedes Gonzales who was a very motivational speaker. One thing she said that stuck with me: Fashion has very little to do with the business as a whole. Start ups spend too much time worrying about the perfect design in the perfect fabrication. If you have just one sample and a 15 second pitch of what your label is about, you my friend, are officially in business. Bottom line, it’s all marketing. Get yourself out there and get some exposure with buyers and industry people. So for those who took the time to actually read all my verbiage, I hope you’re a little more inspired by my experiences. Keep your dream alive, and for the love of God, get out there and create some buzz for yourself. The orders will soon to follow. Peace.

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  1. meghan says:

    Thanks for the report Malia — I just might take you up on the LA Textiles show – I would love to go there with someone who knows their way around.

  2. Pam says:

    This was a great post and as a children’s clothing designer it was wonderful to hear that the industry is open. I agree with Mercedes Gonzales that marketing is the key and that would be a great discussion for us to have here. Marketing without going broke! What a good topic.

  3. Karen C. says:

    I’m going to the LA textile show on April 16 (Monday). May also stay overnight and go on Tuesday, April 17. It’s easy for me, since it’s about an hour 15 minute flight, one way. I would love to walk with you down to the fabric stores after viewing the booths at the Mart. Let me know.

  4. Malia says:

    Thanks to Meghan and Karen for your interest. I’m currently trying firm up my plans to LA.I would like to arrive in LA early Tuesday morning and spend the rest of the time walking the show,if I run out of time than I can continue early Wednesday. Hoping to spend the rest of the afternoon looking for good Jobbers in the area. It’s been years for since I’ve been in those allies, but I know the key suppliers are still there. I also plan on staying an extra day to do some research shopping by checking out all shops on the Westside. By the way, the Mart itself is a great place to check out all the showrooms and scope out some potential sales reps. We can share our personal info through Kathleen when it gets closer.

  5. Kathleen says:

    We can share our personal info through Kathleen when it gets closer.

    Why don’t you guys start a thread in the forum? Maybe I should start a category for meet ups (I’ll call it “connections”). JC has a thread going for SPESA already.

  6. Vivien says:

    I am a retailer and i currently use Mercedes as my consultant and she is wonderful. She has some fresh ideas and her price is surprisingly small comparing to what I thought it would be…

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