'MRket at the Sands Expo' (one of the most important annual events in the American Fashion Industry)has just opened its doors in Las Vegas for a three day extravaganza . This event gives us an opportunity to explore the nature of a trade show but also state of the Industry and the fascinating turn of Men's Fashion toward health and the concept of Well-Being, through one of the sector's driving forces BJI Fashion Group and its successful New York MRket trade show at Manhattan's Jacob Javits Center(with over 360 exhibitors) , a show that heralded the ongoing Las Vegas event.
The American Fashion Industry is the most glamorous and important market for garments in the world , a market in which every up-and-coming fashion designer wishes to break through. It is also a universe haunted by the legend of Ralph Lauren, a man who started off selling ties in the Bronx , created a brand synonymous of America and a net-worth of over $7 billion. Not the easiest goal to emulate.
One of the main keys to success in the American Fashion Industry are its trade fairs, massive exhibitions in major cities, where companies of a specific industry showcase their products and services to other members of the industry and the press. The real goal of a tradeshow is for brands (exhibitors) to sell their products to retailers. Therefore, the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting between producer and client, (a particular feature of tradeshows throughout the ages) becomes extremely important.
In fact, the tradeshow is the point in the Fashion Industry at which the design-manufacture and promotion chain passes the baton to the distributors-retailers-producers and eventually the most desired for link in this sequence: the "end-users". (According to CIC Economic Significance Study Executive Summary there are over 10,000 annually in the United States).
With 27 annual events BJI Fashion Group is considered one of the main driving forces of the American Fashion Industry. CEO Britton Jones, introduces the company to us.
"We have always been focusing on making a good living by creating value for our customers and serving them. This business is one hundred percent focused on helping the retailers, our exhibitors , readers and advertisers improve their business or discovering a new line that is going to be very popular".
The story of BJI Fashion Group ownership by the Jones family begins in the Great Depression with Mr . Jones' grandfather, an architect working at Grand Central Station buying the company from its former owner who lost all his money in the stock market crash. At first a person was hired to run the day-to-day which consisted of business-to-business magazines on various topics with revealing titles such as "Rivers and Harbors" (devoted to the tugboat industry) and Diesel Power . At the end of the Second World War, Mr. Jones' father and uncle took over the company after returning for serving. Gradually the company bought magazines in the accessories fields and luggage and travel
Today BJI Fashion Group is considered as one of the most reliable ' user's guide' for entering the American Fashion Industry. Being a four-generation family enterprise brings, into business an emotional connection between administration, staff, customers and products- a relationship that is rare in today's world of big business and global expansion, as Mr. Jones further clarifies:
Our main goal is to help people launch and develop their businesses. That's one of the most satisfying things in this field. We can help them get into the radar screen and become discovered , before they set up a booth here. Too many people think that a 10x10 foot booth is all they have to do to launch a business. This might have been true a long time ago, but no more. We are not a mere event production company but an integrated media company and that's a tremendous advantage to us. We very much believe in consultative selling : people who work on our shows have been in this industry for a long time and they are able to help their clients navigate the challenges they are facing and point out examples of what other companies have done as to help them define strategies and identify realistic sales and business partners
This year's shows are marked by a large number of first-timers but also of foreign exhibitors, with Italy coming out in full force and a section of the fair dedicated to Italian fashion and designers. BJI Fashion Group's expertized staff helped its participants in the selection of a booth that meets company objectives, giving also tips on how to maximize the use of a very limited space In the true American spirit how to proceed through the always keeping clear goals in mind.
Fashion has always been about innovation
One of the most innovative approaches to ever occur in a fashion trade show was the presence at the center of the exhibition hall a space reserved for Equinox Fitness , the luxury chain of gym who sponsored a new section dedicated to activewear at the BJI-owned men's tradeshow called MRket. An open space made to look like the interior of an elegant gym, was furnished with rubber flooring, gym equipment mats, cylindrical rollers, a stationary exercise bike and above all, a gym's most treasured asset: young smiling personal trainers inviting exhibitors and visitors to give them a brief one-to-one session with quick tips. The occurrence of a company in a fashion trade show was not introduced as a clever side-show to the overall theme of Men's Fashion but as the central concept of the show itself.
Equinox is a company dedicated to the development of the human body. Yet, although the human body has always been the object of fashion, to which all its aspects are directed, it has never been the subject in itself.
By placing it as a centerpiece of the 2016 MRket trade show and using as emissary one of the most important institutions for physical development, BJI Fashion Group wished to draw the attention on the importance of the body's fitness and fine tuning in the resulting of a person's Well-Being in order to have this concept translated into Fashion. Well Being the main theme concept for Men's Fashion 2016 around which young creators are mobilizing their talent and inventiveness around the concept of Well Being in order to throw the spotlight on one of Fashion's most neglected area : the gym clothes,
Stanley Cheung, designer for EYSOM.com activewear and one of the most fervent advocates for the fusion of style with fashion explains:
Despite the proliferation of brands that produce activewear clothes, attention to detail and style has not been taken into account in gym clothes. A few major brands like Nike have been creating fashionable activewear for use at the gym. However their fit models are super athletes. Such a look is not a reflection of society. That body type does not translate to the guy who is in the gym for 30 minutes to get a quick workout. It is addressing a totally different body culture. However when you wear something nice this creates a state of mind. Body sculpting develops in time. So why not look good in the mirror now, by wearing something stylish and flattering, while striving for a goal in the future...
In its long history from Antiquity the notion of physical exercise for the human body was summarized as mechanical exercising for the building of muscle and confined in enclosed venues such as gyms and palestras, places from which fashion was castigated. Gyms were more about undressing and gym clothes about ' covering up' .
Capturing the essence of this notion of "Well-Being", Mathilde Klein, New York based physical therapist and Pilates specialist and Joe Pilates' original personal assistant tells us:
Pilates is just one of the many methods for strengthening the human body through self-knowledge. However well-being is not a mere menu of exercises. It does not come from the outside. It is a gradual self-examining process in order to understand what you're all about. By exercising, you learn to listen and to look deeply into yourself. And only by doing so you accept what you have in order to improve it. You have to know thyself before you understand what you really need. This applies to the body as well as to everything that covers it
Asked whether such a process could promote greater sales, Frank Rappa, Senior Director of Retail at Equinox answers:
"Absolutely. The market is looking for something fresh and there is tons of competition fighting for this market share. Health is the new Wealth and we are seeing a shift from whats trending on the runway to what's trending on the treadmill"
Known also for its motto "I think therefore I train", Equinox's approach to exercising is not confining the body to its mere physical dimension but about discovering other dimensions . Its interest in of Well Being should not surprise us if one takes a closer look at the company's background:
Equinox Fitness is owned by Leonard Green and Partners a Los Angeles-based private equity firm that also owns major commercial chains such as Rite Aid (drugstores) Sports Authority and Whole Food (specializing in organic food). Furthermore it should be taken into account that Equinox is also a subsidiary of Related Companies, one of the largest real estate developers in the United States, led by two great visionaries, Chairman and Co-Founder Stephen M. Ross and CEO Jeff T. Blau, (both not only great philanthropists but also patrons of the arts)then the picture becomes clearer. Related Companies is the one developer responsible for changing the face of New York by playing a leading role in the Hudson Yards Project, the rezoning of a 28-acre no man's land in the West 30s along the Hudson River, into the first new neighborhood to be added to the fabric of the city in decades. The corporation has also added the Time Warner Building to Central Park's Skyline. Creating a small hub of health-oriented businesses by housing in the mall of the prestigious building a 'Whole Food' market and a major Equinox gym, Related Companies' concept became the first major corporate step in the collective path toward the regeneration of a metropolis through well-being.
Well Being in this context of physical-spiritual is also a larger-than-life concept. Since going to the gym has become an integral part of life for millions of Americans, the Well Being movement isextending beyond the Fashion industry into a lifestyle trendsetter. It has been recognized by BJI as the next big thing from what is not yet popular assumes. As it is about to go mainstream Equinox becomes an ideal partner to BJI's quest for Well Being .
says Mr. Jones.
MOVE is how we call this new area of MRket. This is where the marriage of aesthetics and athletics is taking place. We have handpicked a selection of labels that are guaranteed to increase the fitness your store where we get the most experimental types of fabric fabrics. This approach had a huge impact in terms of people being able to develop very specific clothing for very specific customers: The trim-fits, slim-fits of the Fashion Forward. But one of the key is the introduction of new fabrics
The last major change in lifestyle coming from the world of athleticism that had a profound influence on men's fashion was heralded ninety years ago by Edward Prince of Wales. He was to become King Edward VIII and whose abdication from the most prestigious throne in the world took place because he was not allowed to marry the woman he loved- American divorcee Wallis Simpson- an act that snatched him away from the realm of History placing him forever a legendary figure of Romance.
In the late 1920s he became the first personality to pause for photographers in swim trunks instead of wearing full regalia. The images of the future king of England stripped down to a swimsuit ( a piece of Lastex fabric for the sake of enabling movement in the water and held around the waist by an elastic band) shook the walls of Fashion and stirred a craze for swimsuits across the world turning sunbathing into a popular pastime. This trend was immediately boosted in the United States by the enlisting of Hollywood superstars such as Errol Flynn and Gary Cooper appearing in pinup pauses which allowed the display of the bulging muscles of their bodies. For the first time, instead of subjugating the body to its whims, Fashion herself became subservient to the physical necessities of the body, thus changing men's way of life forever.
Around the Equinox space a number of booths of young designers dedicated to the creation of well-being-related lines were gravitating. Fashion has to discover new textiles that will walk hand in hand with this tendency and allow the freedom of movement while offering style. In fact the protagonist of is Fabric.
Los Angeles-based Mitchell Evan is a collection by young designer Mitchell Sander comprised of military-inspired fabrics deriving from the shell of WWII original tents and real air force fabric. The fabrics give the line a sense of authenticity a sense that they came out of some movie. This is in perfect accordance with Mr. worldview who, before venturing into the world of fashion, produced a short film with the title : "Day One Ahghanistan'. Thus the designers his screen audience and everyone else wearing his clothes in the streets, is to reconnect with the real American Values.Understanding mens' dedication to sports proved a challenge for two young women (Emily Dong and Tiffany Ying) who decided to explore the world of testosterone and add style to it by founding Masterclass Apparel a New York Soho-based independent brand dedicated exclusively to menswear .
The raising of an arm -let alone a series of arm-raise exercises is bound to restrict your range of movement. Starting from this basic principle we created these movement-freeing garments, that allow an unrestricted range of motion", says Miss Dong. In order to achieve the desired results we used as fabric "A polyester-spandex blend, a microfiber with technical properties with a four-way stretch, and moisture-wicking and antibacterial (odor-reducing from sweat) . Such material had been used before by mainstream active wear brands . Miss Dong concludes : "We designed and developed with our fabric producer a custom with a softer hand-feel and heavier weight giving it a more luxurious edge
Italian Fashion has always combined the stylish with the forward thinking. An ambassador of this lifestyle is a new start-up by three friends (Stefano Ghidotti, Lorenzo Torchio and Michele Canziani) who met in university and shared a vision of reinventing the clothes worn by their parents. In the world according to Milano140 every item of clothing is good for both going out and...sleeping. To emulate the pajama craze of the 1930s which had shocked the pre-war world by bringing for the first time bedtime wear to the streets in the name of comfort. This integration of sleepwear and outwear is an excellent illustration of MRket 's Well-Being theme stemming from freedom of movement.
Louis Feraud one of the first major Parisian designers that went successfully global with his brand as early as the 1980s used to say that fabric is the most primitive and therefore the most powerful element of fashion. It plays the role of a second skin to people wearing the clothes and is directly linked to the sense of touch, a sense that leaves in the brain impressions that are very hard to translate into words.
Despite being one of the youngest kid on the block, Milano140's booth was also marked a joint venture between a designer and a fabric producer: Filipari is an Italian firm dedicated to the research of new material. They applied to garments a milk-protein based fabric the softness of which words find hard to describe. Another innovation by Filipari is the introduction of marble dust combined with raisin and applied on cotton or woolen surfaces creating a
firm yet sensitive touch.
Pajamas at the Riviera- 1930s
Marble being calcium carbonate, is produced by the sedimentation of the shells of small fossilized snails, shellfish, and coral over millions of year it is one of the most exciting materials . In its marble form and Italian excellence, the material is best known for having served as the basis of Michelangelo's statues. How would the great sculptor have dealt with such an innovative treatment of the material could become challenging question for both Milano140 and Filipari fabrics.
Stanley Cheung 's of EYSOM approach to creating, according to this physical concept of fashion is by far the most cinematic:
I sit in the wings, watch people workout at the gym and fantasize on how they would look dressed differently with clothes that would accentuate their bodies, for example fitted on top to help give them shape. Whatever I design is based on what I observe. In the world of fashion one has to be meticulous about how one looks at all times and at whatever you're doing. People wear their athletic clothes everywhere why not feel good on top of that? Performance fabrics though are not very cheap and one has to deal with performance attributes in relationship to the price range of customers. Yet luxury can be approachable, as long as it is confortable on your skin"
Mr. Rappa summarizes on behalf of Equinox
Our retail point of view is dressing our member for their high performance lifestyle, we will always focus on curating the best of the best brands that will fit our members needs. Our members continue to live this high performance lifestyle beyond the strength floor. We will help transition them to and from the gym as well. We like to describe our assortment as from boxing class to beer with the boys.
The trend for innovation has passed on even in the realm of accessories. Giovanni Masoni's California-based Bucks Club is a new brand fusing the traditional with the modern. Has solved the problem of the belt length adjustment not by not by altering the buckle but by transforming the concept of the belt itself. Nautical rope which is widely used in interior decoration is woven into belts. Due to the resistance of the material, the claw of the buckle no longer needs to find a hole. It can penetrate easily into the weaving without leaving marks at any given point. The thickness of the ropes normal elastic weaving is not possible without the use of very expensive heavy-duty weaving machines at a very high cost. So Mr. Masoni is proud that his products are 100 percent "made in America"
Asked whether Equinox anticipates any display of the company's services in any outlets or , vice versa, any alliances with fashion products/lines sold in its branches, Mr. Rappa says:
We believe our voice as a brand has and warrants credibility. With that said we partner with numerous vendors to offer our members co-branded and exclusive release items. This is an important part of our strategy. "For Equinox" is a key part of the assortment strategy. We are not planning to see our product throughout other outlets at any point in the near future. With 79 locations, we have plenty we can showcase on our own.
This need for innovation has even touched traditional tailoring such as Luciano Moresco a New York based an exponent of the traditional Italian lines. Classical jackets with Jersey padded material rarely used in classical tailoring as it is not only difficult to handle but also expensive. However as it expands in elasticity it adds a measure of comfort in movement and falls within the philosophy of the Trade Fair
The selection of the name Engineered for Motion for a brand of clothes says a great deal about Don Rad's approach to life. In its fourth year, EFM is a firm deeply involved in the research of stretchable materials. In their lab, new materials and different types of stitch are constantly tested in order to come up with travel friendly yet classic menswear, in which one can also workout. Dedicated to movement and above all to cycling, the designer's lines have been called 'Multifunctional'. Having a strong tailor background Mr. Rad makes sure that everyone's suit will be cut in such a way so that it will express the physiology of the body carrying it. According to his motto : "do more with less" one picks a suit to wear in the morning, drives the bicycle to work, indulges in a few crunches on the wall-to-wall carpet of the office and after the last meeting enjoys a night at the opera pausing having a drink at the Met's Grand Tier with no creases.
The arrival of the Mizzen+Main shirts in the fashion world of America was heralded with a bang. with the press from The New York Times via the Wall Street Journal to Esquire. It was the result of a long story that began on a typical Washington DC summer muggy day with humidity climbing to suffocating levels and Kevin Lavelle, a 19-year-old D.C. intern, feeling the shirt sticking on his skin and taking a vow to remove this scourge from the lives of men.
Freedom of movement through elegance is one of the brand's attributes if one is to judge from the advertisement campaign of the company. Unlike most brands that use exotic names for their lines to suggest an escape from cities to distant shores, Mizzen+Main 's goal is to bring the glamour and casualness of sailing back into the city and fuse these aesthetics into the daily lives of our streets. Mr. Lavelle has never forgotten that DC afternoon as he diligently strives toward the production of urban Welll-Being. No wonder his two most popular lines are not called Tahiti or Cape Cod but Manhattan and Washington- two of the many cities that have adopted a moisture-wickering dress code, thanks to Mizzen+Main
In such an important display of creative talent one cannot fail to mention one of the designers who practically started it all : Canadian-born Jared Lang who by introducing in the late 1990s the concept of a shirt that could be worn from morning till late at night was regarded by the fashion world as an eccentric flash in the pan .Fast forwarding to the present: this concept of his has become the mainstream trend, Always trying to remain ahead of the curve, Mr. lang is now off into researching stretcheable fabrics . His creations resonate to a large span of urban men (from the mid-20s to their 50s) as his work is not so much about what trends today but how tomorrow will feel.
It is said that what separates men from the boys is their neckwear and that the crucial moment of transition from one state to another is then one when a youngster will tie the knot of his tie by himself.
On this field the time honored encountered the flight of fancy. Yet the
After Rolando Scapellato revolutionized the industry by creating a tie with a complex folding operation whereby two large panels of silk are sewn together and folded onto each other 11 times nothing would be the same again. In Dolcepunta the flow of the fabric that springs out of the knot, streaming down the face of the shirt, is simply Italy at its best.
But then comes the break with tradition for which Fashion is always responsible and the need to differentiate oneself from the more conforming crowd. The most casual and playful neckwear and at the same time man's most faithful companion in his most formal moments.There was one booth that stood out as the most original and was discussed across the floor of the trade show: Brackish bow-ties made a debut sensation. Handcrafted with natural feathers from peacock to pheasant and even snakeskin, they add color, interest and a possible sense of well-being to one of the most awkward moments in a man's life: the wait, at the foot of the altar, for the arrival of the bride. With a high amount of detail going into their creation, these bowties are gradually also working their way onto the Red Carpet.
The one exhibit of great historical significance to feature at the New York trade show was a hat. Texas-based Hatco, a major vendor of hats also represented in its booth the firm of' Stetson one of the most revered hatters in the world, producing headwear (albeit with a Western flavor) since 1865. Gerry Miller, the company's National Sales manager, pointed out that of the return of hats into prominence in the lives of American men between the ages of 25 and 40 a large percentage of which are hanging their baseball caps in favor of structured hats.
Among the collection was an item called Open Road. A very familiar looking piece of fine millinery as this headpiece had graced the heads of three U.S. Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Barry Johnson.
This hat has become synonymous to LBJ's fight over the Civil Rights Act, a historical occurrence that changed the face of America and the course of its history forever.
The Open Road is a 'cowboy' hat made from the same felt as a dress hat for the man that owns the ranch. As the is structured rising from the brim, with its narrow grosgrain standing out, it comes pre-creased with a cattleman's crown. The Open Road has a sweat similar in feel and quality to a Borsalino. The lining is sewn in delicately to caress the head: a so-much needed indulgence for any head burdened with the task of "ruling the free world". In an election year when Americans are complaining about their choices of presidential candidates, the Open Road hat alludes to a very different nature of issues and dynamics of the American political landscape . LBJ Courtesy of the Everett Collection
The most traditional exhibitor of MRket 2016 did not come from the field of garments but rather from the world of ....facial hair. In a specially arranged booth, Truefitt and Hill , the London-originating oldest barber shop presented its famous skin care products empirically, by offering exhibitors and visitors alike a professional shave by White Plains based Master Barber Peter Palushi. Once the chair reclined and lather and products were applied on my face , maestro Palushi's light hand made shaving feel more like a face massage and my consciousness surrendered as I drifted into the embrace of slumber. A few seconds (or minutes) later, returning back to the reality of the Javits Center, I was refreshed, with a glowing face, feeling much younger than in a long time and so excited for I had discovered the true meaning of Well-Being
One of the most important turning points in the history of the Fashion Industry is the arrival of the Internet.
The Internet has become extremely important to our business. We are working with retailers to help them understand how to use the Internet. We also give web seminars in order to help them optimize their Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For in our age it has become of crucial importance to capture the time and attention of people who are going on a search in the web. We find that various mediums reach different generations and targeted audiences . Instagram for instance is a colorful visual display. LinkedIn is very professional. Each platform serves a different purpose, which we have to explain to our clients"
Nikolas Cookies, Founder and CEO of Watertron, a London-based Facebook Marketing Agency specifies:
"Instagram is a more exclusive delicate and elegant social media platform, targeting people of higher education and aesthetics. It is more glamorous than the other platforms. In fact it serves as the glossy magazine of social media, where one can post pictures of products. This is why fashion brands engage in Instagram It is also very much connected to the body culture. A fit body tends to photograph well . Therefore the fine-tuned human body is an ideal subject matter for Instagram aesthetics. Being extremely popular both at the runway and the gym Instagram is an ideal tool for this new fusion of fashion and well-being.
Emily Pappas, a spokeswoman for LinkedSuperPowers, a very popular , Social Media certified Likedin Profile Optimization Agency, says
Populist sensationalism , always a major media selling device, has been portraying online shopping as an abstract giant about to gulp down traditional shopping and sounding the death knell of the brick-and-mortar shop. Mr. Jones insists that this is not necessarily true and that the Internet should be examined in its positive aspects, as a tool creating interest in drive sales. Everyone should be creating an online strategy. Because of online, it has never been so important to have the mechanisms to listen to one's customers. Instagram may be the glamorous partner in social media presenting the pictures to unprecedented vast audiences.Linkedin, with its 400 million members on the other hand may be the connection /the bridge to the inta-disciplinary world the bridge between the creators and the investors, promoters In this exciting landscape, BJI Fashion Group remains the host, the coordinator, the nucleus, bringing everybody together in its fashion trade shows, physically and virtually, online and offline, thus linking historically the modern trade fair to the initial fairs at the central squares of the Medieval Cities. Above all, BJI is the power forging the path for the coming fashion. Mr. Jones concludes:
Linkedin lies on the industrial side of the web, providing access to over four hundred million professionals . Its subject matter is ' strictly business'. Having started as an area of job seekers looking to upload their CVs, LinkedIn has developed into one of the most dynamic platforms for professional and corporate promotion. This is a platform encouraging business collaboration. The Linkedin Profile story telling is not so much about the product itself but more about its creators. It is more about shedding light on the cast of a performance than on the actual show. The LinkedIn Summary (for individuals) and the LinkedIn Company Page Description (for companies) brings the protagonists from the background onto center stage , making them known to those that really matter, in a business sense. Image has also crept into this largest network of professionals in the world which until lately was considered as more conventional. Visuals images, video and slideshow presentations are now common in the media section of your LinkedIn profile.
Mr. Jones concludes:
The next two weeks are the most intense in the BJI Fashion Group's very ambitious annual schedule of 27 events. We are staging eight shows featuring almost 170,000 net square feet of curated men's and women's fashion that will be shopped by more than 15,000 retailers from around the globe. In both Las Vegas and New York, these BJI events will facilitate the discovery, connection and commerce between thousands of brands and retailers from all fifty States and over 70 countries. Spurring so much business in such vibrant markets is an exceptionally rewarding and exhilarating experience
By fusing Fashion with the Well-Being of the human body the BJI Fashion Group has encouraged this year's Men's Fashion "to boldly go (online and offline) where no man has gone before" .