Trade Show Report

Fall and New Resources Key at Fashion Market Northern California

By Christina Aanestad | Thursday, June 26, 2014

SAN MATEO, CAL — The San Mateo Event Center was bustling with activity during the June 22–24 run of Fashion Market Northern California, where exhibitors were showing fashion and accessories lines and buyers were placing last-minute Summer through late-Fall orders.

“We have 36 new exhibitors—that’s a 20 percent increase from last year,” said Suzanne DeGroot, FMNC executive director. “I am hearing that people have found out about our show from their customers and vendors they meet at other shows.”

First-time exhibitor Elizabeth Roney displayed her Indiana-based line, Liz Alig, which includes recycled, organic and fair-trade clothing and accessories.

“[FMNC] is a good market for fair trade and eco fashion,” said Roney, who attended FMNC in hopes of landing orders for her 5-year-old line in smaller boutiques. “Where I come from, it’s more about education. Here people already get it—when you say fair trade and organic, they understand what that means.”

Roney said her experience at FMNC was a positive one. She received new orders and is networking with sales reps to represent her line.

“This is nice because it’s a smaller market, and independent lines have a chance to not get lost in all the other brands,” she said.

Buyers navigated the show’s open-floor format looking for new and existing lines to fill their stores. “We’re looking for Immediates and Fall fashions,” said Angela Harnden, co-owner of Dandelion, a 4,000-square-foot upscale women’s boutique in Redding, Calif. She traveled four hours south to attend FMNC, which stays open until 7 p.m. on Mondays to accommodate long-distance travelers.

Jean Jung, owner of Gold Dreams in San Anselmo, Calif., expanded her custom fine-jewelry boutique three years ago to include fashions that complement her high-end accessories.

“This is where I picked up Amma,” said Jung, wearing her favorite floral-printed dress by the Los Angeles–based label. “I’m looking for apparel that shows off jewelry—tailored, simple and fun for women.”

“California made” was a theme several retailers, including Jung, were enthusiastic about. Gold Dreams also carries Orange, which produces bamboo-fabric fashions in Los Angeles, and Inside Out, also made in America.

Latest Fashion Finds

Retailers said they attend FMNC to find the latest fashion trends, and they often rely on sales representatives to provide them with that. Cynthia Zizzi, owner of Zizi in Healdsburg, Calif., traveled to FMNC to meet with her established sales representatives and stock her contemporary store with women’s apparel for ages 30 to 70.

“Sales reps know what’s selling strongly. I ask them how the line is going. It’s valuable to work with a sales rep,” explained Zizzi, who carries Paris-based Lauren Vidal, Tel Aviv–based Ronen Chen, San Francisco–based Porto and Berkeley, Calif.–based Stella Carakasi.

Mary Taft Johnson, a Northern California sales representative for seven lines—including Tumbleweed Ranch, a line of modernized dye-treatment prints from Los Angeles; Fat Hat, a knitwear line from domestically made fabrics out of Vermont; and Krimson Klover, based in Grass Valley, Calif.—said her client flow this market was “steady.” By the second day of the show, she had a dozen orders, including two orders that picked up her new line, Zand Amsterdam, a collection of reversible skirts made in India from salvaged fabrics.

“My customers want us to pick up new things; they look to us to find new fashions,” said Johnson, who saw clients from as far away as Oklahoma and Portland, Ore.

Convenient Location

FMNC’s location was an added bonus for sales representatives and buyers alike. For retailer Shunzi Che, who owns three Shunzi boutiques in Northern California—in Petaluma, San Rafael and Los Altos—FMNC’s proximity is convenient.

Che said, “70 percent to 80 percent of my lines are from this show. It’s close to home, so I try to find as much as I can here.” In addition to meeting with established sales representatives for lines such as Babette and Niche, Che also picked up a new line, Tees by Tina, a line of casual, American-made activewear designed by a Pilates instructor.

“My store is for women over 40 who are looking for items that are interesting and unique—not mainstream,” she said.

Southern California sales representative Lisa Ozur returned to FMNC for the first time since its move to San Mateo seven years ago. Ozur runs Niche, a multi-line showroom in Los Angeles that includes CJ by Cookie Johnson (designed by the wife of basketball player Magic Johnson), Acrobat, My Tribe and Fate. Ozur said she attended FMNC as an alternative to traveling to individual shops and boutiques in the region.

“I can see more people here in a day than on the road. And when I’ve seen new stores, made new orders, it’s an added bonus,” she said. “Yesterday, I worked with 13 accounts. There’s no way I’m driving to 13 stores in one day—unless I have four clones. So for me it’s good to be here.”