by John Russel Jones

Although Las Vegas market week has not quite returned to its former glory, it is surely getting bigger and bigger as each season passes. To put things in perspective, while I was there, I took a long walk down the strip one evening, and the whole town definitely seems a lot quieter than what we all remember from back in the heady days of the 2000s and 2010s. We’ll credit the Vegas market renaissance to the hard work of the Informa Markets Fashion team, which once again hosted the MAGIC, Project, and Sourcing at MAGIC events last week. The three-day show hosted over 25,000 attendees, including retail buyers, press, influencers, participating brands, and much more, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, from February 13-15, 2023.

Catching up with friends: Kelly Leimberg of Christopher Lena.

Fashion trailblazer, Billy Porter kicked off this season’s events with a Monday morning conversation with Merle Ginsberg of L.A. Magazine, focusing on fashion inspiration, career, and personal stories. Other notable guests this season included the founder of Skinny Confidential Lauren Bosstick, designer Karl Kani, recording artist Busta Rhymes, and professional skateboarder P-Rod.

“Our education programming offers something for everyone. The fashion community is beautifully diverse, and we want to share the stage and amplify those voices that are impactful,” said Kelly Helfman, President of Informa Markets Fashion. “The industry’s needs are shifting, and we are making sure that we are providing the resources for our attendees to address these changes and create a space for important conversations to be had.”

Members Only is back, baby!

Over 500 contemporary men’s and women’s brands exhibited in Project Las Vegas this season, including Nudie Jeans, Krost, Abrand Jeans, Keen, Unpublished, Lack of Color, Honor The Gift, Psycho Bunny, Brodie Cashmere, Dolce Vita, Free People, Jason Wu and Chaser. Retailers included ALTER, Amazon Fashion, Fred Segal, South Moon Under, Belk, Nordstrom, Finish Line Inc, Stadium Goods, and DTLR. The younger, more contemporary part of the market, including a strong contingent of surf/skate and street brands, is really taking over a lot of real estate at the show. The MAGIC Men’s part of the show was a bit of a mixed bag, but the real excitement there was in what we used to call the “urban dress-up” part of the market. The bling was blinding, and the booths in that section of the show were very busy.

We know that events at shows get mixed reviews. They may distract retailers from spending time and writing orders in vendors’ booths, but you can really learn a lot at shows these days! Panel discussions included retail strategies, the power of community, fashion, and sustainability. Panelists included Edwina Kulego, VP of Project, Michael Fisher of Fashion Snoops, legendary designer Karl Kani, Sprayground COO James Ferrel, Primitive Skateboarding owner P-Rod and Thulani Ngazimbi, Founder of The Rad Black Kids.

Dr. Phil better watch out.

Editor’s note: Mordechai “Mr. Mort” Rubenstein and I were invited to host an event of our own, a “fireside chat” about the return to suits. I’ll have more on that later, but thank you so much to the Informa team for the opportunity.

A celebration was also held for the 50th anniversary of Hip-hop and legendary designer Karl Kani was presented with a Lifetime Icon award for his contribution to fashion over the past thirty years. Kani’s designs were featured at MAGIC Mens and have been seen on hip-hop and R&B legends like Aaliyah, Tu-Pac, and Montell Jordan.

“With MAGIC celebrating 90 years next year and Karl Kani launching his business with us in 1991, we want to recognize the legacy and importance of the opportunity that we provide for businesses to launch and scale. Project and MAGIC have been and will always be an imperative player in launching, scaling, and establishing lasting fashion brands,” Edwina Kulego, Vice President, International, and Men’s, Informa Markets Fashion

Comparing new and old methods of denim treatment.

I couldn’t resist doing a quick run through Sourcing at MAGIC, which included nearly 1000 exhibitors from over 35 countries this season. I’ll have more on that later, too, but for those of you who are building new brands, don’t miss this opportunity next season to check out manufacturers, fabric and trim suppliers, packaging manufacturers, as well as fashion technology and service providers. The show once again featured a sustainability gallery, a sustainable denim display, and a featured space on the show floor for non-profit organizations to share their missions with attendees in a new concept space called Social Good Row.