Story and Photos by Kathleen Gasperini and Tom Wallace
The flagship Agenda trade show in Long Beach, CA, from January 7-8, 2014, represented a quintessential snapshot of where the marketplace of streetwear, action sports, and music-inspired lifestyle apparel, footwear, and accessories is headed. The show was packed with business being done at the brisk pace of a targeted American trade show, the first fashion trade show of the season, with the 700 brands exhibiting.
Divided into sections, the show rounds out a platform that blends the elements of the Agenda experience into more than the sum of its parts. First, The Berrics brings with it a mosh-pit of skate brands, decks, hardware, caps, socks, apparel, and of course, the requisite spontaneous skating sessions in the hallways. It’s a guy-fest to be sure, but it’s also the heart of the skate scene and where many of the larger brands birthed from skate get their inspiration. Brands such as the leading-edge cap brand, Official Crown of Laurel reside in this area, along with Penny boards, Slave Skateboards, Alien Workshop, Baker Boys Distribution, Chocolate, Girl, Emerica, Powell, and Santa Cruz.
What’s most notable however about streetwear and Agenda in particular is the growing category of women’s brands. Curated in the Agenda WMNs section and in its second official season, this row represents some of the leading-edge styles and brands on the street/music/designer front of fashion. Hlz Blz brought out their black, almost Goth looks, rounded out with the growing trend of sportstyle jersey designs. For example, oversized images of a concert scene on a jersey. Miss Wax has moved from disco and punk inspired jewelry to a reflection of higher-end creations using Swarovski crystals, rainbow colored stones, gems, and ironically delicate knuckle buster rings. Love + Made is street style with a music inspired touch also and is high on the radar for young women looking for an edgy look to match their attitudes.
Other brands in Agenda WMNs to note include Gentle Fawn, always a favorite with comfortable fabrics and flowing T-shirts and nature graphics, Wildfox, Nasty Gal, Seea, and Rose Gonzales.
Capped at the end of the Agenda WMNs section was the Babe Show, an art exhibition curated by Sophia Chang featuring top street artists in the scene such as Claw Money, Chocomoo, Linda Nguyen of Love + Made, and Becca McCharen of Chromat. Actually, there were several women artists performing onsite this year, as also found in the SkullCandy booth, among others.
One of the most exciting areas and a growing arena for Agenda and streetwear fashion took place in the Woods. Booth designs here were done mostly in wood and represented the growing fascination of outdoorsy themed collections and sustainable or eco-friendly fashions. Survival gear for the street fashionista actually isn’t a huge stretch, and with heritage brands like Leathermen there showcasing their latest jackknives, it drives home the point that outdoors is here for the long run. Brands such as Poler, a leader in this movement, was on hand with their aesthetically minded tents, sleeping bags, and camping gear. But it’s here also that newer brands such as The People’s Movement, makers of eco-friendly footwear, can also be found.
Fresh brands with patterns ranging from multi-patterned nature motifs, deer antlers, Americana in terms of workwear and chinos (which is quickly replacing denim), plaids in new versions, and unique camo patterns are aspects that have not disappeared but rather, evolved into a crossover of streetwear meets workwear and higher-end designs. Dickies captures this movement as well as the new collab The Portland Collection by Pendleton.
It can get overwhelming, the whole Americana thing, but it’s working. As long as the economy is the way it is, with consumer choices having more to do with quality and lifestyle association, the more these styles and patterns will continue to be in vogue. Ironically what’s getting paired is the Americana with punk rock. Those interested in the latest platform Dr. Martins easily assembled workwear and punk together. As with most leading-edge trade shows, much can also be learned by watching who’s interested in what brands and how attendees’ styles translate to what’s on the showroom floor.
Cobra Lord is one brand that carries Americana with it but also a paganism of getting back to nature. Mason, the founder, comes from a long artistic background and fashion and brings forth an authentic representation of where things are headed when it comes to smaller brands interested in connecting with their audience based on a different meaning of what is success.
Akomplice out of Colorado expanded into a much larger booth and continued to attract leaders looking for latest in graphic T-shirts, streetwear, and winter apparel. They also work it well for buyers with one side hosting a large screen to present their collections so that they can expand what they have available without bringing every sample to each show.
Snowboard brands showcasing their apparel, accessories and backpacks are a strong component of Agenda’s winter show. It’s clear that Burton is going directly into inspirations from hunting. Plaids, darker blues, browns, and camo may just turn some snowboarders in this direction. As always, their gear is highly technical and their backpack products were among what buyers were checking out a lot.
On the flip side is Neff. Pushing neon-like camo patterns, Hawaiian bright florals in jackets, pants, and headwear, this brand is a reflection of the era of Damion Sanders circa 1990 and represents the dub, electronic dance music, rave culture influences of snowboarding lifestyle. It totally works too, as seen by the mass of people surrounding the booth and checking out their latest.
Backpacks as a general rule at this show are hot. From DaKine’s tech bags for the latest wearable electronics, to the school staple from Jansport, Nixon’s higher-end bags, Vans, SkullCandy, and others, backpacks are a strong business and decidedly more competitive than ever before.
This is a similar situation for sunglasses, yet another jam-packed component of streetwear and action sports with brands such as Super, Electric, Otis, Raen, and TOM’s, which entered the category a couple of years ago.
The Hundreds, Crooks & Castles, Mishka, 10 Deep, Billionaire Boys Club, Huf, Staple Designs, Stussy, and Obey are now the elderly statesmen of this show and continue to push trends in fresh directions for streetwear, which in many cases, is taking the team spirit, scholastic jersey and varsity jacket look to the next level. 10 Deep’s usage of multi-prints and florals on baseball-looking tops and jackets is a representation of this, and Obey’s range of music-inspired designs, plaids, and patterns also tap into these trends.
There’s also a strong Euro connection taking place. Capri-style pants, tighter ankle silhouettes were found in a variety of brands at this show. For example, WESC, based in Sweden, always had a European flair and continues to bring forth great sweeping designs for men and women. But their style of pants has caught on in the world of streetwear and chino. Chino workwear works well with a slimmer silhouette which is also where things are headed with skate.
Nikita Clothing which is also making a stronger push into America also captures a unique sportstyle of snow, surf, skate, crossover in apparel and accessories. Disturbia from the UK with their oversized image graphics on super-soft dresses and tops is making waves in North America with a nod to electronic, Goth roots.
In surf, brands such as O’Neill had interesting women’s collections, many still with multi-patterns and a 70’s retro vibe, but with modern hints of new, softer, faded fabrics. Graphic T-shirts also rule with all-over images to nature motifs to carefully sketched designs. If there’s one trend in graphic T’s to point out, it’s the usage of nautical and pirate inspirations.
But surfing’s strongest crossover is coming from the outdoor relationship and recognizing that say, Pendleton plaid truly was an O.G. shirt choice for the Beach Boys back in the day. Surfers often do have to hike to their secret surfing location and camping is a strong part of this sport, which is now getting a great deal of attention. But surf has also been greatly influenced by street more so than the other way around. Even Hurley’s latest Phantom wetsuit in grey camo looks like a military operation. Vissla, the new brand by former Billabong President Paul Naude, also drew it’s fair share of attention.
While Quiksilver has announced significant changes and restructuring to concentrate on their core brands of Roxy, DC, and Quiksilver, their representations at the show proved they may be on track with forward-thinking designs, especially with DC shoes. Volcom, which used to be the hub of craziness, is no longer that place. Still tied to keeping their collections inside high walls in the age of greater transparency means many people simply cruise on by or maybe stop for a pin.
The 70’s are still going strong with brands like Aviator Nation sporting rainbow stripes on super soft hoodies and sweats, and moving into accessories. Lightning Bolt has re-invented itself for the present with higher-end designs but still a touch of nostalgic Cali-surf.
Probably the most notable signs that it’s still a challenging economic climate however, were the higher percentages of buyers ordering immediates rather than the Fall Collections that most brands were showcasing. Skeptic and cautious retailers is a reflection of today’s savvy consumers especially when it comes to youth culture, which is where much of the brands are targeted. That being said, if they’re buying immediates, they may buy longer-forecasted collections in the future.
Rounding out the show were 3 important features. The Flexfit Base Camp and their ongoing art displays including exclusive collaborations with Agenda and other brands with their caps, the Hurly printing station featuring live screenprinting and legends such as Craig Stecyk III and Jay Adams, and the Agenda Café with the latest range in eclectic food trucks that So. Cal has to offer.
Followed up by the Transworld Skateboarding Awards on the first night and AgendaEmerge powered by GroupY on the second night with key speakers from street to music to skate, Agenda is an experience that takes trade shows beyond the brick ‘n mortar into a creative forum for those from different tribes to move forward from single hub of inspiration.
More images from Agenda: