Virtue Fashion Trade Show, powered by ASR, held at the Hard Rock Caf%uFFFD in downtown San Diego September 5-6 represented a clear view of the growing subculture and lifestyle associations from the sports of Mixed Martial Arts, Ultimate Fighting, freestyle Motocross, and the necessary elements that go with these sports including tattoo artistry, music, and goth-oriented art. Showcasing 40 brands, this debut show had people talking– first off, because some people didn’t really know it was such a growing industry and others couldn’t believe it was actually powered by the surf/beach-oriented show, ASR taking place at the same time across the street. But there is a crossover.

In the last 4 years, there’s been a growing influence in street fashion from the sports of motocross, particularly freestyle, combined with the growing fascination of Ultimate Fighting Competitions and Mixed Martial Arts. In Label Networks’ presentation conducted at MAGIC Fashion Trade Show in late August, one of the key growing subcultures that we highlighted was this genre, which is a crossover of the Inland Empire of Southern California, and the sports genres mentioned previously, often coming from top heroes in South America. Some account for this growing movement from the success and vast coverage freestyle motocross has received on ESPN via the X Games. Subcultures within motocross, including the Metal Mulisha, and car culture, such as represented by the brand Famous Stars & Straps, have all contributed to this subculture of high-desert meets motorized sports enthusiasts.

Add to this, the growing popularity of Ultimate Fighting and Mixed Martial Arts, especially passionate fans and heroes from Brazil, and it’s created a growing genre in street fashion that has captured the attention not only of a large consumer marketplace, but a need for its own fashion trade show, which was what Virtue was all about.

Brands such as Affliction are riding this wave well, as is Famous Stars & Straps -even though both chose to stick with ASR -as well as Tap-Out (located was at both) which had the largest presence at Virtue, along with BadBoy, Sullen, Mobstar, Valhalla Brand, Sinister Clothing, Adell Ink, and Hart and Huntington.

The color schematics within this subculture is dark -blacks, coal, greys, mixed with white, blood red, and occasionally green. Graphics include tattoo artistry mixed with influences from music lyrics, skulls, roses, vines, barbed wire, kings, queens, crowns, and diamonds. Not to be confused with the Ed Hardy/Christian Audigier looks, but far darker, younger, and less glam, the Inland Empire, UFC/MMA subculture attracts a different sort of consumer group that is passionate about their motor sports or martial arts credentials. With this in mind, it came as no surprise that walking into Virtue was a bit like walking into the Batman cave.

Where the fashion trends from the show are headed of course is a crossover with music that reflects this type of look and consumer group. Hardcore rock, metal, and even aspects of punk have added fuel to the fire. And a growing number of accessory brands also contribute including heavy metal rings, belt buckles, chunky chain bracelets and necklaces. However a shining star in the middle of black-madness came from the brand Miss Emma Mae. The only booth there that we could find dedicated to girls and women within this genre. Their mix of high-tech, breathable fabrics and insanely cute designs made Nike-for-women’s workout wear seem incredibly dated. Marketed as “high performance activewear for kickboxing, boxing, and mixed martial arts,” this brand out of San Mateo, CA was a diamond in a serious rough. Seriously, seeing Miss Emma Mae brand made us think again, because if girls are getting into it (and not just from an arm-candy perspective), you know it’s soon to be on the fasttrack of popularity. Maybe even the X Games.

Overall, the show indicated how a sporting industry can create an entirely new platform for fashion not yet scene on runways, but rather, an extension from the fans themselves, coming from the bottom-up rather than being dictated by designer-ready-to-wear collections or fashion magazines. So don’t be surprised if you see the return of the Brazilian MMA tight fighter shorts back in vogue (think Andre the Giant and how Shepard Fairey recreated a revolutionary art-marketing movement), or kickboxing gals wearing activewear with built in punk skirts in a breathable mesh, or tattoo artistry taken to new levels outside of T-shirt graphics, such as on denim, leather shoes, or sneakers. It’s already in the works.