Off the Cuff with Liberty Fairs Founder Sam Ben-Avraham

Sam Ben-Avraham is a curator of cool. For decades, he has handpicked the items New Yorkers line up for at his New York City-based stores Atrium and Kith. His eye for newness translated effortlessly to the fashion trade show circuit, which he stepped into in 2003 with the launch of Project—the contemporary menswear show that he eventually sold to his biggest competitor, ENK International, in 2012.

With more to bring to the table, Ben-Avraham introduced Liberty Fairs in July 2013 in New York and Las Vegas with the desire to shed stale trade show traditions and create an inspiring space that spoke to the fast-changing retail climate. Liberty Fairs have grown to be a blend of “commerce and creativity” showcasing the finest the industry has to offer from the sought-after brands and worthy newcomers.

“When a buyer comes into our shows, we tell them the story,” Ben-Avraham said, noting that the majority of retailers have too many other responsibilities to stay educated and up to date on trends. Liberty aims to help compose that narrative for them. “That’s our specialty and that’s coming from the fact that we have been on the retail floor for 26 years already.”

He continued, “Our shows are buyer friendly, and that’s what I’m most proud of. Our merchandise is unique and current. We have anchors from each category that people can identify and we build everything else around those. As a user, I know what I would like to see.”

Ben-Avraham has brought new meaning to “friendly competition.” Last year, Liberty Fairs traveled to Florence, Italy to team up with Pitti Uomo to showcase Made in USA labels, including MSL by Billy Reid, Red Wing and The Hill-Side—a project that’s continuing into 2016.

“I’m very comfortable with my product and services. I don’t think I need to isolate myself in order to have people come in and be part of what we do,” Ben-Avraham said about partnerships. “The more collaboration and the more things we do together as group will make buyers’ lives easier.”

One of the first traditions Ben-Avraham broke was the alliance he forged with neighboring shows Capsule, Agenda and MRket—a strategic partnership that allows the shows to cross-promote, draw more buyers and streamline travel. “That’s the biggest problem for buyers—transportation. People have to move from one place to another other,” he said. “It’s always hard to find a cab at 5 P.M. There’s no efficiency. It’s our job to make this better.”

The upcoming edition of Liberty (Jan. 26-28) will be held at Pier 92, adjacent to Capsule Men’s. It will also coincide with New York Fashion Week: Men’s, making the Big Apple a one-stop shop for up-and-coming menswear and accessories.

Ben-Avraham added, “That is the bottom line. If [buyers] are here for one week they need to have a full experience and that’s our job as a trade show producers to make that happen, and the only way is to is to speak with one another and try to make things happen together.”