Back for 2016, the Axis Show, a biannual contemporary, fashion lifestyle trade show founded on a sense of cross-category collaboration and created to cater to the millennial women’s demographic, will return to New York City February 21st – 23rd at Pier 92.
Axis has propelled itself due to its influence, and branded events, but more importantly it filled a void in the women’s fashion and athleisure lifestyle market. Axis incorporates current and fresh aesthetics to showcase a range of brands from beauty, swim and fashion to accessories, home and lifestyle that speak to a new generation of women.
With strengthened digital and social media presence, and being completely sold out in both seasons of their inaugural year, Axis will be expanding into a new space as a stand-alone, solo show for its February showing. Axis promises to have the same brand ethos, but with a lot of new activations, partnerships and collaborations. “To accommodate the demand of brands and showrooms looking to be part of our event as well as continue to offer a diverse and complete offering that hits all the touch points – discovery, inclusivity, and digital – that are vital to succeeding in today’s competitive market,’ says Vanessa Chiu, Axis’ Show Director. “We plan to remain focused on our mission, which is to bring a sense of community to our brands, retailers, partners, and press attendees, both on and offline.”
While it takes a village, known as the Axis Collective, women that are authorities in their own field who may or may not have their own brand, but are tastemakers, influencers, and friends who have larger voices that brainstorm with Axis; in the beginning it was show curator, Vanessa Chiu, who thought of creating a multi-dimensional platform for fashion-forward brands who were void of space to present their collections and relay their message. I had the opportunity to talk with Chui about her beginning and filling the trade show void with Axis.
What is Vanessa’s early story?
I started doing marketing and PR for an Australian company called Insight. I was doing sales, PR and all of the women’s retail distribution in the US. I was there for about 10 years and during that time I did between 12 and 15 trade shows annually. And because the collection was skate, street, young contemporary, women’s and swims, I got a real gamut and idea of what trade shows need to be and how multi-dimensional they need to be.
After working at Insight and before Axis, how did you end up working with Aaron (Levant) on the Agenda show?
One of the trade shows we did at Insight was Agenda and we killed it because we had surf, skate and men’s youth lifestyle. I’ve always worked in a male-dominated environment; the only Asian, the only woman, the only female in management, so I was always used to working at that level. About three or four years ago Aaron kept courting me and asking me to jump on board and develop a woman’s voice within a man’s trade show. At the end of the day yes there were women’s unisex brands at Agenda, but there also needed to be a larger draw, a larger voice for women’s dedicated retailers that really made sense. So I jumped onboard to develop Agenda Women’s. Also about two years ago I started women’s events. I used to throw monthly events where I brought on motivational speakers and would invite girls from universities all the way to creative directors. It was a free thing, no alcohol and you would all meet up and everyone would just chat; it was like a meet and greet networking event. Where girls could meet mentors, meet other brands and chat with women who have already been doing it. And when I started doing that I realized there were actual legs to continue that into a woman’s tradeshow. So that’s one of the reasons why I started axis.
With Axis being under the Reed Exhibitions did Reed say they wanted to start a women’s trade show or did Vanessa go to Reed to start a women’s trade show?
Vanessa talked to Aaron and a lot of it was feedback from my brand peers from the days when I was doing PR and marketing and also from the media and retailers. What was the trade show environment missing? As you know athleisure and active lifestyle have been really coming into the forefront for years and years, but it was more so the fact that trade show environments are changing. A lot of brands are looking at it as more of a marketing play, looking at more PR and brand alignment. Who are they sitting next to? So you’re at a trade show, who are you looking to need? What is the collaboration environment looking like? How do you tell your brand story to the consumer?
Where did you get the name Axis from?
The idea is that Axis is a moving platform. Axis is everything rotates on a scalable point; Y axis, X axis and Z axis. I wanted it to be a meeting point for both marketing, wholesale, business and nurturing face-to-face interactions. And I like ambiguous words.
Explain what you mean when you say Axis was created because there needed to be a space for women?
There are two things I think, it was more brand building for the brands that we curate to – to really extend past the millennium, which is a very overused word. But I really wanted to build a community where we could actually build business and network. Because the millennials, and I’m older than the millennial; we’re the best self-promoters. You would much rather believe your friend who actually tells you about the raddest new product that will make your butt look nice as opposed to an advitorial or photo shoot. Building the community was much more motivation for me.
What is the trend focused woman?
Trend is such a scary word, just like millennial. When I say the trend focused woman I say the woman who has the ability to use the computer, she can Google, she is abreast of what it is she wants, and she wants to be inclusive yet exclusive at the same time.
What do you look for in a brand for the Axis Show?
A couple of things, we chat a lot with the retailers who come to the show, and we find out what categories are doing well at their store, what price point, where they’re from, what do you not want to see and what is oversaturated and we tailor from there. We only have room for so many brands so we curate the brands into the show and invite them based on that premise. And we have a small group of girls who are your end demographic. It’s sort of like a collective voting process of the best brands and we Instagram stalk quite a few; and we take a vote in-house.
Do you prefer emerging or established brands?
A little bit of both. I think we do need the emerging brands to fill in and be exciting, but also the stable brands that do sell.
Axis is located in California, why did you choose New York to launch?
Mostly from feedback from our retailers, press, and this is where the holes were. This first footprint let’s call it, is in NY, there are more locations to come.
I like the word storyteller, what is the story of the Axis Show?
I love it (the word storyteller), we’re such visual creatures. The easiest shortest way I would say it is, we are the multi-dimensional show that is exclusive; we hand pick the brands that come in. A lot of people don’t know about them or they sell around the world. And we’re also inclusive whether it being events, or whether it being down to the brands themselves.
What advice would you have for someone younger or even older who is looking up to you?
It’s funny, the one word that came to mind is hustle. But I think it’s about being authentic. I’m curating the show for myself and my friends and we actually have the biggest buying power. When it comes to something specific like that I’m just doing what comes naturally and if someone says no, then figure out another way to tell the story.
What would you tell your younger self?
Speak slower. Have more confidence and share your story more. I love hearing other people’s opinion and continuing to do so, ask for more opinions ask more questions.
Five things with Vanessa
Favorite vacation location?
I moved around quite a bit as a kid, even as an adult, I’m Canadian originally from Vancouver but thus far either Tokyo or Costa Rica.
Right now sleeping, but I have quite a lot, quite a few.
Anything with eggplant
Favorite curse word?
The f-word is my favorite curse word.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
The next show is going to be at Pier 92, and we’re going to be a stand-alone solo show, along side Capsule (another Reed trade show), February 21 – 23; with the same brand ethos, but with a lot of new activations, partnerships and collaborations.
Pier 92 is located at 711 12th Avenue, New York, NY. For more information go here: http://www.axisshow.com/Info/.