Story written for Composure Magazine. See the full article here.
Inside The Trade Shows With Vice President and Show Director Roy Turner
Story by Min A. Lee
We, as editors and writers, all flock to the major Fashion Weeks every season, but there are two fast-growing areas of the industry consumers love: swim and activewear/athleisure. Normally, we think of swim and athletics for summer, but a push for positive lifestyle changes have us looking at these labels year-round, and two trade shows have the best of the best: Swim Collective and Active Collective.
Both have been met with positive reviews from both brands and buyers. Currently held at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa bi-annually, we got an inside peek with Vice President and Show Director Roy Turner.
THE SWIM COLLECTIVE
“Swim Collective debuted in 2010 as the first swim-focused trade event on the West Coast,” explains Turner. “The response from both the manufacturers and buyer side has been strong, and we continue to build on this momentum.” With the ever-evolving marketing strategies taken by brands and social media craze, we ask how the Expos continue to be the best option for retailers. “Although social media has become a great extension of the show and promotional platform extending to consumers,” Turner notes, “retailers still have the need to physically see, feel and test product, which is something social media doesn’t provide.” We agree heavily with him on this point. While we see hundreds, thousands of photos promoting a single brand on digital platforms, we can only estimate the quality at best.
Walking through the hundreds of booths, we are able to see a great mix of emerging and mainstream labels. Though we gravitate towards the independent ones, it’s always good to feel the materials of both and look at the upcoming trends. “It’s a careful balance of known brands and new up and comers,” Turner explains. “The buyers want to see both, so we are always challenged with curating the right buyers with the right brands.”
While we appreciate the runway presentations of Miami Swim Week, Swim Collective offers a better chance to speak with brand owners to really get to know their stories, their production and have that hands-on look at their entire collections. We are able to test fabrics, fits and get an idea of the coming plans each have. From the reversible styles of Maaji to new sustainable brands like Jeux De Vagues, the expo is much more accessible.
We stop to speak with Katherine Terrell, the founder of Jeux De Vagues, on how Swim Collective has helped the line, “Swim Collective was a great experience. I’m so glad we went!” she exclaims. “As an emerging brand, it was important for us to get out there and meet people. We saw how varied the marketplace is from the swimwear category, and how there is a place for everyone at the table.” Even though meeting buyers is the main goal for most, Terrell spoke on how it brought brands together “who were interested in collaboration” for the future.
The response for Jeux De Vagues is proving successful. “Eyes lit up when we introduced ourselves as a sustainable brand,” says Terrell. “There were people who were downright sustainability advocates, those who have heard about it, but not exactly sure what it means, and then there were people who had no idea what it’s about. For the latter two, it was a great opportunity to bring their awareness to why it’s important. For every person who went home with our organic cotton tote bag silk screened with our tagline, Hot Bikinis For A Hot Planet, we hope they continue the conversation about what this means.”
Terrell’s words are exactly what we want to hear. Knowing Swim Collective is aiding both buyer and brand while creating collaborations, we hope to see the show come up in other major cities as the popularity continues to climb. The need for swimwear will never disappear. We took a chance to ask Turner if expansion is possible, “Our show is a reflection of the market, and if there is a need we will consider it. We never say never!”
THE ACTIVE COLLECTIVE
On the other hand, activewear is reaching new heights, as the athleisure trend continues to dominate. This upward swing has resulted in the launch of Emerald Exposition’s Active Collective in 2015, with its first showing in New York City this year. Being one of the main fashion capitals, we wonder how receptive New York was to the expo. “From the buyer’s side, the California show sees more attendees from within the United States, while New York has more international reach, partly due to proximity,” says Turner. “The buyers attending the New York show tend to come from more department stores and are looking for more luxury brands. California sees more boutiques, resorts, gyms and studios.” The differences coast-to-coast also affects the exhibitors at each show. “California features a wide range of products from activewear, active performance, lifestyle, accessories and yoga, while New York is a bit more curated,” says Turner. “Mostly activewear specific lines at higher price-points.”
Looking at ready-to-wear shows, even some couture ones, there are hints of athletic wear consistently on the runways for men and women. While there was an early mix of some men’s active pieces, we ask Turner if there will be more men’s brands in the upcoming shows, “Although men’s market isn’t huge within the Active Collective, there are a few currently showing,” he shares. “While Vuori is the only men’s-only line, a few additional lines have added men’s to their collections: Onzie Men’s, MPG, Hero Sport, Soybu and Virus to name a few.”
After spending the first half hour combing the aisles, we were pleasantly surprised to see how fashion forward the lines are. The range of colors and fabrics from Beyond Yoga, Z Supply and Shape Active attracted us right away. There are several appealing options that could transition easily from the gym to errands, yet suitable for the office. Comfort is first and foremost, but we appreciate the shift for style in these active brands. With fall around the corner, we loved seeing all the dark grays and oxblood styles from Puppies Make Me Happy. The name alone had us stopping in our tracks to take a look at the brand’s logo. Another label that stood out to us was Naked Princess for their mix of flowing dresses, elegant lingerie and athletic knits.
Ultimately, we aim for functionality in our active wear choices and Pointe Studio won us over. Their grip collection socks have zero slippage—zero. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having a sock slip down in your shoes while working out. It becomes an endless battle of pulling them back up over and over, so feeling the thick grip of Pointe Studio’s line and the high-end knits—heaven. Speaking with Julia Calles from the brand regarding their product, she explains “the varying sizes, and the fabric contents are ideal for active lifestyles. They hold their shape beautifully and maintaining this high level of quality are extremely important to us, from the fit to the overall design.”
As for being part of the Swim Collective show, “we find more inbound leads sitting along with other market brands,” Calles says. “Having accounts swing by that we might not normally see has been really great. The response here and internationally, so far, is very positive for Pointe Studio, and we continue to grow. Overall, Swim Collective is providing an increased reach with key players in the active and athleisure industry, and the experience is going really well.”
Fabrics are everything if a fabric can’t hold up against the constant movement the piece will fail. For an expert opinion on the best materials in active wear, and also the ones we can wear throughout the whole day, we return to Roy Turner. “Micro-mesh has been a popular fabric for adding details and is definitely trending among most lines,” he tells us. “High-performance polyester and spandex blends are being used to create form-fitting pieces that can be seen all over, including gyms, studios and out into the streets.”