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The MAGIC International Fashion Trade Show February 12-15, 2008 brought out more than 100,000 manufacturers, buyers, retailers, fashion-forward designers, along with the latest up-and-coming styles primarily from North America, as thousands of people in fashion and related industries such as music, electronics, and video gaming gathered in Las Vegas for 4 days to see the latest trends from the industry. Known as the largest fashion trade show in the world, MAGIC also has its fair share of celebs on-site there to either endorse their own clothing line, or check out what’s new in street fashion. At this show Label Networks captured Paul Wall, Mos Def, Nelly, Travis Barker, and Snoop Dogg (at Project). However the best way of understanding such as massive show is by checking out the divisions of it’s layout, including the North Hall representing Young Women’s Contemporary, Juniors, Casual Lifestyle, and the location for the fashion shows; the Central Hall for Men’s Designer and the Pool Fashion Trade Show including S(eco)nd; and the legendary South Hall for Streetwear on the top floor and Punk/Goth-inspired bottom floor (which is still referred to as the Edge years later), and Sourcing. While most people in traditional fashion tend to spend their time in the North Hall, it’s the South Hall that has the greatest energy and encompasses a rich history of the roots of style -coming from the bottom-up, the streets -with the latest brands inspired from punk, emo, indie, rave, hip-hop, street culture, sneaker culture, eco-friendly, after-market car markets and rockabilly, motocross, and action sports-crossover brands into street style.

Notorious for it’s massive crowds and peacocking fashionistas at the front area the South Hall vibe remained the same this Spring show including tight badge screening with greetings by heavy security made up of very large men-in-black with excessive bling and coveted earphones and several roaming metro with dogs before allowing access to the main area packed with over-sized booths such as Baby Phat, Fubu Rocawear, Southpole, New Era, Apple Bottoms, and others. From here, the show then quickly splinters into tribal packs of fashion-savvy hordes, as one ventures towards the newly phrased “Progressive Streetwear” section which is where we concentrate our themes for the Label Networks’ bi-annual MAGIC overview story.

It can be said that while the economy is suffering, the Progressive Streetwear section showed little signs of slow-down. And while some action sports inspired brands have made the crossover to Magic such as DC, Arbor, C1rca, Alpinestars, Famous Stars & Straps, Stussy Ezekiel, it’s still surprising that more are not participating in this area given that clearly the direction of youth culture fashion is coming from street mostly and action sports or sports such as basketball, secondary. As usual, what makes the Progressive Streetwear section so popular is that so many leading-edge brands are packed in tight, ranging in styles that have moved now beyond the all-over print to more upscale, cleaner aesthetics. It’s like streetwear grew-up, yet still maintains its inner Peter Pan, which makes this growing subculture most fascinating with aspects now lifted by top-end designers and causing a significant market change. Most booths have some sort of eye-catching attraction, on-site DJ, clever hand-outs, or sizzling style, but in case that’s not enough, there was the massive Mountain Dew Green Label Art Lounge and DJ tables, bar, and on the second day of the show, an incredible performance by MosDef. Boost Mobile also had a lounge in the back but it was the Mountain Dew area that had people networking this time -not to mention because it was also right next to the ever-popular Hit and Run live silkscreening station that also premiered its 2nd collection of T-shirts.

Brands in Progressive Street such as Mishka have raised the bar by representing the growing culture of Brooklyn DJ/Mod culture including the launch of a new women’s collection made of oversized Mishka menswear. Other top women’s street fashion brands included Mama Clothing who announced their recent collaboration with Adidas, Enobrand out of Shanghai and the colorful marketing director Lin Lin capturing everyone’s attention and spreading the word that China really does have a vibrant street fashion scene going on (heads up!), Insight out of Australia -particularly with their denim vests and fitted plaids, Nicacelly’s dresses made of deadstock men’s T’s, and Arbor’s women’s collection consisting of bamboo fabrics and street designs.

New stand-outs in men’s streetwear could be seen with the transformation of Palis into unique mixes of street and upper urbanwear, 3sixteen and their classically detailed jackets, of course King Stampede, another transformative brand and kingpin leader 10 Deep with button-downs,Crooks & Castles that showcased an amazing new booth style, Akomplice out of Boulder (including their graffiti-inspired street signs), Arbor, Fresh Jive, Obey Milkcrate, Undrcrwn and their basketball-inspired streetwear, art-inspired Upper Playground by Juxtapoz founder, Dissizit, Lemarand Dauley Free Gold Watch, Live Mechanics, Neff, Leroy Jenkins Altamont, Rebel 8, Red Clay, The Hundreds, Mighty Crown Entertainment from Japan 9 Rulaz, Shmack, FenChurch out of London, Mighty Healthy, and Ubiquity (also known as the eclectic independent record label).

General trends in streetwear from a macro level are that clean is king. Instead of bright all-over prints, there were bright colors but in lesser volume, the tone back being described as “where else can you go when you’ve gone all the way -you go back, tone it down, clean it up.” Cleaner prints were key, mixed with tattoo artistry and meaningful graphic design expressions that always had a backstory. In addition, was the move towards attention to detail in pieces such as type on the inside of shirts describing the story of a piece, or rivets with logos. Plaids, houndstooth fabrics are on the comeback but not in the traditional grunge over thermals form, rather in fitted pieces with attention to the yoke stitching, buttons with pictures or logos, button-downs that remain street-inspired either in graphics or twists of embellishments, new takes on hoodies with softer fabrics, larger hoods, and more denim and footwear than ever before as most brands now represent complete collections. Tattoo artistry is still popular as seen with brands such as Rebel8 and Famous, but also jackets with subtle pinstripes, blazers, and street-upscale shirts from brands such as 3sixteen and 10 Deep.

Overall, Progressive Streetwear at MAGIC this Spring 2008 was just that: progressive. Stay tuned for more stories and individual brand highlights and interviews, including Label Networks TV in the next few weeks as we plunge into the depths of what’s making a different in street fashion and youth culture.