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Magic Welcomes Granny Chic, but Fears Trump Tariff Tampering

Magic's consolidated and expanded autumn iteration saw boho chic remain in rude health, a rejuvenated fur sector, a nerdy nan look and speculation as to how free trade agreements will fare under the incoming Trump administration.

Photo: Magic: A new look and a new format for the second show of the year.
Magic: A new look and a new format for the second show of the year.
Photo: Magic: A new look and a new format for the second show of the year.
Magic: A new look and a new format for the second show of the year.

Magic, the world's largest fashion and apparel marketplace, chose its second iteration of the year to unveil its reinvented format. In April 2016, UBM, the trade show's owner, completed its US$70 million acquisition of Business Journals Inc (BJI), which had its own stable of fashion shows. A number of these events ran concurrently with Magic and, in some cases, even took place at the same venues. UBM has now rationalised its portfolio, creating a cohesive event with 15 sub-shows, allowing for dedicated men's, women's, juniors' and children's apparel, footwear and accessories exhibitions.

Outlining this new structure, Tim Cobbold, UBM's Chief Executive, said: "This acquisition was very much in line with our 'events first' strategy. It adds to our presence in North America as well as in the fashion sector. We now see excellent opportunities to deliver an improved experience for customers, while allowing us to realise the operational benefits that scale allows."

The process was helped by the fact that Las Vegas' Mandalay Convention Center – the setting for many of the Magic events – opened a new trade show hall this year. This allowed the BJL stable of shows to move from the Sands Expo Center to Mandalay Bay, seeing them share a space with UBM's Project, Project Women's, The Tents, Pool and Collective events. WWDMAGIC – a contemporary women's fashion showcase – is also set to relocate there next year, adding to site's upscale fashion mix.

Thankfully, the new format also translated into a better experience for attendees. Most importantly, visitors can now use one badge to access all of the shows and are also entitled to free use of the shuttle between the two venues.

From Puffers to Furs

Traditionally, one of the most heavily attended sessions at WWDMAGIC has been the Fashion Trend Forecast, delivered at every event by New York-based Fashion Snoops. This year was no exception, with one of the key trends for fall 2017-winter 2018 – as presented by Melissa Moylan, Snoops' Women's Fashion Director – announced as Code. Decrypting this, Moylan, said: "Code is all about breaking the fashion system and moving away from collections by dressing in anonymous separates. It's also anti-establishment and bog on empowerment through graphics." Typical Code items feature utility-based materials and vintage denim washes, while its design elements include large shoulders, hoods and raw edges on denim. The puffer jacket is also a staple.

A little too edgy? Then perhaps Precious Oddity, a "chic grandma" trend might be more to your liking. This is apparently characterised by the wearing of "the kind of unexpected things that you're not supposed to in a mash-up". Embracing embroidered flowers, patchwork and tennis shoes, this particular trend is described as "vintage meets cool meets nerdy".

Intellect, the third looming trend, was introduced as "the confident swagger of the 1970s, with a smart and sophisticated approach." Moylan said: "It's all about a retro colour palette and geometric patterns. Bookish glasses, Lurex knits and fur trims are just some of its key elements."

Over on the show floor, though, boho chic was still very much the dominant style, with its signature embroidered tops and dresses still widely available. This style is still particularly popular with buyers from South America, even though they currently have lower budgets, largely on account of the stronger dollar. A keen proponent of boho chic, Arthur Kim Founder of Los Angeles-based Lulumari, said: "A significant proportion of the people who come to our stand are from South America and Mexico. They represent about 65% of our business."

Another company that was having no trouble drawing a crowd was Istanbul's Gata Fur. Obviously enjoying the attention, Berk Cansoz, the company's Sales and Marketing Manager, said: "We have several interested buyers that we are going to follow up with after we return to Turkey."

Photo: The Iberlaser: Doodling on denim a doddle.
The Iberlaser: Doodling on denim a doddle.
Photo: The Iberlaser: Doodling on denim a doddle.
The Iberlaser: Doodling on denim a doddle.
Photo: Fur: Back in demand across Asia.
Fur: Back in demand across Asia.
Photo: Fur: Back in demand across Asia.
Fur: Back in demand across Asia.

With successful businesses in Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia, the company is looking to tap into the other global markets. Explaining it ambitions, Cansoz said: "In Hong Kong, for instance, they're looking for fur fashion at trend pieces and we can supply."

Sourcing Stays Strong

This year, the number of stands at SourcingMagic's dedicated window on the supply chain – was down to 2,680 from 2,600. Clearly unfazed, Bob Berg, Senior Manager for the show, said: "Thanks to strong traffic and the larger spaces taken by some exhibitors, this slight drop was far from apparent."

For 2016, Ethiopia had a notable strong presence at Sourcing, with the country keen to promote its new industrial parks in a bid to lure apparel and textile companies. The Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, was attending for the first time, while even the Bangladesh Ambassador to the US put in an appearance. Addressing delegates, he provided an update on his country's textiles sector, emphasizing how much working conditions have improved of late.

Over on the show floor, innovation seemed the best way to attract attention. With this clearly in mind, the French Association of Innovative Brands had brought along a large number of young companies, all seemingly intent on transforming everyday items into something truly extraordinary.

Lyon-based Induo, for instance, was in Las Vegas to promote its range of water-repellent and breathable cotton, guaranteed to stay free of sweat – or any other – stains. According to Pauline Guesne, the company's Co-founder, the process involved a special weaving technique and coating of the fibre with a repellant agent, a process akin to dying. She said: "We launched in January 2016 with white only, but now we're introducing colours." The company recently secured a deal with a clothing retailer with more than 600 outlets and is now looking to expand worldwide.

Across the hall, another crowd had gathered around a small laser machine, which was busily etching a design onto a pair of jeans. Manufactured by Spain's Iberlaser, the system – the Atom – has been designed specifically for use by small to medium apparel manufacturers. It facilitates the addition of logos, pictures and destroyers to any desired garment. Commenting on the reception the system had received, Miriam Ribas, Iberlaser's Communication and Design Manager, said: "The interest at the show has been far greater than we expected."

The Future of Trade Agreements

Prior to his election as US President, Donald Trump based his campaign – in part at least – on a controversial promise to drop out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and from other free-trade agreements. In numerous speeches he labelled existing and potential trade deals as "horrible" and "defective", calling for immediate renegotiation. His running mate, US Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a long-time supporter of TPP, notably backed away from it during the campaign, publicly stating that he now questions its wisdom.

In light of this, it was no surprise that one of the most heavily-attended sessions of the event was dedicated to the then pending election's likely impact on industry and trade. Jon Fee, a Senior Counsel with the Washington office of Alston & Bird LLP, an international law firm, said: "A TPP vote in the lame-duck session [the months of the presidency between the election and the inauguration of the new President] is not at all probable."

He also discussed the implications of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free trade deal led by China, saying; "If this is initiated before TPP, some believe that the US will be left on the sidelines in Asia, a very important part of the world. It's possible that, in that case, the business community – which is always pro free trade agreements – will approach Washington with a louder voice."

Photo: Poor portents: Will Trump election damage the textile sector?
Poor portents: Will Trump election damage the textile sector?
Photo: Poor portents: Will Trump election damage the textile sector?
Poor portents: Will Trump election damage the textile sector?

Magic 2016 was held at Las Vegas' Mandalay Convention Center from 15-18 August. The event attracted 80,000 fashion and apparel professionals.

Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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