It’s Wednesday, it must be Project. This show is held at the Sands Expo Center adjoining the Venetian -can I just say I’m cruel enough to love the way the hotel forces all its front-of-hotel staff to wear those jaunty Venetian Gondolier stripey T-shirts?- and it’s accessed either via the Expo entrance or through the front of the hotel, so I had to schlep about a gazillion miles through the hotel to find Project -but to be fair, it was really well signposted, so even a spatially challenged idiot like me could find it easily.
I really didn’t know what to expect from Project, but I’d pre-registered and coughed up the $100 registration fee, so off I went. By the way, why are these shows so expensive to get into? $100 for pre-registration, or $200 on the day? And why double the cost for registering on the day? Grrrr!) Anyway, nice easy and quick check-in, but decided to bypass the humungous queue at the first door (door A) and ambled off to door C, about 50 yards away which had no queue at all, so easy in for me -this also meant that I could start my strolling around at the left side of the (enormous) expo hall. Because I was going against the ‘tide’ (story of my life, really) it was still quiet enough for me to be able to chat to vendors and reps without disrupting their actual sales work, so I got lots of useful information from some very helpful l-and actually, for that time in the morning, horribly perky- booth people.
I have to say, I loved this show! OK, so there were loads of biker/skate/surf/tattoo-themed casual wear ranges (dunno about you, but I’m so over tattoo imagery), still waaaaaay to many empire/baby doll tops and t-shirts and of course, too many generic-it-looks-like-a-simple -garment -because-it-is-a-simple-garment ranges but overall, F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S.
There was a great mix here, about 50/50 well-established companies and much smaller DE ventures, but as there were so many DEs showing it was kinda ‘normal’ (as much as any fashion event is ever normal, ha ha) to have lots of single booths showing just one range. I also liked the way that, although ‘in theory’ the menswear was at the left side of the hall and the womenswear was at the right, in reality there was a smattering of women’s’ stuff in the menswear area and vice verce… this gave you a chance to see stuff you would maybe have passed by if it wasn’t in your area of interest. I also liked the way that shoes, bags and other accessories were mixed in amongst the clothing booths-for a buyer, this really helps, especially when you are building a range and merchandising for your store; this 6-piece collection from here will work with these bags from here which will look great with these shoes… and so on.
I saw much more of what I would call ‘real clothing’ here than at WWIN and Magic combined; some really tricky and interesting cutting and embellishment, but the stand-out issue for me was fabric quality. Ranges at Project tended to use really top-quality fabrics, lots of silks, wools and high-end cottons and you could really see the difference in quality. Something else I found interesting was the emphasis on ‘made in America’ -those DEs who produced their goods stateside were very proud of this and made it a big selling feature… I honestly don’t know how effective this was, in my experience the buyer’s/consumer’s desire for an item overrides most concerns about its provenance, so I think it may boil down to this -do you want the possible grief of manufacturing overseas but lower production costs, versus in-theory an easier time with production stateside with the attendant higher costs?
Anyhow, my main-actually, my only real-beef about Project was the LOUD music. Now I love me some groovy disco tunes, in fact the DJ was playing a lot of my favorite stuff, but HOW LOUD WAS IT???? VERY LOUD. I mean ear-drum shattering, head-ache inducing LOUD. Note to show organizers: turn it down, or put the show in a nightclub and supply free cocktails to dull the pain.
The only give-away in evidence was the free Project messenger bag-actually a really useful, big, cross-body bag. The booth vendors had the good sense to limit giveaways to bowls of candy or mints on their stands-personally I was delighted to not have another 100 weight of dubious-quality swag to heft around all day. Also there was free ‘structured water’ in special tattoo-themed bottles courtesy of Ed Hardy-no idea how it was ‘structured’, it seemed like …well… just water to me, but what do I know, maybe those funky young people liked it… but nonetheless, free water at a show is always A Good Idea.
The first day of any show is usually busy -at least as a vendor you hope it will be busy- but Project was rammed, loads of buyers plus sundry T.V. crews and press clogging up the aisles. Chatting to some reps and DEs, I got the impression that Project was usually a good show business-wise, clearly the organizers had targeted the buying demographic well, but you could also tell the booths that had done their pre-show work, as opposed to the few who didn’t have much of a clue. Given that there was so much yummy stuff there, as a vendor you’d have to make sure that your potential buyers knew what kind of stuff you’d be showing, your price points and where you were going to be, and you’d have needed to have established some kind of rapport long before you set up at Project -otherwise, why else would a busy buyer have reason to stop at your stand? So vendors or reps that had done their homework seemed to be having a good show, current economic difficulties notwithstanding.
Price points were all over the place; from $18 for a so-so t-shirt top to $500+ for gorgeous wool coats. Also I noticed that seasons were all over the shop too, vendors were ostensibly offering Fall/Winter ranges, but there were also lots of early Summer and transitional offerings too. I think that vendors, especially DEs were sensible to offer this, as they could give a good spread of offerings to buyers. Face it, if you were a buyer, wouldn’t you be thrilled to find that you could order your next 6-9 months purchases all at once, from a range you really liked, rather than have to do the whole ordering-at-shows thing again in a few months?
Project had a good range of food options, all freshly prepared and a nice range of choices but oy! the prices! $9 for a salad, $14 for pasta? Still, the food itself was fine, and of course, because it was so easy to get hold of it kept those buyers on site all day long. Also, unlike Magic, the flooring was a lot easier on the feet and legs, plus there were plenty of comfy banquettes to lounge on, dotted around the periphery of the hall as well as in the middle. Hey, some of us are doddering into middle age, we need our comforts! Actually, plenty of the buyers and vendors were doddering along with me, so I guess the show organizers were just being sensible and keeping an eye on the bottom line…
I would say that Project is a great show for an up-and-coming fashion forward DE line; it’s buzzy, busy and everyone I chatted to was helpful, informative and charming. But if you want to show here, you’d better be darn sure that your range is spectacularly good, in terms of design, construction and fabric, otherwise you will not cut it.