Sam Ben-Avraham knows new. Even his “early days” in the industry were impressive, curating items at Atrium and Kith and basically choosing the New York fashion set’s wardrobe. Then came his work with Project show and his 2013 introduction of Liberty Fairs. Somehow, it became exciting to go to a trade show again. Inspiring, fast paced, exclusive, the exact opposite of the tired parade that New York and Vegas trade shows were becoming. The only other name in town that had any cool value was the Capsule show. Makes sense that Ben-Avraham recently bought it. Together, they will create seasons more of trade show thrills. Ben-Avraham zooms around pretty fast but stopped long enough to give us the skinny on Liberty and Capsule along with the future of the trade show circuit.
Tell us about the recent purchase of Capsule.
We’ve collaborated with the Capsule team for years and have always admired and respected what they’ve built. As the trade show marketplace continues to evolve, we saw a strategic opportunity to bring Capsule under our umbrella to create an even stronger, more diverse trade and event platform. The Capsule acquisition will bring new inroads for our current audience and also will attract new eyes to all we are doing. Capsule will be a place where we showcase and support the industry’s most exciting labels and cultivate an elevated and curated experience for attendees, with exceptional design and customer service.
What does Capsule add to Liberty Fairs?
Capsule is going to become the official women’s show platform for Liberty. We will continue to keep Cabana and its women’s collection separate as that serves a different market. The men’s brands that previously showed at Capsule will now come under the Liberty umbrella. Capsule has always been known for its independent spirit and its ability to nurture the best new talent in the industry. Combining that edge with Liberty’s continued success in bringing the proven power players to the shows gives us the chance to really serve a broader, more diverse audience and give buyers everything they need in one stop.
Can you share any future plans for the expansion of Liberty Fairs?
Liberty has an exciting year ahead. In addition to buying Capsule and making that our women’s platform, we are launching the PARAISO Fashion Fair in Miami Beach from July 12-16. PARAISO is going to unify and elevate all of the activity in Miami during what people formerly called Swim Week. It will bring the best in resort, swim, fashion, wellness, art, culture and music to South Beach through exclusive events, runway shows, panels and concerts. Everyday we are going to have up to 10 events for guests to attend and interact with their favorite brands such as Solid & Striped, Equinox, Soul Cycle, Sun Bum, Baby Brasa, Acacia, etc. And each night we are going to have a headlining music event with some top talent. We’re going to revolutionize the swim scene in Miami.
What do buyers and consumers need from a trade show these days?
Ben-Avraham: Trade shows are a vital part of the industry. They always have been and they always will be. There are three major things they provide for buyers. First, the shows offer a level of convenience that cannot be found elsewhere. Buyers can come and get 100x the amount of work done under one roof as we have so many brands that are there, all in a matter of a few days. Second, there’s the important social component and that is critical for any type of business. The show floors are where people can meet, share ideas, brainstorm and find new ways to grow and evolve their businesses. That in-person connection is not something you can ever recreate online. And lastly, perhaps most importantly, trade shows are a place of discovery. Our shows are a design-drive hive for people to come and be inspired and get excited about the industry and seasons to come. We try to create a place with special one-of-a-kind installations and events that can inspire retailers for their store and give them an unforgettable experience. Seeing things in person and being a part of that experience is not something that can be converted online or on email alone.
Consumers are more aware of and interested in trade shows than they have been in the past. They can use the trade shows to find out about the newest product ahead of anyone and really build the hype around special product drops and collaborations. We’re always preparing ourselves for the ongoing evolution of the business and creating new ideas and products for the future.
What do you think about letting consumers purchase tickets to trade shows? Is this the future of the industry?
There’s a lot of talk in the industry about how to bring the consumer into the process, but I don’t think having them purchase tickets to walk the trade shows is the answer. While the consumer is an important part of the equation, and these days the fashion customer knows more than ever about the wholesale process, there is still a lot about what goes on in the show that isn’t the right platform for anyone other than buyers to be involved. The way we are addressing it is to create special controlled moments at the shows that are right for the general population to be included. We have our Assembly programming which brings industry leaders like Ronnie Fieg, Jaden Smith, Jeff Rosenthal and others together to talk about their inspiration and motivation and consumers are invited to buy tickets to hear all of them. We also are increasing the shopping opportunities for consumers at our shows, to give people early access to their favorite brands. Last season we unveiled the Shop My Style studios in New York where customers could buy current season items that had been curated by top male influencers and we will be rolling that out in a bigger way this coming season and beyond.