Part of the Agenda 2009 show floor from a bird’s-eye view

Story by Kathleen Gasperini
Photos by Tom Wallace

Everyone knew that coming into trade show season this month the shows were going to be tighter. But the shakedown in streetwear brands was coming for some time. Just as snowboarding blew-up (and everyone had an investor for a new snowboarding brand) in the early ’90’s so too did streetwear especially T-shirt brands in the ’06’s and ’07’s.

As Fubz, formerly from Beautiful Decay and now with Agenda and others put it last year “The shakedown in this industry has to come. There are too many so-called streetwear labels on the market and it’s going to consolidate.”

Hellz Bellz was front and center at the show entrance–first time for a women’s streetwear brand

You could say that this version of Agenda, which in our opinions still rocked, represented this latest trend. But just as the top brands in streetwear such as Crooks & Castles, Hellz Bellz Stussy, The Hundreds, 10 Deep, Mishka, Alife, Cardboard Robot, Kilo, Freshjive, Grn Apple Tree and Obey were on hand showcasing some very interesting styles inspired clearly by an infusion of ’80’s rave ’90’s grunge and today’s DJ/Hip-Hop culture, so too were brands crossing over (from ASR or doing double-booth duty at both shows) such as Insight, Gravis, Grenade Gloves,Etnies, DC Shoes and Nikita and scores of smaller brands still pushing their way onto the radar such as Claw Money Free Gold Watch Gatsby DCMA, Zero Friends, T.I.T.S. Mosley Tribes, Hot Air CTRL Toy Machine Cassette, Sabre, and The Seventh Letter.

Accessory collections such as the Apple-centric Incase debuted new collaboration pieces with Arkitip Magazine’s artists, plus recycled bamboo iPhone cases, and some very interesting limited-edition pieces from the New York City China Soccer Club, and others. Official Crown of Laurel continued to push the fitted-cap trend with various grunge patterned lids and a great new Native American Indian style and a new brand who had the balls to launch in November 2008 called Flud debuted a fun over-sized collection of watches which completely reminded us of Fi-Hi Stereo Speaker Bags. Or at least of that outloud ’80’s boombox music genre.

Flud Watches give new meaning to oversized time

The word in the aisles was that retail was getting slammed and some worried about actually getting paid even if orders were coming through -because there were people doing business on the trade show floor despite gloomy economic forecasts and no free vodka starting at noon. But one thing that is sometimes a blessing about being small and leading-edge as many of these brands are is that many already have tight control on inventory and marketing expenditures so they’re still in the game whereas larger brands that need to answer to a failed Wall Street are hemorrhaging from overextension.

Cardboard Robot’s design meetings must be a trip

For example Cardboard Robot continues its mood-dreamscape inspired designs in graphics and created a trendy shiny leather puffy winter jacket debuting at the show. Mishka the Brooklyn inspired streetwear brand that also is heavily involved in the local DJ scene there and sponsors a fixed gear cycle team branched out with unique knits cardigans and colored denim -not to mention a women’s line. Hellz Bellz which was front and center at the entrance still leads in the category of women’s street/contemporary crossover and had several buyers checking out their Fall collection especially their black and red plaid jacket with the bitchin’ HZ bones logo. Nikita brought out their women’s outerwear line which with soft colors in purple turquoise and white and sharp graphics and design elements will give Burton women’s a run for their money -yet again. Claw Money which we heard left BPMW and are going it alone still represents the best of the street artist Claw Money including a collection of vintage scarf silk baseball jackets.

The Incase cases for iPhones on the top far left are made of recycled bamboo; on the top right are the limited-edition collaboration with Hiroshi Fujiwara which are going off right now in Japan

Free Gold Watch one of our favorite brands because they have the most interesting and authentic stories you can imagine behind their T-shirt designs continued its streak of original screenprints and not only that have expanded into a larger warehouse in San Francisco continues to push their Hate Blocker sunglasses (now in a 3-D colorway) and launched a funny infants collection. So while the show was smaller as was ASR across town Agenda is clearly one of the shows that’s going to last mainly because it’s where many of the trendsetters in streetwear showcase and it’s still a strong subculture pushing fashion in altogether new directions.

Many of these brands will also be showcasing at the upcoming S.L.A.T.E. show inside MAGIC next month where Label Networks will be capturing more insider interviews on Label Networks TV and of course additional stories and images so stay tuned.

Free Gold Watch guys with their horses screenprints Hate Blocker sunglasses and infant collection

We liked the gal from Cardboard Robot and their new girl’s shirt with puffed cap sleeves and gathered neckline was nice

Mishka NYC’s heavy into knits

Mishka’s iconic eyeball

Official Crown of Laurel caps are always dope