The heels were high, the cheekbones higher still, a stratosphere of beauty buzzing to life in perilous footwear and plunging necklines.
Mimosas in hand, clumps of fashionistas strolled the salmon-colored carpet in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Central Hall, past the DJ spinning Hall &Oates chestnuts to an audience of empty leather sofas.
Vying for a look in their direction Tuesday — the first day of the three-day MAGIC fashion trade show — was an endless array of spokesmodels, a number of them gleaming like anthropomorphic disco balls in lustrous gowns.
Their goal: to lure passersby to the booths they were working in hopes of landing orders from retailers — from large-scale chain stores to mom-and-pop boutiques — aiming to get their wares on shelves, be it dresses seemingly tailored to barely cover a Hollywood actress to sustainably-made beer coozies to designer T-shirts advertising a preference of “Dogs Before Dudes.”
Here, couture and commerce tangoed.
It was a slow dance.
“It’s more of a laid-back, kind of chill party, whereas every other show that I do is strictly business,” says Megan Parker, sales manager for the Cleveland-based Mona B lifestyle brand, whose products include everything from eco-friendly pets beds to aprons. “It’s definitely a different vibe.”
In one hall after the next, throngs of thousands dug through racks of clothes, looking for that special find, with the fervor of record collectors trying to score some rare vinyl.
Vendors tempted onlookers with bowls of candy and cheese plates, the nectar meant to entice a beehive of beautiful people dressed less like conventioneers than image-conscious clubgoers attempting to minimize any wait behind a velvet rope.
As in the club, the mood was buoyant.
“It’s so fun,” says Juli Barrett, sales manager for San Diego’s Tiny Truckers, which makes trucker hats for everyone from toddlers on up. “Everybody is super friendly.”
Akil Rucker, chief of staff for OMG Accessories, whose product line includes a backpack featuring a unicorn shedding heart-shaped tears, likened the experience to a day on campus.
“It’s like being in college,” he says, neck tattoo peeking through his collared shirt. “You get to be around like-minded people. Everyone wants to talk fashion. Everyone wants to talk work. Everyone’s like a sponge.”
But there is also a clear sense of competition here, an unforgiving bottom line, as companies vie for limited sales orders.
The stakes can be high, boom or bust, especially for startups.
Take Save the Girls, a producer of accessory items, including a purse that houses your cellphone while enabling it to still be used it through a window in the back.
The purse was created after CEO Tami Lange says her sister-in-law developed breast cancer from storing her cellphone in her bra.
“We needed a convenient place to keep our phone,” Lange explains.
The company, which launched in October 2017, got a booth at MAGIC for the first time last year.
“We came and I thought we wouldn’t sell anything; nobody knew who we were,” Lange says, her expectations pleasantly upended by strong earnings. “We did over $90,000.”
In the months that followed MAGIC, Save the Girls sold 1.1 million units, a number that Lange expects to at least quadruple this year.
“It was one of our launching pads,” she says, believing in MAGIC and creating her own at once.