Story and Photos by Kathleen Gasperini and Tom Wallace
Agenda trade show, once known as the bastion of underground that usurped ASR back in the day, has been a fully-fledged fashion trade show in its own right now for years, but if ever there was a time that announced this, it was January 5-6, 2012 as they debuted in a much larger space than the cramped Hyatt in Huntington Beach and entered the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, CA.
The moment of déjà vu completely hits when you consider that ASR used to be in the exact same space years ago, making the beginning of the trade show season seem even more cyclical than it already is. And while we’re skeptical of the trade show concept overall, as more brands figure out that moving on a brick and mortar schedule of an anachronistic fashion industry timeframe in a digital age is ironic, this show did provide loads of inspiration. This came mainly from the various new brands, certain collabs, non-profits showcasing apparel collections, and various angles from snowboarding to motocross that mixed up the general streetwear vibe and plethora of surf and skate-influenced brands.
A complex mix of apparel, T-shirts, hardgoods like skateboards and trucks, goggles, sunglasses, and a footwear (mostly sneakers) kept things moving also, which in part was the way the show was divided, including sections such as Primer, The Berrics Agenda, Agenda BMX, and the regular show floor.
There were also some older giants now showcasing (in smaller booths) at Agenda like Patagonia and Levi’s, Puma, and Adidas Skateboarding (which actually showcased at Agenda for years), which is an interesting twist to the staid concept that certain trade shows silo themselves.
Agenda is probably the best example of a show that crosses boundaries and pushes things, from urban core brands like T.I.T.S. and Skin, to motocross taking over an entire section including Fox Racing, Metal, Mullisha, and Alpinestars, plus BMX and fixie bike brands, signature surf from Lost boards, Rusty, to the NYC contingency like 10 Deep and Mishka, loads of eco-friendly brands, and surf such as Roxy, RVCA, and Quiksilver women’s. (Notably absent was Billabong.)
Volcom, which usually features a unique booth theme with reps sporting similar outfits carrying on crazy shenanigans, appeared this time instead to be giving a big fuck-you to someone—the trade show industry? Fashion? Their new owners PPR who also own Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent? Whoever it was, their booth was a monochromatic white and blue, with a corresponding poster that stated “trade show poster” in a matching tone to their booth “trade show booth.” It was either super youth against establishmentarianism or pure boredom at having to be there at all.
Things that were engaging were some of the top collaborations, including new collections from Nike X Levi’s, Bonfire X Pendleton, Bonfire X Salomon snowboard boot, Holden X Stussy, 686 X Scion (yes, there’s now a snowboard car—more on this later).
Be forewarned that 2012 fashion, at least from a street and skate point of view, will entail a retro nostalgic late 70’s Vietnam War ending period vibe with camo, flannel checks, and vests, mixed with hippies and California inspired flower-children (the Janis Joplin version). If the late 70’s are coming on strong, so too are still bits of the ‘80’s mixed with ’60’s including fringe ponchos, Native American patterns in tops, dresses, and footwear, and generally greater attention to fabrics, knits, eco-friendly materials, and heathers.
For example, 10 Deep has moved into camo heavily, mixed with their varsity/lettermen jackets, and classic button-downs. Orisue also offers up utilitarian vibe apparel in camo vests, but comes from a more couture direction with interesting angled pockets, great attention to details, and classic long-sleeves shirts. (See photos for more.)
It’s also interesting to note that non-profits can, too, have amazing full collections that are showing more and more at trade shows as youth culture stores understand the importance of carrying such brands within their merchandising choices based on a new generation that cares about the environment and various humanitarian causes. Crochet Kids offered up a great booth, packed most of the time, showcasing their signature crocheted hats, soft T-shirts with I [heart] Africa on them, and other items. Keep A Breast has grown tremendously and has a full line from very on-trend long-dresses with a 70’s vibe, striped tops, leggings with their boobies icons on them, soft heathered T-shirts with educational statements, and of course an entire range of I [heart] Boobies! Bracelets in colors ranging from neon pink to camo. This year, they’re also featuring a new collection of colorful backpacks. The other non-profit to note was T-shirts from This Shirt Helps which donates to various causes and pushes sustainability in manufacturing.
Newer brands with much hype included Movmnt footwear launched by industry veterans Kevin Flanagan and Mark Wystrach, Church of Clocky by Mason founder of the former Cardboard Robot, Iron and Resin, and Deuce Brand—the latter 3 featuring similar characteristics of old-school classic motorcycle roots mixed with skate and surf inspiration circa Easy Rider.
Motocross in general is not only going off overall in sports, but they’ve successfully tapped into the lifestyle as was seen clearly at Agenda with an entire area to this genre and packed each day with fans, reps, and buyers. Notably increasing in popularity however are the women’s apparel designs within this genre. The complete opposite of surf-inspired, this area includes louder colors, leopard prints for example, and loads of black.
Other notable trends include the on-going evolution of sneaker brands moving into boot crossovers. Most apparent was with the new DVS sneaker-boot with a thick white sole reminiscent of Red Wing. Palladium has always successfully produced a lightweight “festival” boot-sneaker, this time in bright Kelly green, and featuring a new taller winter boot.
Volley, from Australia is among the newbies in America with their tennis sneaker that now also comes in a high-top.
RVCA’s signature collection with Alex Knost was a standout given that it represented a classic look at a surfer’s inspiration for apparel, with tailored short pants, slimmer silhouettes in button-downs, and cardigan sweaters. RVCA also debuted an athletic collection for working out which matches the moves being made by many in this industry towards MMA or MMA-like cross training.
Etnies, while known for skateboarding footwear, also featured classic peacoats for men, which illustrates how many brands are moving in new directions to capture more marketshare. WESC, known for an extensive men’s and women’s collection especially denim, is featuring the Superlative Conspiracy part of their WESC brand in 2012, as seen on more labels and hat patches. WESC is also still leading trends in designer headwear (although there were many headwear brands at Agenda this year) and were anticipating a good showing at the upcoming CES show.
The move for many snowboarding brands to show at Agenda indicates the ongoing attempts of this sport to implement lifestyle strategies, which is a good idea given that the snow season is so short. In this case, brands like Bonfire featured their collaboration with Pendleton and featured a variety of snowboarding jackets, including lighter-weight versions that work perfectly for wearing a hoodie underneath. This move to lighter-weight snowboarding jackets in general is part of a movement in snowboarding and freestyle skiing towards layering, and wearing a favorite hoodie, rather than donning a big heavy jacket. Quiksilver snow also featured latest in their winter collections, along with Salomon snowboards, 686, and a variety of goggle brands.
Several snowboarding brands at Agenda noted that SIA falls right during the same timeframe as ISPO Europe, which has many of these brands scrambling. As we’ve noted also about SIA, it’s as though they work in a bubble, because their show dates from January 26-29 also fall on the exact same dates as the Winter X Games. Thus, another reason for these brands to be at Agenda.
Finally, Agenda is loaded with the latest in T-shirts. Silhouettes leading trends for females continue to be V-necks, softer fabrics (often eco), and longer, fitted bodies. However there were some 80’s shorter T-shirt styles coming into play with wider collars, off-the-shoulder with wider sleeves, which is where we think it’s heading next. In the skateboarding section such as The Berrics, the classic boxy T-shirt for males still rules. Graphics range from cartoony to letters, and street art-inspired symbols such as those found at Seventh Letter. T-shirts continue to make up a huge portion of this show, as it should since many brands started from T-shirts and expanded from there. But also, T-shirts, in their variety of forms and graphics, offer up statements and DIY possibilities to the entrepreneurs that continue to grace this show.