Story and Photos by Tom Wallace and Kathleen Gasperini
Agenda fashion trade show held in Long Beach Convention Center, CA, August 1-2, 2012 has become the ideal platform for a new crossover of styles, brands, and retailers. While many traditional players in action sports are on hand, such as Vans, Quiksilver, Billabong, Oakley, Puma, and Hurley, there’s more up-and-coming brands that are crossing over, from heritage inspiration into a mod-style for today with brands such as Deus Ex Machina, Comune, Iron Fist, Iron and Resin, Cheap Monday, Publish (think Capsule tradeshow regulars), plus core skate brands within The Berrics section mixed with large brands introducing specific collections, from Levi Strauss to Adidas, New Balance, Doc Martin’s, and Converse. Plus there were a variety of exciting new collections from motocross brands that are now squarely in lifestyle, such as Fox Racing’s vibrant board shorts, to Alpinestars women’s collections, Rockwell Time, Famous Stars and Straps, and Metal Mulisha and they’re full-on beach culture collection for women. For example, 10 Deep’s Native American prints incorporated into streetwear styles brought something new to the table, and Diamond Supply Co. is clearly taking over as one of the top new streetwear brands among youth culture. Other top streetwear brands such as Crooks & Castles were among many packed booths signing orders throughout the 2-day show.
Other brands to watch of course are the ones that seem to have survived the 2008 recession and find footing regardless including a robust booth packed most of the show over at Mishka, Official, the snapback hat company, back on the radar with their latest styles, Akomplice, Nikita, and Mighty Healthy.
Aaron Levant, the co-founder of Agenda, said this has to be one of his most successful shows. It’s clear that it’s come into its own with some 450 exhibitors on hand, plus a happening DJ area called Base Camp, an entire motorcycle “inspiration” area of cool bikes, and the top LA foodie trucks lined-up to feed attendees throughout the day. The show layout also helps to establish just how the mash-up of brands and styles fit into this new mix of re-defined streetwear with an action sports inspiration. For example, core skate shops could be found cruising The Berrics for the latest in decks and skate gear, and provided a space for brands that are core to the scene, from Girl, Stereo, Toy Machine, to even a DC who offered up a couple of different booths at the show depending on their target market.
One of the best areas of course is The Primer section where small, niche-focused brands are to be found such as unique collections from Mass Exodus. One to watch of course is Mason’s Cobra Lord. Complete with a remodeled mini camper, the booth display was not only cool, but captured the element of heritage moto crossover with So-Cal desert camping style, and a military vibe such utilitarian belts that also double as measuring yard sticks. Like Vancouver Island based Sitka, and especially Poler, which has also flipped adventure, camping, and style into an altogether new model of cool, such brands illustrate an entirely different sort of “outdoor retailer” brand, which actually, Outdoor Retailer show, which was going on at the same time in Salt Lake City, UT, may not quite understand yet.
Dre Hayes, one of the kingpins of fashion and retail sales from The Foundation, also had some interesting things to note about the latest trends in this realm of fashion when he said that accessories have become absolutely vital to today’s cash-strapped consumer. “Retail is still hard out there, but it’s getting better,” predicted Hayes. “However you can see consistency and growth when it comes to accessories.” Apparently so has The Foundation which now represents 17 brands ranging from core brands such as Play Cloths, to larger accessory brands such as G-Shock and InCase, along with a plethora of footwear brands from Gourmet, Keds, and Native.
Other interesting aspects to note are that Agenda also attracts the music-inspired brands that may have started from a merch background and grown into their own over time. For example, Rocksmith Tokyo X Wu Tang and Glamour Kills, both of which have expanded with larger collections. Obey which crosses into music and street art continued to set the stage with their massive booth, and the incoming brands representing wearable technology and designer headphones are now a staple such as Marley, Skullcandy, Sol Republic, and Nixon (watches, backpacks, headphones, and apparel are all represented now within the brand).
Sunglasses have also taken over their own niche as part of the accessory movement of defining individual style. Of course one of the most hyped is Raen, Sabre, and Spy.
Of the more commonly known brands, trends are moving retro, weathered, looks-with-a-story: for example, RVCA’s weathered colors and silhouettes, wide-collared T-shirts in soft, worn styles, even Quiksilver’s latest beach inspired shirts and board shorts looked sun-soaked, retro, with die-dips and gradient colorways. Smaller brands but moving on the radar such as Penny Stock, VSTR, Zane X Robe, and Industry of All Nations carry with them certain storylines as seen within their earthy booth displays and contemporary collections with a ‘70’s vibe and heritage Americana.
Roxy offered up brighter designs for younger ladies, but still within as similar vein to even Quiksilver Women’s, which is an interesting offspring of more sophisticated, older styles. Lifetime continues to draw an attentive retailer crowd with leading-edge ideas, as well as Nikita, which we hadn’t seen for some time, but are back at Agenda featuring Euro-inspired long shorts, cute tops, and a sporty-sexy style for girls who ride in a mix of muted pastels.
Overall, while often still compared with old-school ASR from back in the day, and ironically at the original location of that show, Agenda can take claim for introducing the next evolution of where youth culture fashion is headed, creating the ideal platform for brands from a wide spectrum of inspirations, and organized in an actionable format that allows for a new crop of EIY entrepreneurs who are less about socializing and more about creatively making things work in a challenging, yet ironically opportune time.