Project trade show review 2/08
I don’t know how many of the shows I’ll be able to review. Hopefully we’ll get in more trip reports next week so you don’t get just my side of things. I’m rating shows according to criteria loosely defined as follows:
- Good/bad for buyers/exhibitors
- Ambiance and show amenities if any (computer access, free water or food etc)
- What products and sort of vendors there
- Buyers said and Exhibitors said (all hearsay)
- Ease of getting there (location, where was it)
- Advice: which DEs should show there if any
- Cost if known, presumed value
- Comparison with other show if appropriate (situ begs it)
Unfortunately, there’s no way around it. My review of Project opens with a rant.
While I know some people took orders at Project, I don’t know how they did it. There was no way to do business at Project. It wasn’t a show, it was a big party. It was LOUD. LOUD! It was so LOUD the noise sent people cowering into corners of respite the speakers didn’t reach. So LOUD you couldn’t hear to even know what kind of music it was. I don’t know what show management was thinking. If I thought it was LOUD last time, it was completely over the top this time. Kind of like my rant. Everyone complained about how LOUD it was. The FBI used that strategy on the Branch Davidians in Waco TX. Remember that if you decide to show there.
Project is supposed to be “cool”, the hip place. And it is a beautiful show, open, spacious, lovely decor with amenities such as free internet access from laptops set up on islands complete with seating and free water. The white shag rugs would look tacky anywhere else. I don’t know about food, I wasn’t hungry when I was there so I forgot to check it out. However, there was free food and alcohol in the VIP tent. All that said, don’t even dream of showing there unless you’ve walked it ahead of time. If you don’t walk it and your show ends badly, I already warned you ahead of time. With denim and tee lines predominating, maybe it’ll appeal to hipster buyers with hipster stores but can’t imagine established stores would want to buy there. And if you showed there and took orders, don’t presume for a moment it had anything had to do with the ambiance; it was your line. You can’t imagine how well you’d sell at another show. If you have a fashion forward line, the options are looking better by comparison.
The floor traffic at Project seemed steady enough, heaven knows traffic in all the other shows slowed the day Project opened but after awhile, I noticed that it seemed as though it was a crew of twenty-somethings hanging out in each other’s booths blocking the aisles. Exhibitors must have gotten tons of badges. Do you really need eight friends to work your booth? I don’t know how you could really have a conversation there with all those people milling around, even assuming it wasn’t so LOUD. Buyers got lost in the crowds. At this point, I can’t tell how much of my critique is even valid. The noise became this aching oozing sore, the pain of it dominating and coloring every experience. Oh don’t mind me. The cool people seemed to have liked it well enough.
At Project, I saw a Brasilian line I was crazy about called Iodice. Don’t bother looking it up on the web, you’ll get a different impression than I did. The styles you can find are nothing like what I saw at the show, not even the recent runway shows in NY show are similar to what I saw at Project. There, it was all about pattern cutting, everything was black (wouldn’t photograph well so I didn’t bother), same fabrication but about 80 -or so it seemed- different bodies. Very unique cuts, all different with folds, twists, tucks. I’ve always said a real talent could do that. Use the same fabric over and over but make each different with cutting. If it hadn’t been so LOUD there, I would have spent more time looking. I couldn’t find the rep. It’s likely he/she was hiding from the noise in the bathroom.
Iodice was paired in a booth (if you could call it that, being open) with Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomania line, also all in black. I love color but what can I say? It worked. VW’s line was similarly fabulous. An excellent example of how two lines can compliment each other in spite of being somewhat similar and most likely sharing the same customer base. You don’t listen to one musical group to the exclusion of all others, why would you expect people to wear only one designer’s clothes? I know some do but that’s another story.
Ed Hardy had the largest booth I’ve ever seen. Ever. Anywhere. I don’t know how many thousands of square feet. I wouldn’t even mention them except the company has become a now perennial source of irritation. Whoever keeps tabs on their press runs a search bot on F-I ten times an hour, soaking server resources. I think once a day is ample. I keep meaning to ban that IP. Whoever is in charge of that, cut it out. This is the second and last time I’ll ever mention Ed Hardy. Neither time favorably.
I did chat with a few exhibitors there. One was a DE named Beth Colt (below) who was sharing a booth with two other girls. She was interesting because like many of you, she came into this from a totally different angle. A former investment banker on Wall Street (like the banjo player Alison Brown) she decided to explore her artistic side, making boiled knit bags (felted). They’re kind of whimsical, better than I describe them. Her first launch, she says she was pleased at having taken a few orders. Her booth wasn’t beneath a speaker. She was surprisingly open about her process. I mean, I know how these are made but I didn’t expect her to explain it to me. So many newbies are very tight lipped. I can only think her transparency helped sales.
Another vendor I met who was also doing well (anyone I spoke to seemed to be doing okay but then, I couldn’t actually speak to many) was Irma Castillo of Viva Bags of California. Irma was perfectly delightful. She was older than most of the exhibitors there but her line of leather bags fit right in. She told me a charming story of how she started. She’d been with what had been the company for about sixteen years before she took it over. She’d worked as a book keeper for the original owner for eight years. Then he sold it to a Japanese group so she continued to keep books for them for another eight years. She kept pestering them that if they ever wanted to sell it, she was interested. In the end, they sold it to her. She’s small, fewer than 12 employees, but she cuts and sews everything in Los Angeles and furthermore, says she sees no reason to change things. I had a picture of her but don’t know what happened to it. I liked her bags, nice quality too. If I can ever spend time visiting factories in LA, I plan on visiting her. She was just the sweetest lady, very down to earth, more like a stitcher than a company owner. If you’re looking for a line of domestic leather shoulder bags, I hope you’ll consider picking up her line.
Project was off site but easy to get to via shuttle. Maybe Project pays a fee for the consideration, who knows? Maybe MAGIC has surrendered and figures that if they facilitate with a shuttle, they’ll get their visitors back faster? The fact is undeniable, Project has legs. It’s a tourist attraction if nothing else at this point.
This show is ideally suited for the deaf and hard of hearing with denim lines, leather jackets, premium tees, accessories or other products selling to a younger crowd. I don’t know what the cost is but it’s less than the MAGIC booths. If your line has matured or you’ve outgrown Pool (next review), but are selling to this demography, this may be a good choice. Your other alternative is Streetwear over at MAGIC but I liked the booth layout better at Project. It’s set up in such a way that all booths (other than the really huge lines like Ed Hardy, Iodice, Vivienne Westwood etc) are facing out on the aisle. At MAGIC, the entry point may be the other way around from where you’re walking.