Nudie Jeans both was busy as usual. This is a staple brand for the show and the among the leaders in denim.

Story by Kathleen Gasperini
Photos by Tom Wallace

Project fashion trade show February 16-18, 2010 was highly anticipated for many reasons this winter. First, it was in a new location, located downstairs from MAGIC in the Mandalay Bay, which made it easier to go from one show to the other, and secondly, because it was the first predominately denim show of the new year in the USA. Unless you went to Bread & Butter Berlin the month previous, Project provides the first viewing on how the state of denim, premium streetwear, and street-contemporary are doing, plus new styles, brands, and the scoop from buyers during this on-going recession.

With the show format with booths mostly of a consistent size, one of the best ways to get around the show is by the color of the carpets, indicating areas such as women’s, men’s, “Area” for high-end apparel, and the NYC street signs above the aisles such as Broadway or Park Avenue. But our usual wandering down each aisle indicated that brands who either were well-known or had invited retailers ahead of time, were the busiest rather than simply relying on heavy traffic to attract people as they walked by. Overall, the first day of Project was a bit slow, especially in the women’s area, except for pockets with brands such as Hellz Bellz and PreLoved.

Hellz booth is another popular location at Project featuring a crossover of street-contemporary for women.

The second day was much busier, but there is some question whether 3 days is necessary, since the show is more edited, and there’s simply more shows to cover such as their new spin-off, Workroom, which is right next door and featuring some excellent brands such as Surface to Air, 3 Sixteen, LaCoste, MothLove, and Them Atelier, and Capsule in the Venetian which attracted several street brands formerly from S.L.A.T.E., Pool, and Project including Creative Recreation, Freshjive, SkinGraft, Mishka, and The Hundreds. (Stay tuned for Capsule story next.)

Dark denim, which was predominant last season, has changed to including far more fades, 70’s washes, and even white denim. You could see a retro influence in the mix of boyfriend silhouette denim shorts for women, but also a Cali-Bohemian ’70’s denim styling for many other brands. Those that were the exception included WeSC, although many aspects of their collection were a mix of eras and styles, and Nudie Jeans which traditionally kept with darker indigo.

Project’s intention isn’t necessarily to be a denim show, but the top brands in the industry do tend to showcase here, including Ag Adriano Goldschmied (who went with a heritage, wood-beamed booth structure), Kill City, the new project from Lip Service featuring music-inspired styles, 7 for All Mankind, Evisu, Edwin, Diesel, G-Star, Chip and Pepper, Monarchy, James Jeans, True Religion, and PRPS. More brands formerly from streetwear are also moving into Project, matching the trends towards more designer pieces and a different clientele such as Alife, Quiksilver Women’s, Pro Keds, and Insight, among many others.

Many orders are written at Project–this is definitely a working show.

Heritage footwear brands like Palladium, Rockport, and RedWing can also be found at Project, which matches the type of high-end denim showcased. Obviously, Americana and heritage brands are still going strong today, and it’s very timely for old-school brands to be revived, as we saw with the Member’s Only booth. But so too are other footwear brands that now have made Project home, including Generic Surplus, Gourmet, Reebok, Adidas Originals, and a new footwear brand catching a lot of hype called Native. What’s interesting about all of the footwear brands at Project is that they chose to stay there rather than move to MAGIC’s new FN Platform at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

It was nice to see some relatively new brands making headway at Project, including Aviator Nation and their classic, colorful striped sweat pants and hoodies, as well as Christian Audigier’s new brand called “the same guy” (featuring the back of his head) and his first-layer T-shirts that tap into the no-logo movement, ala American Apparel. Urbanears, a designer headphone brand, also premiered here, featuring a nice range of colors, but will probably be best known for their superior technology including a patented ear clip and “zound plug” on the earcap that allows friends to plug in with your music.

Like the other shows we’ve covered, accessories are increasingly becoming a part of the make-up of a fashion trade show, including designer headphones, sunglasses, and watches (the G-Shock booth was packed several times we went by).

She looks Super. Flat-top shades in more muted colors are trending right now.

Accessories such as Super sunglasses, Mosley Tribes, and industrial, Apple-centric accessories brand Incase also revealed some interesting new colors, somewhat more muted than the bright neons from 2009, and innovative styles that tell where things are headed for Fall 2010 including flat-top styles ala ’80’s with sunglasses, but with different price points that are friendlier to today’s more conservative buyer. This was the case across the board, especially in premium denim, which kept it’s sparkling white carpet (called “The Area”) but as many people told us, were offering their collections at a “more strategic” price point.

While Project isn’t necessarily known for being celeb-studded, the L.A.M.B. booth did attract a lot of attention. No, Gwen wasn’t there, but the outfit she wore at a New York Fashion Week event a day before was on display, including bubble-bottom leather shorts and an electric blue fitted jacket. (See pictures for more.)

L.A.M.B. drew a lot of attention with jodhpurs, bubble-bottom leather shorts, fitted leather jackets in electric blue, and funky cowl hoodies.

In keeping with the aesthetic of Project, which we love, there were several beautiful lounges, pop-up salons, photo booth areas for fun shots, water bars, an excellent selection of magazines, the Nylon Daily Newsletter (which this time, didn’t seem as leading-edge as last Fall, but still fun to read), and the coveted Project collector’s bag.

But with a new little show called Workroom right next door, which we also thought was an excellent idea (and reminded us of Capsule), it does make us wonder if Project is on the cusp of another transformation, even though it’s changed venues. Like the denim industry itself, and fashion overall, niche is the new direction and big shows are constantly trying to act smaller or at least offer little areas (like boutiques) for specific subcultures. However like MAGIC, this show seemed to be all about making things more convenient for the buyers, which was a good thing. The ability to go from show to show, and stop at a lounge, network, eat, drink, and still be inspired by the atmosphere and variety of types of brands and people, are what makes Project work overall.

The Same Guy brand by not the same guy Christian Audigier features first layer pieces, T-shirts, and no-logos. Their on-site DIY T-shirt artist was a big hit. This will give American Apparel and others a run for their money.

Paige from Aviator Nation based in Venice, CA is one of the newer brands doing well. AV features brushed sweatpants, hoodies, and %uFFFD70%uFFFDs vibe rainbows and caps.

More from Aviator Nation, which is carried in some high-end stores like Fred Segal.

Dre Hayes from the Foundation manages many brands and practically has his own aisle at Project. He%uFFFDs in front of Native, the new sneaker, rubber boot line that was causing a stir at Project (and earlier at Agenda). His brands also include InCase, Generic Surplus, G-Shock, Gourmet, Edwin denim, Pro Keds, Super, Mosley Tribes, and others. Check out Label Networks TV on for more video interviews with Dre.

Holsters by Hellz.

Much hyped shoe collab with Vans X Hellz.

L.A.M.B.%uFFFDs gathered jacket and leather bubble-bottom shorts were extremely popular, also because Gwen Stefani was wearing a similar pair the day before at a NY Fashion week event.

Nudie%uFFFDs denim bag, socks, belts. Yes this denim brand has some cool accessories.

PreLoved out of Toronto always attracts boutiques interested in eco-friendly garments of vintage with a twist. All of their collection is made from reclaimed fabrics. They%uFFFDve been featured in a variety of boutiques and chains including Urban Outfitters. One-of-kind pieces that are must to see for buyers interested in something unique.

Project had several interesting displays, lounges, and areas to network.

Urbanears is a relatively new brand in the designer headphone category. Their technology is what makes them stand apart including a patented earclip and “zound plug” that allows you to plug into your friend%uFFFDs tunes.

WeSC%uFFFDs denim and new eco collection as symbolized by the green tab logo.

WeSC%uFFFDs selvedged chinos were also a popular new introduction which could be an interesting new direction for the brand.

Workroom is a new, smaller show right next to Project. Featuring brands as listed in the story, it%uFFFDs all about the brands here and not the booth, which is similar to some other shows. Directors include Sharifa Cudjoe from Project, Stephanie Seeley from Pool, and Andre Warren. This should could blossom in the future.

More from Workroom.

Urban, industrial, hip, unique, aesthetically pleasing–this is Project.