Interview/38" with box/mike1st/mark2nd

By DANIEL TAUB

Staff Reporter

Joe Loggia is the producer of MAGIC, the largest apparel trade show in the world. But the 39-year-old Loggia doesn't come from the world of fashion.

Before being hired by Woodland Hills-based MAGIC International, he was an accountant at Coopers & Lybrand, where he specialized in fraud and financial investigative services. Before that, he was an officer with the Culver City Police Department, during which time he studied accounting at USC.

Under Loggia's leadership, MAGIC (which originally stood for Men's Apparel Guild in California) has become so successful that in April it was purchased by Advanstar Communications Inc. for more than $200 million.

MAGIC Marketplace has become a "must attend" for many apparel companies. Some clothing manufacturers, in fact, derive more than half of their annual sales from MAGIC Marketplace. The most recent MAGIC Marketplace, held early last month in Las Vegas, featured 3,500 apparel companies and 6,000 brand lines, and attracted more than 90,000 attendees.

Question: How does a guy who's been a police officer and an accountant approach the apparel industry?

Answer: I believe that life's a progression. In police work, you get a tremendous amount of experience dealing with people. You also get a tremendous amount of experience in solving problems and looking at the big picture. In accounting you get a tremendous amount of experience looking and scrutinizing the details and a close-up view of how decisions at the senior levels fall out of the bottom line.

You put those together and it works pretty well for business, especially in a business like ours, which is basically a trade show company whose clients are in the apparel business. It would be no different than, when you're a CPA, you had to have an idea and an understanding of the industry in which your clients operate. Now this one's a little more in depth.

Q: You've gone from being an authority figure to being in a world with a lot of egos and creative personalities. Difficult transition?

A: Yes and no. If you were good at what you did in police work, you could convince people to do what you wanted them to do comply with the law. And when you were finished, they would think it was their idea, rather than taking the approach, "We're the police and you should just do it this way," because that doesn't really work anywhere.

Q: How has MAGIC Marketplace grown to be so large?

A: Well, I think you can attribute a lot of our growth to the fact that we have some very talented people here. I have a great staff. But we took a very systematic business and added value to our product. We turned MAGIC into a service business that communicated with its customers 365 days a year. That has allowed us to refine what we produce so we are more in tune with our industry.

Q: What do you get by talking to them throughout the year?

A: We get information on where their business is going, where they see their growth, where they position themselves in the marketplace, the challenges they are encountering, and what they would like to see us do to help them reach their goals.

Q: How does MAGIC make its money?

A: Our exhibitors pay a fee for the booth space rental $25 a square foot. That's the primary (way). Retailers do not pay to attend. There is a charge for industry companies that come to market themselves, but that is more to cover costs.

Q: Why are you based in Woodland Hills, rather than in downtown L.A. or another apparel center?

A: Our customers come from all over the world. So we chose office space that was convenient for a great number of the employees, and convenient to airports, both LAX and Burbank, since we sometimes do make short trips. It wasn't necessary for us to be downtown.

Q: What changes do you see in the apparel trade show business?

A: You're seeing a lot of consolidation and it's becoming much more business-like. You have companies like the one that bought us, which is Advanstar. I see that for publishing companies and other companies, trade shows are an important part of the marketing mix. And for those publishing and marketing companies that have an interest in the direct-to-business or marketing arenas, trade shows are an important aspect of that.

Q: How has your personal wardrobe been affected by your involvement in fashion?

A: Well, it's kind of interesting because, everywhere I go especially during the shows I get picked apart every day. I mean, everyone's touching and feeling, and wants to see what I'm wearing.

Q: So are you wearing things now you didn't wear as an accountant?

A: Personally, on the weekends, I haven't changed. I'm still the same in the summer, T-shirts and shorts, and in the winter, T-shirts and jeans.

Q: And at work, are you a more adventurous dresser?

A: No, I'm very conservative. I'm pretty much of a white-shirt guy. My ties are actually sometimes more on the wild side. It's the one thing I'll have fun with.

Q: Do the companies you deal with try to get you personally to wear some of their clothes?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you do that?

A: No. I always get offered things for free because they want me to wear them. But I buy everything retail, and I pick and choose what I'd like to wear.

Q: Your first career out of high school was as a police officer?

A: Actually, I graduated high school, went to junior college for a semester, but at the same time I was working for Ralphs Grocery Co. in their warehouse, and didn't really like college. So I stayed working for Ralphs. I was a Teamster stacking, order-selecting, driving a forklift.

And then, from there, I went into police work, and while I was in police work, that's when I went back to school. Because police work is 24 hours a day, sometimes I would work graveyard or the night shift and go to school during the day. Sometimes I would work during the day and go to school at night. But I wanted to do it. I carried 16 units a semester and I worked full time. I did it in four years because I wanted to get it done.

Q: Immediately after graduating from USC you went into accounting?

A: Yeah. I went to Coopers & Lybrand and spent some time doing auditing and counseling, and we started a group there called "fraud and financial investigative services," and I was managing it under a partner. It was pretty interesting. I was spending about 20 percent of my time doing small-business work, not fraud and financial investigative services, and MAGIC found me as a consultant. MAGIC was, for years and years, a not-for-profit company and had no financial systems, no computer systems, really no business processes. So they asked me to come in to take a look at it to see if we could actually put in an accounting system and some processes so that they could get better control.

Joe Loggia

Title: President

Company: MAGIC International

Born: Long Island, N.Y., 1959

Education: B.S. in accounting, USC

Most Admired Person: His wife, Debby

Career Turning Point: "I don't really have some day of revelation. Life's a progression and I've just kind of tried to always prepare myself for what may or may not be the next step."

Hobbies: Exercise, reading, spending time with family

Personal: Married, three daughters

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