Feb 022011
Authors: Erin Nalli

Welcome, to a little bit of insight to the marvelous world we call the fashion industry. It is a world that is always changing, one where no two seasons, lines or even individual pieces will ever be exactly the same. It is a world that every single one of you steps into each morning when you wake up. We are surrounded by fashion everywhere we go and in everything we do. I have been fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of this world in the reality of its operation.

A little background and terminology for those who need it, whenever you shop at a store that sells other brands, they probably get a great deal of their merchandise from a trade show.

A trade show is a massive production where vendors from a multitude of different manufacturers gather in one place and have meeting after meeting with buyers from retail outlets. Many department stores and boutiques carry other brands than their own. Buyers are the people who pick out, and, you guessed it, buy other brand name products to put on the racks in their own retail store and sell for a profit. These trade shows are a very big deal in the industry.

Now that we have our bases covered and you understand the basics on the purpose of a trade show, I can begin by stating that for the first time I was able to attend one of these events: the SIA Snow Show is an annual trade show for snow-sport merchandise held at the Colorado Convention Center. This specific trade show hosted more than 400 different snow-sport companies from all over the country that made their merchandise available for retailers to purchase.

Popular name brands were there such as Burton, The North Face, Patagonia, Vans, Ride Snowboards, Candy Grind, Grenade and Skull Candy. Smaller and newly emerging brands also made an appearance, such as S4 Optics who makes goggles and sunglasses and Homeschool Snowboarding which makes snowboarding outerwear.

Each of the vendors had its own area in the show, and many of them set it up to look like a showroom for the brand like you would see if you were to visit one of their stores. Some of the brands had a more extravagant area than others depending on their budget for the show. The showrooms displayed a variety of merchandise from skiing and snowboarding jackets and pants to sunglasses and goggles to actual skis and snowboards.

While the vendors had their individual style to go with the brand image, generally the theme of the products at the show were a very contemporary look.

No longer is outwear purely for function, but also for making a statement of the individual’s style. Colors are brighter and the fit is more formed to the body with the use of more technologically advanced materials and construction of outerwear.

The more advanced the materials of jackets and pants get, the less bulky, more comfortable and more stylish they become.

The whole area was flooded with retail buyers examining the products available for the upcoming season. Since this event happens only once a year, buyers were making very large purchases.

The associates working at each of the vendor booths were all friendly and willing to talk about their lines. They were open to sharing their stories about how they got started in the industry. Many people I spoke with were interested in knowing where I was from and what I was doing at the show. A good number of exhibitors at the show were from Colorado and went into the snow sport industry from their background in participating in the sports while growing up.

Attending the show was one of the greatest experiences in the beginnings of my fashion career.  I got to see first hand how the buying and trade show process works. I met a lot of industry professionals who gave me valuable information and advice in sharing how they got started in their businesses.

Fashion columnist Erin Nalli can be reached verve@collegian.com.

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