Story by Kathleen Gasperini
Photos by Tom Wallace

The beauty of Project Fashion Trade Show, held at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas from August 26-28, simply inspires just by walking the halls. With secret lounges, zen ponds with floating gardenias, big steel bubbles hanging from the rafters, psychedelic disc mobiles, a crystallized Swarovski Elements “tree,” an excellent selection of DJ’s and music, free water, unique options in food (a rare commodity for trade show situations) and of course art pieces representing some of the top graffiti and street artists, as well as painters and pattern designers, Project feels less like a traditional “trade show” than it does like experiencing a massive art exhibition. Add to this, red, pink, and white carpets to depict specific areas, halls labeled as though you’re in downtown Manhattan, and crystal chandeliers with both ornate old-school and sleek modern couches and it seems like a well-laid out, but massive store containing hundreds of the world’s top brands.

Last year, when we interviewed sales manager Sharifa Cudjoe about Project and how it stands apart from the rest, she explained they take considerable time curating the show (similar to the way founder Sam Ben-Avraham selects brands for his store in NYC called Atrium). It’s in this selection of brands present that extend the show into a true laboratory of the best in denim, contemporary, and premium street fashion labels that attract not only top international buyers and retailers, but also other brands from others shows, such as MAGIC, eager to make their foray into Project.

With S.L.A.T.E. taking some of that spillover now (see related story on S.L.A.T.E. fashion trade show), the brands that are in Project have mostly stood the test of time. This year, while top denim brands such as Nudie Jeans, Religion, WESC, AG Adriano Goldschmed, Girbaud, Evisu, Joe’s Jeans, PRPS, Howe, Earnest Sewn, Loomstate, True Love False Idols, Diesel, 7 for All Mankind, Citizen’s of Humanity, Paper, Denim, Cloth, Rag ‘n Bone, Acne, Rock ‘n Republic, and True Religion captured much attention for their new collections, ranging in interesting new faded washes, organics, and creative silhouettes, the footwear category, the women’s area, and The Area -a white-carpeted high-end section–captured a great deal of new buzz.

In only its second time hosting a women’s area, brands that used to showcase in the North Hall of MAGIC, or only at Bread & Butter Barcelona, even some from United (i.e., Born Unicorn) have made their way onto the pink carpet of Project. Hellz Bellz continued to draw attention as one of few street/contemporary crossover brands, as did Kitson, Quiksilver Women’s, Harajuku Lovers, Keep, and Preloved.

Interestingly, Kid Robot, known for creating urban vinyl toys, also showcased with their collection of accessories and bright-colored apparel. Super sunglasses were on hand providing rave, ’80’s RayBan inspiration, along with fresh new wallets from db clay, and designer headphones from WESC in various street artist collaborations. Staple brands that continue to re-invent themselves while maintaining their classic aesthetics were also going strong with people writing orders and checking out latest new collections from Fred Perry Limited, Levi Strauss, and Original Penguin including their women’s collection, and LaCoste in terms of shoe styles.

One of the hottest new debuts was Incase located right in the smack middle of the show and surrounded, at least at the time we were there, with people either photographing or trying to get a look at the latest from this bag accessory brand. Incase skateboard bags including the Paul Rodriquez Signature Collection, messenger bags, MacBook Air sleeves, iPhone cases, and iPod covers in white, black, and a variety of hot new colors made Incase bags a must-have for technology fashionistas and clearly shows the crossover of fashion, technology, and lifestyle.

Other busy booths to note were within the growing category of footwear such as Alife, Keep, Creative Recreation, K-Swiss, Clae, Puma, adidas originals, and John Fluevog.

Overall, given that hundreds of brands were onsite, Project was a challenge to cover in just 3 days. Likened to Bread & Butter Barcelona, Project remains America’s best version of a fashion trade show by providing international attendees and exhibitors with a creative platform to not only do business, but network, compare and contrast, and move on with the industry of fashion.

Stay tuned for more in-depth interviews and Label Networks TV clips from Project in the next few weeks.