As the founder of Agenda Tradeshow, Aaron Levant is definitely one of the most powerful people in streetwear. The tradeshow started off just showcasing 30 brands back in 2003, but is now a veritable hub of both streetwear's old guard and new brands that are on the come-up and about to dominate the game. The first edition of Agenda kicks off today in NYC, and will definitely host all the key designers, buyers, and other interested parties who all have a hand in shaping the streetwear landscape. We spoke with Levant on the show's relationship with the ever-evolving global streetwear scene, and what he thinks the future holds for the streetwear industry.
What was the original goal when you started Agenda in 2003? How has that goal or mission developed in the last 11 years?
Our initial goal was to provide a platform for independent brands, which didn't have a place at the larger tradeshows. Ten years later, many of the independent brands have grown and we curate what we deem as cool. We now have an evolving tradeshow landscape where both emerging brands to large billion dollar companies all simultaneously show together.
What is the process of selecting brands? Is there a general direction that you try to create by curating the individual brands that show at Agenda?
The show is invite only. The three key factors we consider when selecting brands are: design aesthetics, authenticity, and innovation. The general direction of the show has evolved over the years. It started in streetwear, then moved to encompass action sports, lifestyle, and now also women's. We're always evolving and broadening the scope for whatever we deem as "cool."
What are the differences between the Agenda shows in NYC, Long Beach, and Vegas?
Agenda Long Beach has become our largest and most dynamic flagship show with over 600 brands, encompassing the genres of lifestyle, youth culture, footwear, action sports, premium, and now Agenda WMNS. Our NY show houses about 120+ brands, focusing on men's streetwear, lifestyle and skate. And our new Agenda Vegas show houses about 250 brands, focusing primarily on mens, lifestyle, and streetwear.
How do you balance quantity vs. quality? Will there ever be a cap on how many brands show at each Agenda?
We strive to curate the best brands. There are literally hundreds of brands that apply, but we go through a strict curation process. There will never be a cap to having great brands at the show. Any cap is actually due to limited physical space in the venue. Instead of one massive show, we've designed neighborhoods to house each lifestyle category with its own unique branding. For example, The Berrics Agenda is a skate-curated section, the Woods is our contemporary lifestyle neighborhood, and now we have Agenda WMNS.
Can you speak on balancing the expectations and needs of those who are showing their collections and those who are attending to buy for their stores?
For us, our focus goes into curating the brands that are exhibiting, as well as seating them alongside their peers. For the buyers, we merch the floor much like a retail store. Agenda is styled by lifestyle stories, to promote a great "shopping" experience.
How do you think Agenda has affected the course that street wear has taken since 2003?
We'd like to think we've played a role within the streetwear niche subculture. Streetwear is at the forefront of each genre of popular culture. We've been able to give brands and designers a place to expose their creativity to a larger national and international audience.
Where do you think streetwear is headed next?
Streetwear is always evolving. Not quite sure where the trends are headed, but we feel there will be an almost "worlds colliding" assimilation where streetwear and high-end menswear create a global fashion synergy.