Underwear on the rise, brands rising above trends, and changing of the guard
Coverage: Chad Wiley, Kailee Bradstreet, Kelsey Smith, Tanner Walker
Photos: Zach Steria
Throughout its 13-year history, the Agenda Show has morphed from an intimate cohort of brands to one of the largest and notable shows for lifestyle brands to attend. Vanessa Chiu, director of Agenda WMNS, says the show has more than doubled its women's buyers this last year alone. Trends were harder to identify, but as many pointed out, this could be a good point of difference moving forward. Perhaps the lack of uniformity points to a calculated change from brands that seem to be avoiding the disposable, fast-fashion trends, and leaning more on what they know, what's worked for them in the past, and how to highlight their heritage and brand DNA. We gathered some of the highlights below.
Highlights from Agenda Long Beach Day Two:
- Chambray is making a comeback for the first time in several years. We saw it on everything from footwear at the Sanuk and C1RCA booths, to women's long rompers and cut-off sleeve shirts at RVCA.
- Collaborations continue to be the buzzword moving into the new industry landscape. Although we heard of many creative partnership stories, a handful really stood out. Billabong has teamed up with artist and surfer Tyler Warren to roll out a capsule that includes a small collection of wetsuits and T-shirts inspired by his timeless historical sketches. Sanuk has teamed up with Stone Brewery to roll out a limited series of custom sandals and have some innovative ideas to cross promote the product to both surfers and craft beer lovers alike. Stay tuned for the details on this one.
- Strappy swimsuits were the focus amongst brands like Body Glove and RVCA, especially when it comes to halter and high-neck tops. Swimwear brands are playing with details to make their pieces stand out. Body Glove is zeroing in an active lifestyle look with its paddlesuits front and center, while RVCA seemed to be playing on a clean brallette style that could counter as undergarments alongside its apparel.
- Footwear: DVS has teamed up with Zach Wallin on a collection that makes us want to go out and create our own DIY projects ASAP. Wallin, aside from ripping on a skateboard, is actually an expert woodwork craftsman, and DVS teamed up with him to document some of his latest projects, which range from a skateboard-inspired plant holder to a miniature wooden fire hydrant, according to new DVS marketing guru and industry vet Jim Shubin. After transitioning to new private ownership, C1RCA was back in full force at the show with a new shoe, The Essential, in collaboration with Windsor James, which doubles as the skater's first pro model. The Essential debuted for Fall 15, but will be updated with some fresh colorways, like a vibrant red, for Spring 16. DC was telling a strong tech story at the front of its booth with its Inverted Eye Impact Cone technology, which is new for Spring 16 on the Evan Smith pro model. The shoe features a high toe-cap and vulcanized soles, harkening back to a classic, retro look. In that same vein, the brand was also launching a new capsule with team rider Josh Kalis, who has been a part of DC for 19 years. The collection is throwback to the 90s, with a larger, puffy style shoe and relaxed fit denim and tees. Adidas Skateboarding is celebrating Dennis Busentiz' 10 years with the brand for 2016. To commemorate this milestone Adidas is releasing his classic silhouette. There will also be an Adidas Busenitz pro model 2.0 skate shoe in a black/gold color way to celebrate the past 10 years.
- Men's Underwear: Five years ago, who would have guessed men's underwear would now be the next big category to unfold at the Agenda Show. Many of the brands that pioneered the underwear movement say the popularity around its growth is nothing but good for the market. But like any brand showing at Agenda, each of the companies pushing men's underwear had a strong point-of-difference both in technical details and brand story. Ethika, the 14-year-old brand that arguably made men's underwear a sought-after--and ultimately cool-- category to support, told a brand story that highlighted their evolution and growing strength. The staple fit that's been with the brand since day one was the center fixture in their booth. Ethika has also moved into the youth and boys category, new for 2016. Saxx, one of two underwear brands out of Vancouver at the show, highlighted their patented mesh panels as their point-of-difference - claiming the 95% cotton product provides more breathability and reduces discomfort. MyPakage, also out of Vancouver and new to the Agenda Long Beach show, unveiled some new product to the line, implementing their patented pouch technology in some of their fun prints and fabric designs. The two-in-one short with a built-in MyPakage liner, new to the line for 2016, was one of the more well-received products differentiating MyPakage from other competing brands on the show floor. Stance's entrance to the category was welcomed by show-goers. Ryan Kingman, Stance's CMO, explained the underwear line was born out of requests by retailers wanting a 360-degree product offering the brand has arguably become known for on the retail floor. Stance will offer three silhouettes, each utilizing a butter-blend fabric with a softer stitching technique. Neff Wear-a co-venture underwear brand with Shaun Neff and NBA star Kevin Durant -was showcased for the first time at the Agenda Show in Long Beach. The highlights of Neff Wear include Kevin Durant's all-star stamp of approval, alongside the graphic prints Neff is so wildly known for.
Overarching trends from Agenda Long Beach:
- Simplified offerings: Several brands, ranging from large heritage companies like Quik to smaller creative brands like Captain Fin, seemed to be honing in on this talking point. We heard a lot of buzz around the show that this type of presentation was resonating strongly with retail buyers, who are looking for the easiest ways to merchandise brand stories within their spaces. For example, Captain Fin is launching a brand-only fin collection for the first time ever with no collaboration artists attached. The collection is sorted into small, medium and large sizes, with the goal of making the fin selection process extremely easy for the consumer.
- Changing of the guard - Focus on a younger mentality: More so than ever, there appears to be a strong changing of the guard at some of the larger heritage brands in the space to become more forward-thinking when it comes to product, and overall brand messaging. Quik's youthful "Stay High" slogan, coupled with its nod to a less polished, more rough and grungy design throughout its new AM/PM collections, was a strong example. They've also brought in a new Global Creative Director Josh Rush, 30, to lead some of their new initiatives, which include documenting in real-time some of the team’s travels and then putting their creative spin and inspiration from these trips into the latest collections. "The industry loves talking to itself, but we've focused on talking to the kids, and the kids have loved it," says Rush. Billabong has also brought in a new face on the creative side. Brad Lancaster has been on board for the past 15 months as global creative director of product, and the brand has also named Dan Rhodes as its new art director.
- Merchandising through Stories & Product Segmentation: Sanuk is rolling out a series of product stories within its overarching brand message of "Never Uncomfortable." The product campaigns will roll out in small capsules every month with a new theme, and is part of a larger effort to keep the retail floors fresh and tell newly captivating stories to its consumers, according to VP of Global Marketing Ethan Anderson. Upcoming product campaigns include the "Tropic Like it's Hot" capsule for January and the "Give the Gift of Funk" tribal prints collection for December. "Two-thirds of our spend is bringing new customers in to Sanuk," says Anderson. "And once you bring them in, what are you going to do to keep them? It's all about storytelling at retail so that's what we are focused on. No matter what you say, it's always just words. At the end of the day, it's all about product--the product itself is the true marketing." One brand that has stayed true to this as part of its roots is Roark, and that continued with their new Spring 16 adventure to Vietnam. We also saw brands like Quik keying in on this aspect as it relates to next year's collection. The idea of product segmentation is a still a major focus. Billabong has several different capsules within the line, ranging from lifestyle to performance, or as Lancaster put it, a balance between young and irreverent and clean and sophisticated. Electric had an extremely curated look at its new sports performance collection of eyewear and a dive-specific watch, but will roll out the full collection at future shows that are geared more toward outdoor lifestyle, according to Surf & Lifestyle Marketing Manager Ian Foulke.