You know in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when everyone wonders about the mysterious Willy Wonka and all the unusual things that happen in his factory? That’s the same feeling I (and I’m guessing a lot of Atlantans) have while driving past the downtown AmericasMart Atlanta buildings. These three massive buildings, in plain sight right near major organizations, like the American Cancer Society headquarters, are shrouded in mystery if you’re not part of the retail/wholesale/merchandising world. Until now.
Think of this article as your golden ticket — we’re taking you inside AmericasMart Atlanta and showing you all the amazing things we saw, people we met and even rooms we smelled (keep reading and you’ll understand) that are closed to the public. (Please note: we didn’t find any Oompa Loompas roaming the halls.)
We came for the Atlanta Apparel Market, the apparel event that connects buyers with the best clothes, shoes and jewelry lines from across the country. These lines are organized by the type of apparel — high end, children’s, contemporary, resort and so on. Besides the brands that come in for the seasonal markets, there are eight floors in the apparel building (that’s right, we said eight whole floors) reserved for those lines that have permanent placement at AmericasMart.
One of the many special things about AmericasMart is that it’s open year-round, allowing buyers access to those lines that have permanent status whenever they need more merchandise. This is one of the biggest permanent wholesale trade centers, sitting in our own backyard. Seriously, collectively it’s more than seven million square feet of enclosed space!
Besides the apparel market, AmericasMart also features The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market. Even if you’re not in the wholesale or retail business, we’re betting you still know when this semiannual mega event opens (January and July), since Atlanta traffic goes from sluggish to apocalyptic. That’s because thousands of buyers from across the country, even the world, descend on the city in search of perfect items to stock their stores in the coming months. And heads up, January’s Gift Market will be even busier, since the 2016 PANTONE® Color of the Year will receive its global premiere presentation at the event (Don’t worry, we will be reporting on the exciting announcement!).
So hopefully, I’ve set the stage for you that this place is big. Like, really big. The apparel building reminds me of a gargantuan wholesale mall — a mall that ate a smaller mall. But hey, that’s why we came. We saw some adorable items that will probably start showing up in some of our favorite local boutiques, talked to great industry insiders and attended the market’s big fashion event.
People like Katherine Way, of the fashion line Katherine Way, based out of Jacksonville, FL, have been coming to the Atlanta Apparel Market for years. Her resort/lifestyle brand caters to the busy, Southern woman. “Our women want to look classic, and it’s all about fit and flatter.”
We also met up with Bed|Stu, a leather footwear company based out of California, which also has been a regular at the Atlanta Apparel Market for a long time. The shoe company makes products the way cobblers did years ago, from quality leather and hand finishes. Bed|Stu also tries to be earth-friendly by relying on vegetable dyes and reusing leather scraps as part of their heel cushioning.
As the market progressed, there were many style events happening throughout the four days. However, the big, not-to-be-missed one from last month’s Apparel Market was the Escape runway show, featuring amazing pieces from some of the most stylish brands in attendance. Quickly traveling in the glass elevator to the very top floor of the apparel building (Hello, Wonka much?!), I entered the ballroom and my senses were overwhelmed. Honestly, I really forgot I was in Atlanta and felt like I had dropped into some Roald Dahl world. Massive, fresh flower garlands cascaded from the ceiling in the middle of the runway and real vines wrapped themselves around the seating. Exotic lighting filled the room with an otherworldly feeling and the smell of floral engulfed each guest as AmericasMart Atlanta spared no expense and used a … smell machine (not sure of the exact name) to evoke a true sense of escape. But let’s be honest — we’re here for the clothes and accessories, and the pieces shown were truly spectacular.
AmericasMart Atlanta is a jaw-dropping facility, brimming with fashion, products, brands and anything and everything connected to the retail industry. If you do ever get the chance to enter this behemoth’s doors, make sure to give yourself plenty of time, wear comfortable walking shoes and enjoy the fact that the regular markets, events and shows create huge economic impact for Atlanta.
AmericasMart Atlanta and its markets, like Atlanta Apparel, are closed to the public, so we wanted to offer a little taste of what happens beyond those innocuous walls, for those readers who aren’t professionally connected to the industry. I did my best to explore every corner, talk to lots of vendors, attend many of the runway shows and events, and guesstimate how much money I will need to buy the many ensembles I mentally tried on.
Unfortunately, I didn’t lick the wallpaper or take a dip in the chocolate river — maybe next year?!
Since a picture says a thousand words, check out a clip of the Escape runway show at this year’s Atlanta Apparel Market.