"I despise big trade shows," said Abe Chavez, a buyer for the West Coast boutique Class LA. Luckily, this recent rainy Monday afternoon brought the young shop curator to Capsule, a new, tightly edited brand showcase that replaces the scattershot quality of larger trade shows with a compact list of quality designers on the rise. "Normally," said Chavez, "I would have to fly to Europe and seek out all these brands out. More than three-fourths of the labels we carry are here—so this is great."
Featuring a select 40-plus brands and a focus on the emerging menswear market, there was little room for duds or dross in the inspiring confines of the Angel Orensanz Foundation Center, a gothic former Synagogue on Manhattan's Lower East Side. "We just thought it would be a step beyond the average trade show," said Laura Paterson of Brandpimps PR, one of the many movers and shakers behind the launch of Capsule. "We wanted to place ourselves in something that has a little bit of a soul to it."
But it's not just the location that has injected a bit of heart into Capsule. Thanks to the curatorial skills of Capsule's board of editors, the event seemed more like a mutual appreciation society than the dry endurance march that most trade shows can be. "Every kingpin editor and every kingpin buyer are on our advisory board," said Paterson, "so we know we have a lot of support in the market." Indeed, even with the pouring rain outside, the outlook inside was friendly and appreciative.
"I think the mood, the vibe, and the place are all fantastic," said Laura Podall who with her husband Josh designs the upscale casualwear line Podall. "I think for the first day of a new show, the traffic has been impressive, especially considering the elements," says the former fashion buyer now working the other side of the booth. "There's a lot of socializing going on. It's a good sign."
Downstairs, Brandon J. Scott, designer for the popular young line B. Son echoed Podall's sentiments. "What I love about Capsule is that these are the people I want to hang next to anyway," he said pointing around the nave to other booths. "Ksubi, Public School, Mike + Chris, these are all amazing designers and collections. And they're the people I want buying our line."
The Capsule Hit List
While almost all of the 40-plus labels put on a good show at the inaugural edition of Capsule, we couldn't help but play favorites. Here are four to watch.
Henrik Vibskov—This Dane's truly outré streetwear easily caught our eyes. "There's always lots of humor in the collections," says Vibskov's head of sales, Jacob Valdemar. "It's really about joy and happiness." Sure, the crazy-quilt prints, loud plaid pants and happy-go-lucky sweaters will provoke smiles, but it's Vibskov's intelligent, relaxed and functional approach to fits and tailoring that make his madcap textiles truly wearable.
pa:nuu—A welcome, if unpronounceable, surprise, Denmark's pa:nuu offered up possibly the boldest, loudest tees and sweats we've ever seen. Sure, most of the pixilated pullovers were strictly for the under-25 set, but we'll be watching the streets for them nonetheless.
Wood Wood—"We're aiming to find a place between high-end fashion and streetwear," says Karl Olsen, designer for the Danish label. Their current collection, "Wild Beasts" hits that target straight on. Nylon outerwear and cotton casuals display hints of '80s club culture and '50s futurism with techno takes on animal prints applied to generous silhouettes for men and women. Wild indeed.
B.Son by Rebecca Beeson—One of the most popular displays of the day was B. Son San Francisco's spare line of blacks, bold primary tones, and crisp basics. "This collection is called, 'The Year of the Bauhaus,'" said co-designer Brandon J. Scott. "The simplicity and the colors all come from Bauhaus aesthetics. Also, we've tightened the collection from last year, shifting down from 80 pieces to 35." As van der Rohe said, less is more.
A downtown gathering of the best young fashion brands may just be the cure for the common trade show.