Trade Show Report

Steady Regional Business at FMNC for Established Brands and New Resources

By Sarah Wolfson | Thursday, June 27, 2013

SAN MATEO, Calif.—Business was steady and productive at Fashion Market Northern California, held June 23–25 at the San Mateo County Event Center.The regional trade show served as a showcase for returning and new brands, including several with a sustainable or philanthropic message, according to FMNC Executive Director Suzanne De Groot.

June markets, which typically showcase Holiday merchandise, tend to be smaller but bring in loyal buyers looking for Immediate deliveries and necessity goods.

Don Reichman, an exhibitor at FMNC, said this is an important market particularly because it falls between the large LA shows in March for Fall and in October for Spring. Reichman is treasurer of the Golden Gate Apparel Association (GGAA), which organizes the FMNC show.

Northern California stores can come to the June FMNC show to fill in orders for Holiday. Retailers from Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado came to the show, particularly because it is easy to shop, he said.

Napa Valley, Calif.–based retailer Barbara Wiggins of Mustard Seed described FMNC as more convenient for her than other markets. “I love this show. You can find it all, and everyone is so nice. I am shopping for an annual fashion-show fundraiser for Queen of the Valley Medical Center and looking to find pieces specifically for the event, knowing I will find it all here,” Wiggins said.

Steve Alpert, president of GGAA, said when he asks retailers why they attend the show, feedback is always consistent. “It is the friendliest show to attend, and that has become a theme for us,” he said, crediting the open-booth format and the quality of vendors.

“Exhibitors know not to push buyers, so retailers are treated with respect,” Alpert said.

Returning exhibitor Gabriela Shultz of Adorn Thyself showroom in San Francisco said although the first two days were steady, the last day of the show typically was “jamming.” Shultz carries brands such as American Colors, a collection of tunic shirts in a range of fabrications that wholesale for $79–$95.

Myrrhia Resneck, owner of Myrrhia Fine Knitwear, was a first-time FMNC exhibitor who released her collection in February 2012. Her merchandise—which ranges from sweaters to cardigans, scarves, dresses and tops—comes in merino wool, organic California-grown cotton and Tencel. Wholesale price points for accessories start at $20 and go up to $40 while garments range from $60 to $130.

“I would love for my designs to speak for themselves, but [being eco-friendly] is a part of my own concern,” Resneck said. “I want to produce apparel in a sustainable and ethical manner.” Resneck said she wants to make clothes that help women succeed in their professional careers while helping them still express their individuality and not be in some kind of uniform.

By the second day of the show, her expectations were met. Resneck said she established new relationships with boutique owners and landed several orders. The Oakland, Calif.–based apparel brand participated in FMNC because it was the most cost-effective approach, and after attending, she said, “Everyone was supportive, and the organizers were [equally] committed in making sure everyone is successful at the show. There is almost a community here.”

Global Reach

Several exhibitors at FMNC were showing hand-crafted apparel and accessories from companies with a humanitarian mission.

Napa Valley–based apparel company Our Hands for Hope produces apparel and accessories hand-knit in Peru.

Founded by Terisa Brooks-Huddleston, the company was created in partnership with two non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Creation Peru and New Hope International, according to Cinthya Rubio, Our Hands for Hope’s marketing specialist.

While Huddleston is responsible for 90 percent of the design process, it is a collaboration between the designer and the knitters. All of the pieces are named after the Peruvian women. The company currently employs 60 people in Peru but is expanding.

“It is a fair-trade business,” Rubio said, adding that everything is made-to-order. “We try to make the process as efficient as possible, and, so far, it has been working.”

Each piece is made from Alpaca with some wool and acrylic blends to keep the shape of the item. Large blankets can wholesale up to $174 while a headband wholesales for much lower.

Our Hands for Hope primarily retails to local specialty boutiques but recently landed an order with the Denver International Airport. “We pulled a lot people in here at market because they are attracted to our [brand] story,” Rubio said.

Sasa Designs jewelry is produced by a team of deaf artisans in Kenya under the direction of a nonprofit organization that invests its profits into services for the deaf. Sasa provides training, administration and a workshop where the jewelry makers can work independently. Wholesale price points for the delicately beaded necklaces and bracelets range between $4 and $20.

“We try and minimize our external influence to focus on sales and marketing and a bit of management, but our main focus is empowering these women,” said Megan MacDonald, Sasa’s director of global enterprise. “Our motto is to create timeless pieces that we can update season to season with color and materials so we are not retraining every time we produce a new line. Most of what I do is putting colors and concepts together versus complete redesign. So the wire techniques that are used in the new line are a reflection of trying to bring a little of Kenya in everything we do.”

MacDonald, who splits her time between Kenya and California, was upbeat about the buyer response at FMNC. “It has been great here at market,” she said. “Although it started slow, I picked up new vendors in diverse locations. I don’t want to saturate a particular town.”

Partners Cynthia Carle and Elaine Aronson of Oofkas make cuffs to accessorize a jacket or an outfit. A portion of their sales goes to Girls Learn International, an organization that encourages education around the world, including India, Pakistan and Africa. The Los Angeles–based company offers three styles, ranging from basic denim and gray to flashier versions, wholesale priced from $12.50 to $19.50.

Carle and Aronson showed their line at the MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas earlier this year but said it was too overwhelming. “This [show] is much smaller and very friendly,” Carle said.