Anyone who’s worked in the industry in the States for at least a year knows how Vegas can be in late August. It’s that wonderful time of year when Project, Magic, the Exclusive, the Accessories Show, Pool, and ASAP all collide. It’s like turning the hose onto an anthill-thousands of fashionistas and wannabes scurrying this way and that, knocked about by an inescapable, mysterious force, silently screaming “save me! save me! please! oh for the love of McQueen, save me!”
Or that could just be me.
Make no mistake-I am about the most unfashionable designer ever. If I’m clean, professionally attired and armed with symmetrical eyebrows, I’m done. Being swallowed up and elbowed by wave after wave of pretty young things dressed to the hilt, armed with The It Accessories (multiple show badges and free Project bags) is not my idea of a good time.
That said, I had a great time in Vegas this time around. I wasn’t required to work the booth, so that in and of itself was fabulous. I got a great room. Some of my closest L.A. girlfriends were also there so we got to walk the shows together, in between unhurried meals and lots of laughing. Talking shop with two of my most amazing colleagues and fellow Otis veterans really got my juices going.* Nothing else gives me quite the same zing.
So my mission was to walk Project, Magic, and the Exclusive, to see where we need to be next season, because it’s about time we moved. I took a lot of mental notes, had a chance to sit down with my VP and mull over some things. We walked the shows separately, but ended up having similar ideas on how to proceed. My sales guys are going to have a collective heart attack, because as a rule, they hate change. Whatever, boys! It’s not up to you! If you lazy asses did your jobs, we wouldn’t have to force such drastic measures on you! (Um, I don’t particularly love our sales guys.)
But enough about work. I don’t like to delve into too much work details.
Project was fascinating. Super busy. The foot traffic just absolute madness. The utter atrocities that sell just shocks me. I’m telling you, ugly crap sells. It’s all about marketing and who you know and it makes me sick to my stomach. (It also makes me kinda hopeful that even my crap may sell.) It appeared to me that Project is for not-quite-established companies. It’s pretty inexpensive. (I think about $4500 compared to Magic’s $20,000 for the same amount of space.) You don’t need to decorate your booth with much. Just a couple of mannequins and racks of clothes. There were obviously a lot of more established labels there too, and they lined the “red carpet” with their big jazzed up booths. The outer edges were very quiet. My opinion is that it’s a good show for people who rely mainly on random foot traffic for sales, as opposed to appointments like the bigger dogs.
Magic was also fascinating, but in different ways. If you ever questioned how big and at the same time how small this industry is, just walk around Magic. Something weird happened to me at Magic. I became uncontrollabe cattiness personified, constantly whispering snide commentary to my friends. I felt like a sarcastic jerk robot in some nightmarish real-life version of the worst episode of MST3K ever, in which case, I guess K does stand for Karl. It was not pretty.
All the booths at Magic are decorated. Perry Ellis had its newest comic book style ad campaign blown up to 20â€² tall. Levi’s had a staircase going up to a second floor. Others had fake plants and faker leather couches. They built small worlds in their booths, some bigger than the zoloft.** Magic is more organized in terms of grouping markets (designer mens, juniors, eveningwear, etc.), but it’s still very easy to get lost. At one point, I said, “Man, everyone is just doing the same thing! Wait, I’ve been here already. No, really, I think everyone is just doing the same thing. Ah! I can’t tell anymore!”
The West Coast Exclusive, compared to the other two, was like stepping into a mausoleum. Quiet. I’d write “zen” if it wasn’t for the unsavory aroma of desperation and day-old hot dogs in the air. Definitely a place people mostly went to if they were pointedly seeking out a particular label. More appointment based than the other two. Older crowd, mostly. Lots of shoes and ties, for some reason. Heavy on the menswear, save a row of contemporary womenswear, whose fresh colors and young, bored salesgirls looked completely out of place. Oh, and a booth for borderline fetish leather, which within the context of show, almost made me laugh out loud. My sales guys consider it the place for the “right kind of appointments”.
Anyway, those are just some notes on the shows from an exhibitor’s point of view. I’m sure others see it very differently than I do, especially the buyers. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. You can read my other rambling thoughts on this and other topics at my own blog here.
*I’m not sure if it’s just Otis or all other schools, but if you made it out of there alive and functioning in the industry, there’s this bond, even if you weren’t that close at school. So many go into the fashion department at Otis and never graduate, that if you made it all the way through, there’s some serious mutual respect going on, obviously some more than others. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. And yes, I ran into a lot of Otis kids in Vegas, of different classes, including a bunch I used to tutor, and it was definitely an acid trip down memory lane.
**The zoloft is the name of my apartment, because my name is ZoÃ« and it’s a loft and people consider coming over to be a great antidepressant. Heehee.