The NTWRK Agency, The Park Showroom, The FNDTN and Flagship Agency joined forces for this year’s LA Men’s Market at the California Market Center in DTLA this past Monday and Tuesday. The event was absolutely a success, and the hype for the event was felt from the top down. The turnout was great, the morale was high and breakfast was served… and we’re not talking granola. Stumptown provided coffee, espresso and cold brew while Egg Slut slung made-to-order omelettes to so many dudes in Nike Flyknits, it had to be a Guinness World record.
LA CANVAS felt nothin’ but love as the brands’ tables donned a proud stack of our latest Fashion Issue for the grazing buyers looking for their next best seller in Spring ‘14, or just whoever is still putting out new varieties of the Jogger pant (jk but srsly jk). It looks like this is the beginning of the golden age for the LA Men’s Market as we sat down with the man who put it all together, Kellen Roland, of The NTWRK Agency — he also gave us some insight into why this is the best time for men’s fashion. Honorable talking point mention: dressing like your uncle is cool. #wut
Mr. Roland also showed us around the LA Men’s Market, aka the marketplace of our dreams, personally. Not bad.
LA CANVAS: So, what exactly is The NTWRK Agency?
Kellan Roland: The NTWRK Agency is a brand-building agency. We represent multiple clothing and accessory lines for the US with offices in Los Angeles and Manhattan. We specialize in wholesale but play a key role in brand development. Basically, we are the representatives of our brands and we make sure that their goals and initiatives are followed through and implemented in the US market.
LAC: What do you do with the brands you represent?
KR: Well, number one, we hand-select our clients to be the best brands within their given niche, and a key element is having a very intimate relationship with the brand owners. We’re definitely an outside sales agency, but we act as if we’re inside sales and act with the brands’ needs and ambitions first and foremost. We’re the people getting their product into the right stores to make sure that brand’s message is clearly conveyed in the US market.
LAC: Do you facilitate collaborations within the brands you represent only or do you reach outside the realm of The NTWRK Agency?
KR: We definitely play a key role in all aspects of our brands, and it just depends on what the brands’ needs are. So, if one of our clients is looking for a footwear brand that we may have a relationship with, we’ll reach out and we’ll begin that communication. We just play a role in executing whatever needs to be done so that the brand is successful.
LAC: How far will you go to ensure your clients’ success?
KR: Though our job is first and foremost sales, we want to help out with marketing, PR, brand-development and how the brands show up in stores because it’s very important for them to be sold-in properly. That’s our key objective, but the next step in that is them selling through and selling out of the store. We have a very active role in the brands’ life, whether that’s helping with in-store build-outs, connecting that brand with the right media publications, and making sure that brand is featured in the right magazines or on the right blogs.
LAC: So how much do you yourself have a creative say in the collaborations and what you do with your brands? Are you still creative in your position now?
KR: We’re still creative in our executions and getting the brand out there in terms of sales and in-store environments, but our brands take the lead from a creative standpoint. We are a sales agency; I definitely want to make that clear. Our brands are so creative on their own so they don’t need much help from us, and that’s a part of picking the best brands. Herschel Supply Co. is on our team and they are on their own creating the best product and the same with Komono, Primitive, Brothers Marshall and Native shoes. We don’t need to be too creative in the sense of the brand creating their product, but we are creative in getting it to market.
LAC: Back to the LA Men’s Market, how did you get all of these awesome people and brands together under one roof?
KR: The way this started was: I had the idea and brought it to some other people who work with me at The NTWRK Agency, plus some local brand reps and showroom owners — we all have these beautiful showrooms in DTLA and we weren’t getting enough traffic from our local buyers or the national buyers. We offer our buyers a key opportunity to see 90 of the best brands in a two-day time period while cutting costs, saving time and really just being streamlined, giving the brand, the rep and the buyer an opportunity to do business and make it fun.
LAC: There are definitely a lot of well-dressed dudes here, but are you happy with the turnout?
KR: The event is off to a great start, it’s the morning of day two and we’ve already had triple the amount of buyers compared to any other LA Men’s Market, so, it’s been a huge success.
LAC: Wow! So, something has to be working here, right?
KR: The key is that buyers are here, they’re seeing the brands, they’re having longer appointments, and it’s not rushed like at a store where there are a lot of distractions. It’s all about doing business and leaving paper. At the end of the day, that’s what I am at heart, I’m a sales guy and it’s great to meet with the retailers but we’re trying to get the orders in. People are leaving orders here and it’s been a great experience. I’ve talked to some of the key brands that are participating and everyone has positive things to say including the retailers who made the trip down here.
LAC: In terms of your own feeling regarding Men’s fashion today, where does your own style fall within the spectrum of menswear and streetwear?
KR: [Fashion is] awesome because, on the one hand, you have kind of this refined gentleman, or, “hey, it’s cool to dress like your uncle.” I dress like an old man now, and I’m only 31. Then you have some people who dress in all black plus all of the other sort-of fringe trends happening as well. Right now, we’re in the most special time for fashion because taking risks is encouraged and being an individual is celebrated. It doesn’t matter if you are a skater, surfer or DJ you can wear whatever you want — no one is attached to any certain demographic or scene anymore. It’s kind of like a free for all, which is fun — whatever you want goes.
How do you feel about streetwear making its way into menswear?
KR: The cool thing about fashion is that it comes from everywhere; whether it’s Michael Jordan sneakers influencing fashion in the late 90s or it’s a kid skating in Brooklyn, then you see an element from his ripped shirt or ripped jeans on a runway in Milan. That’s the great thing about fashion, there’s really no rhyme or reason to it — it’s a creative expression that you see from the ground up to the top. Seeing streetwear emerge onto the runways is rad because a lot of the early streetwear, especially in the 2000s with the all-over prints, was derived from runways anyway. That all-over, high-end Versace [print] was influencing Freshjive, 10Deep and brands like that when they were taking those elements and incorporating them into their own streetwear collections.
With fashion, it’s kind of an interesting scenario because everyone is watching each other. Raf Simmons is watching the designers at 10Deep, 10Deep is watching the designers of Givenchy and it all happens together, so you get this beautiful combination of streetwear influencing and high fashion and vice versa to create basically where we’re at now, which is menswear.
LAC: What advice would you give someone just starting out and trying to be like you?
KR: I would say to anybody, if you need advice to work hard, quit now. As far as advice, keep your ears open, be humble and attach yourself to people who know more than you. The smartest advice I can give anyone is surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
LAC: Last question: how do you feel about LA CANVAS?
KR: I love it. It’s awesome there’s a publication that’s speaking directly to what’s going on in LA. There’s so much happening in Los Angeles and it’s nice to be able to tell our story and to give people from a consumer and trade POV — kind of an inside loop as to what’s going on. You guys are doing a good job of telling people where to go eat and what is the coolest fashion, but, more than that, also giving readers some insight on how this stuff is created.
It’s sort of this hybrid view because with the emergence of technology like Instagram, Twitter and all these things people have become accustomed to a behind-the-scenes mentality. Ten years ago, you didn’t know how things happened, they just happened. Now, if you’re not part of the step-by-step process, you feel like you’re left out as a consumer. As a media publication, you’re able to bring people in on that journey, help tell the story, and hopefully keep telling the stories of all these great things happening in LA, and eventually branch out to other cities as this thing grows. In an era where print media is said to be nearly dead, I hope there are people who don’t listen to that because if you listen to what everyone says, then we’re all doomed to fail.
See you all at the 2014 LA Men’s Market. We’ll definitely be there.