In its 11th show in San Diego, CA, Agenda trade show continues to elevate fresh energy and ideas by bringing together select brands across industries inspired by action sports, music, graffiti and street art, and technology. Running the same days each year as the Action Sports Retailer (ASR) show (which to some was actually a little on the late side), Agenda still successfully attracted many brands, particularly those seeking alternative venues and affiliations that provide the freedom for greater personal brand evolution.

In the past 8 years we’ve covered Agenda, the show has changed in terms of brands represented, leaning now away from tattoo-saturated brands, but cleaner, still street, with contemporary and music/art-inspired themes. The show remains a must-see in terms of catching up with new trends in leading-edge subcultures and experiencing what’s on the cusp of the industry. The halls were packed, particularly on the 2 and 3rd days of the show, as buyers, retailers, media, and industry cruised the San Diego Concourse venue to be a part of the scene.

Artist collaborations are always a big part of the showcase for Agenda but unlike Pool that tends to focus more towards fashion-designer artistic expressions, Agenda is straight-up music and street and graffiti art-inspired, including fresh work live by EWOK continuous DJ action in the balcony (the venue is a theatre), and a well-stocked free vodka and Red bull bar in the center. Legendary brands such as Alife from New York, Stussy Delux, Obey, TokiDoki, American Apparel, Royal Elastics, Live Mechanics, WESC, Freshjive, Crooks & Castles, Cardboard Robot, DC Shoes, 10 Deep, and Nikita Clothing were carefully spread throughout the show, generating steady traffic. Other top brands such as Altamont, MacBeth, Creative Recreation, New Balance, Hellz Bellz, Mishka, Jeepney, KR3W, King Stampede, RZST, Miss Wax, Addict, Prohibit, and Rocksmith help round-out the showcase in various pockets down select aisles.

What was also interesting this year were brands that jumped from ASR or other shows to Agenda, including Etnies, Es, 686, Goorin Brothers, PF Flyers, Rubber Duck, Timberland, and Married to the MOB, as more energy seems to resonate from Agenda than many other locations these days. New brands such as Zero Friends were a big hit as artist Alex Pardee painted his creations live on canvas as seen translated on his collection to T-shirts. Ubiquity was also on hand bringing together music inspiration and apparel as well as DCMA, Listen, Grn Apple Tree, and a crossover from Akomplice out of Boulder (see Label Networks’ TV interview from last show to see just how interesting these guys continue to be).

As Aaron Levant, the trade show founder and director pointed out in our Label Networks TV interview (coming soon), the show has attracted a strong crossover of action sports (particularly skate) inspired brands and music and art culture which has provided many opportunities for brands showcasing to get picked up by some of hottest boutique buyers and cool stores in general, including the growing category of web boutiques. Interestingly, the show featured a lot of footwear brands this time, including MacBeth, JB Classics, New Balance, Reebok, Clae, Creative Recreation, Alife, Keep, DC Life, Es, Etnies, Emerica, Gravis, J Shoes, PF Flyers, Adidas, Reebok, Rubber Duck, Royal Elastics, among others, but the plan, according to Aaron, is “to bring even more skateboard-inspired brands to the show in January, 2009. We want to also incorporate more skate hardgoods brands, plus lifestyle brands associated with this culture in the future.”

As Dre Hayes, co-founder and brand architect for The Foundation out of New York put it, in this economy brands with footwear tend to do OK because it’s a market that’s still quite strong. This, as well as denim, which accounts for why brands such as Altamont and WESC remain popular, because it’s such a strong American staple. As the sales agency and brand architect for at least 6 of the top brands (that we counted) on the Agenda show floor, including the highly anticipated debut of Incase, if The Foundation people are on site, you know it’s a good place to be in terms of where buyers of the most coveted street and contemporary stores are going to spend their time. (Dre Hayes interview exclusive coming soon.)

Interestingly, Agenda has also become attractive to cult-snowboard companies such as Danny Kass’ Grenade Gloves, bamboo and environmentally friendly snow and skateboard brand Arbor, and a plethora of brands that are showcasing new and improved outerwear and snowboard collaborations, including Mishka and K2 Snowboards collaboration, fresh outerwear from Rocksmith, WESC, Rubber Duck’s boots, and 686. 686 actually showcased a new collaboration for an outerwear brand with Levi Strauss in a display in the hallway featuring their limited-edition partnership that brings out 686’s technical outerwear expertise and Levi’s denim-inspired fabrications in a cool, sharp-looking green and yellow plaid jacket, and an all-over denim technical piece that had people talking about the new crossover aesthetic.

Both Nikita on one side and Cardboard Robot on the other generated a continuous flow of traffic as people were looking for the latest in these up-and-coming, yet established niche brands. For Nikita (interview to come) the collection was clearly one of the high-points of what’s possible in women’s street/contemporary fashion. Euro-Americana crossover in silhouettes, print technology, and details right down to cave pockets, raven graphics on shawls, and fun one-pieces, as well as an entirely new look in denim, bikinis, hoodies, and higher-end street contemporary pieces had buyers rocking the Nikita booth until 7 p.m. each night.

One of the clear highlights of the show was the debut of Incase, the Apple-centric accessory company, which had a very suave booth lit like a stage in a square. The buzz from media and buyers was all about the technical designs of their collection, showcasing their latest messenger bags, backpacks, computer cases, day luggage pieces, and skateboard deck bag collaboration with Paul Rodriguez. Overall, Incase represented one of the first crossovers of technology, lifestyle, and fashion (see interview next week) and represented a prediction of what’s to come within this realm for trade shows in the future.

Other top highlights of the show included 10 Deep’s new line with a take on “Manifest Destiny” and the crumbling economy, mixed with 10 Deep’s ongoing dark humor in non-typical Americana pieces.

Other brands to note also included Jib Hunt and their sportswear crossover and an interesting collaboration with toy manufacturer Thunderdog Studios; TokiDoki and their colorful Japanese anime inspired apparel and accessories; artistic collaborations where graffiti art is translated onto T-shirts from The 7th Letter; The Hundreds’ secret-squirrel collab with Disney (to be announced); Acrylick’s fresh collection and Juxtapoz’s art graphics; and of course Alife%u2014one of the foundations of streetwear out of NYC and one of the few brands that can say they’ve collaborated with the best including Barney’s, New Era, Puma, Adidas, Asics, Canada Goose, Super, Member’s Only, and Timberland.

Overall, the show illustrated that the industry of street fashion is still quite strong, especially in footwear, denim, and the growing categories of women’s and accessories. Windbreakers, attention to patterns and textures, bright colors mixed with dark, and backstory statements were among top trends. And while each show during this busy trade fair season has its own unique flair, Agenda remains on the favorites and for good reason: the cult of personality through fashion makes it to forefront at this show, basically creating one of the most promising locations to network and get inspired towards generating new ideas of what’s possible.

Stay tuned for in-depth interviews from the show in the next few days. For historical context of some of brands interviewed already on Label Networks TV, go to