Here are highlights from The Collective juniors event at The Lab yesterday. I teamed up with Foam Magazine to organize the gathering, which was sponsored by 24|seven, so I asked my husband, Andrew Horan, to cover it for me. He's a journalist, too. Here's his story.
Passion. Authenticity. Opportunity.A sold out gathering of more than 100 designers, brand manager, retailers and others spent Thursday morning in the living room at The LAB in Costa Mesa, where they heard key industry leaders say that the action sports juniors market is ripe for more growth - even in these challenging times - for companies that have an authentic story to tell and people with the passion to work at it.
The morning event was broken into four segments, which I highlight below. And we'll soon post word on how you can get webisodes of the event.
Susan told a remarkable story of overcoming personal and professional hardships to work her way up - from paralegal working with farmers in the Midwest to VP of Sales at OP, and then to her position as chairman of the board, CEO and president of Lunada Bay. The company designs and manufacturers Betsey Johnson swim and Lucky Brand swim, designs for Anne Cole, Mossimo, Catalina and OP swimwear, and runs Becca, its own brand. People were lined up at the end of the session, asking her to deliver inspirational speeches to their sales and marketing teams.
A few highlights, in her words:
"Conversations with market movers on careers and the juniors market of today and tomorrow."
Ross Garrett, moderator, Group Publisher Airborne Media (right)
Stacy Clark, Swell.com CEO
Laurie Etheridge, Roxy SVP for merchandising and design
Candy Harris, Billabong Girls brand director
Carol Nielsen, Becker Surfboards women's buyer
Summer Rapp, Quiksilver Women's VP of design
Johnny Schillereff, Element founder and president
Ross led panelists through a wide-ranging discussion about building and selling action sports juniors lines. A few highlights:
Johnny: The most important thing is to not panic, and stick to your plan. Brands with substance, depth and the ability to make positive changes will flourish.
Candy: We just had a big meeting with Paul (Naude) on the state of the economy, and I actually left it energized. Now is the chance to get rid of excess weight, of the ‘business as usual.'
Laurie: We've all got comfortable with our successes. Now is a time to focus on innovation, true innovation. We have a terrific opportunity to really narrow our focus, and innovate.
Candy: We've all heard that juniors aren't brand conscious, they're price-point conscious. ... Let's face it, everyone likes a deal, whether you're a 15-year-old girl or a 30-year-old woman. But the reality is that girls don't want to be billboards anymore. They don't want Abercrombie - or any brand - splashed across their chest. They are loyal to a brand that represents them. So if you're a brand that stands for something people can relate to, they're loyal. You have to have a story, and stick to it.
Carol: Some areas have taken off. Young girls are hungry for organics and natural fabrics. ... Sitting on the panel, Quiksilver, Roxy, Billabong, you have beautiful products, but it's hard to find the masses. It's a real challenging time, and we have to find a way to work together.
Laurie (right): There's just no soul with Forever 21 or Hollister. At Roxy, we're a big believer in story, and girls really care, they want the back story. In Forever 21, there's no back story, there's nothing more to it than cheap prices and cute items. Our job is to not be beleaguered by that, but to tap into the essence of what makes us distinct: a deeper, richer brand. The girl today cares. She wants to know what's going on behind the scenes, about human rights and fair trade.
Stacy: Customers are demanding new, unique, up-and-coming brands. Introducing new brands is easier, as long as they're willing to tell their story, in their voice.
Summer: We have our lifestyle, and we need to use that to our advantage, and stop fighting it.
Summer: We have a huge potential to make our products reflect our core values.
Johnny: A great quote, "demographics equal destiny." We can go huge. Until recently, girls were an after-thought to our industry. As an industry, it's up to us.
Candy: Women's surfing is going to be powerful. And collectively, when women's surfing grows, women's surf brands will follow. We should be ready for it.
Carol: That's the single most important thing I've heard today. Surfing was the beginning of our industry. Brands are getting more sophisticated, but they're also losing the thing that's critical to the growth of our industry. We can't all be fabulous designers and dresses.
Dick is chairman emeritus of SIMA, a veteran of brands Esprit, Marithe & Francois Girbaud, Izod Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger women's and Op. He wound up the session with a rousing challenge.
Here are a few other photos from the event:Dave Nash, owner of Sun Diego,
Osiris Girls Brand Director Krista Poehler
Lunada Bay Corp. CEO Susan Crank
and Dick Baker.
Element Eden marketing manager Jardine Hammond
with Kim Dresser, DC Shoes VP of
communications and public relations.