In the middle of the dizzying grand fashion tour that takes international editors and buyers around the globe to preview and purchase fall collections every January and February, it’s no surprise that the parallel trade show circuit gets little play. Convention Centres lined with cubicles and rolling racks can’t stand up to the sparkle of celebrity front rows and multi million dollar runways shows.
If you’re a designer who wants to take care of business and you don’t have a swanky showroom (and sometimes, even if you do), nothing beats trade show traffic for maximizing exposure and sales potential. There’s Piti Uomo in Florence, Prêt à Porter in Paris and the relatively new Fashion North here in Toronto but some of the smaller stops are proving most useful for local labels.
KRANE ’s Ken Chow made his first appearance at the Capsule show at the end of January. The two-seasons-new menswear event brings together indie labels like Corpus, Double Identity and Acne at the Orensanz Centre, a church-turned-event space on New York’s Lower East Side. With an advisory board that includes reps from Barney’s, Fred Segal and Refinery29.com, it’s no surprise that Chow’s bag and coat collection caught the eyes of editors from Details and GQ and made Capsule’s wrap up on Men.Style.Com.
“Menswear isn’t huge in Toronto,” said Chow when he returned home, “but meeting with people at the show and getting a response proved how important and relevant it is.”
Pool in Las Vegas is also known for boosting new talents. Toronto’s Milburn Powell showed there for the first time last August but felt buyers weren’t focused on the emerging event after other shows in New York. Vegas’s other major trade shows, Magic and Project, also compete for attention at the same time.
“Meeting other designers was good but next time I think we’ll try United in New York,” says co-designer Emily Powell.
On the heels of New York Fashion Week, Coterie takes place next week. Toronto-based labels scheduled to exhibit include House of Spy, Smythe, Pink Tartan and Tevrow + Chase. Montreal’s Mackage, Andy Thê-Anh and Vancouver’s Fidelity Denim up the Canadian content.
Trade shows aren’t just for the clothing crowd though. The Toronto International Gift Fair filled three halls at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from January 25 to 28. TIGF is where retailers go to shop for novelty license plates and pre-order their Victoria Day fireworks. In the midst of a lot of STUFF, we found a product that’s a sure hit. Cupcoats are reusable, insulated sleeves to wrap your drink, complete with a mini pocket sized for toting your coffee change or gift card. Ever since I picked up a sample, my Starbucks has been cozily green and I’m betting yours will soon be too.
P.S. The Gap came back
I remember my first Gap purchase: a mustard sweatshirt with a crest proudly proclaiming the company’s birth in San Francisco in 1969. Back in those days, when I did the bulk of my shopping at Sherway Gardens, the Gap had direction, leading a neo prep movement that khaki-ed North America. Lately, the company has been struggling for retail relevance, stuck between trend following fast fashion and feeding the market quality staples.
This week, Gap designer Patrick Robinson unveiled a fall collection that has the fashion pack buzzing and not just ‘cause Robinson’s wife Virginia Smith happens to be Vogue’s Market Director. The clothes are simple without being basic, relaxed without being sloppy, proper without being prissy and quiet without being mute.
If I enter a Gap this fall and see them on mannequins minus the arsenal of straight pins that usually cinch shape into its boxy pieces, I’ll be a true believer and might just have to dig out that yellow sweatshirt again.