By and and  on February 21, 2012

LAS VEGAS — Wearable and approachable.

Those were the key messages at WWDMAGIC, Project, ENK Vegas, Pool and the ancillary apparel trade shows held here last week. Maybe because trends are vetted as quickly as fashion news spreads like wildfire by social media, or because the recession has led brands to be cautious about the riskiest cuts, the clothes were deemed highly marketable and received a thumbs-up — from everything from single mom-and-pop shops to larger chains trying to satisfy customers young and old across the nation.

“The trends are more on to what a woman would want to wear every day versus something that’s so far out there that most women would not want to wear it,” said Kristina Klockars, vice president of Hot Mama, a 22-unit women’s clothing chain based in Edina, Minn., that will reach some 30 units this year.

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“In seasons past, we would hear about the trends and I would take it with a grain of salt. I couldn’t see our customer actually wearing it,” said Tina Schneider, buyer for Tonka Bay, Minn.-based retailer Heartbreaker, which has a men’s store and four women’s stores but will add another two women’s stores this spring. “This year, most brands had something I could see our customer wearing, especially because most people were going after clean lines, nothing too complicated, where anyone could fit it into their wardrobe.”

The broad appeal of trends at the trade shows could be boiled down to the supremacy of color over silhouette. Vivid color, being embraced for fall and winter, appeared to dictate the trends over shape. Mustard, rust and burgundy, evoking fall foliage, emerged for later in the year, but shades of pink, purple, blue and red brightened spring and summer wares. Metallic finishes glistened in collections as well. And it appeared that designers attempted to place prints — whether they were skulls, stars, stripes, paisley, chains, leaves or plaid — on everything from skinny jeans to wool coats.

“The way people are approaching newness is through color,” said Natasha Pace, trend manager for Amazon.com Inc.-owned online footwear and apparel retailer Zappos.com, adding, “They are going to keep the same silhouette, but we are going to start seeing more color, more prints.” 

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Dhona Spacinsky, a sales representative at Carl Opik, which showed in WWDMAGIC’s Heart of Prêt section in the Las Vegas Convention Center, said buyers liked prints and texture, often combined. Items that did well for the French brand included $90 brightly printed polyester-silk miniskirts with black knit waistbands. “Sometimes people don’t like prints,” she said. “Right now, they’re buying a lot.”

Popular prints for young contemporary line BB Dakota included houndstooth, burgundy plaid and orange, black and white stripes. “The plain, solid-color wool coat is the least interesting,” said Gloria Brandes, chief executive officer of BB Dakota in Costa Mesa, Calif.

High-low hems continued to reign in popularity, perhaps as a metaphor for the stock market’s fluctuations. Los Angeles’ Lulumari added a high-low hem to a $22.75 dress fashioned from coral pleated chiffon panels and a strapless black acrylic top.

Los Angeles-based Kut From the Kloth realized that the more trends it offered, the better reception it summoned from retailers. Its offerings ranged from $58 skinny denim jeans coated with a purple metallic layer to $48 fake leather jackets covered with leopard spots.

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“[Retailers are] willing to pay for the trends,” said Nancy Kanizo, a vice president of sales at Kut From the Kloth, who, since January, noticed a stronger commitment for orders from stores. “They’re actually buying and putting down orders. They feel comfortable with their business.…Before, they would only look three months ahead and take notes.”

Aryn K., a young contemporary line from Los Angeles, benefited from a better retail mood, recording an estimated growth of 35 percent from last February’s show. It presented $55 cropped coats in a Southwestern-inspired print and other items to retailers including Piperlime.com, Macy’s, Von Maur and Japan’s In Transit.

Most retailers weren’t ready to abandon the careful buying strategies that helped them survive the recession. Price remained a concern. Retailers balanced the amount of orders they placed at the trade fairs with the inventory they kept in their stores. Potential future hiccups such as unpredictable weather and rising gas prices kept any unwarranted exuberance in check.

Still, some retailers were testing higher price points to determine if consumers were pulling out of recession-induced parsimony. Richard Markos, owner of Markos Clothing, a specialty clothing shop in La Crosse, Wis., that has been in business for 110 years, said consumers are buying again, notably with a preference for higher-priced goods. For instance, he began stocking Woolrich wool flannel shirts after his customers started demanding better fabrics such as wool. The shirts cost four times more than the ones he previously carried, but shoppers scooped them up. “If there’s quality, people are willing to pay for it,” he said.

PROJECT AND WORKROOM

Mood:
Buyers and exhibitors were upbeat as newness buoyed the show and a better layout improved traffic at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. With about 400 brands taking up roughly 25 percent of the show floor, the women’s section featured a separate entrance with its own amenities such as makeup and manicure bars. Workroom, the area highlighting up-and-coming brands, and a larger accessories floor served as a buffer between the women’s section and the space occupied by men’s labels and premium denim vendors that anchor the show. Reflecting its focus to attract top-tier stores to the show, Project organizers escorted a buyer from Bergdorf Goodman to visit J Brand’s booth. Other retailers who shopped Project included Brian Kaneda from Ron Herman and Kitson’s Fraser Ross.

Key Trends:
Project was the venue for premiering new lines and designers. Hang Ten Gold launched for fall with $75 angora cable-knit shorts and $170 color-blocked cashmere sweater dresses among 25 women’s stockkeeping units designed by former Ever creative director Jason Bleick. Striving to compete against Vince and James Perse, Hang Ten Gold targets sales of $2 million this year and plans to expand into leather and outerwear in 2013. Los Angeles’ Rich & Skinny said Terrell Wickman, formerly a designer at Paige Denim, replaced founding designer Joie Rucker. Denimocracy is revamping its entire line under the direction of Janine Shaw, who was previously with William Rast.

Colored denim was pervasive, and prints and innovative finishes heightened the novelty factor. The silhouette for jeans was long and lean. Frankie B., AG Adriano Goldschmied and Kill City printed stars on skinny jeans and leggings. Joe’s Jeans embroidered brocade on $135 skinny jeans. Ksubi bonded nylon on $199 denim jeans and then used a plasticized coating for a hologram effect. France’s Notify tried to round up last-minute orders for its spring collaboration with Manish Arora, which encompasses $178 to $310 jeans and begins shipping in 60 days. New Zealand’s Stolen Girlfriends Club used a hand painted skull print in a watercolor wash on cotton T-shirt dresses and silk maxidresses with a high-low hem. Michael Stars melded the trends for color and leather in $85.50 color-blocked crewneck sweaters with leather yoke panels.

Show Buzz: In a sign of the improving economy, Project attracted more celebrities to the show than in the past few seasons. Pharrell Williams came to support his apparel line Billionaire Boys Club, and Dylan George spokesmodel Kellan Lutz hosted a party with the premium denim brand at the Paris Las Vegas hotel’s Chateau nightclub. Sin City’s nightlife also drew Sophia Bush, Melissa Joan Hart and Mischa Barton, who attended AG Adriano Goldschmied’s party with Foster the People at Marquee in The Cosmopolitan Hotel. On the other hand, there were also some random celebrity sightings. Actors Peter Facinelli, AnnaLynne McCord and Molly Sims mingled with ceo’s at a luncheon hosted by MAGIC, while “Modern Family” star Eric Greenstreet roamed Project’s aisles, lamenting, “None of these places make clothes that fit me.”

Best in Show:
G-Star Raw softened moto pants with mustard-colored stretch sateen wholesaling for $91 a pair. MiH jeans spruced up a $550 biker jacket in silver snake-print leather and gray cotton panels that created a dramatic flair in the back. For its Las Vegas debut, Bali’s Blackheart displayed a $169 chain-print silk minidress accentuated by black leather on the necktie, waist and cuffs.

POOL

Mood:
Pool was filled with a youthful, even innocent enthusiasm with smaller brands.

Key trends: The Asian influence at Pool has not abated. Sean Danconia’s addition to the Asian-themed crowd was Mayumi Gumi, a T-shirt line priced mostly from $30 to $35 retail that the creative director of Los Angeles’ Danconia Studios explained is centered on a character that’s “like Hello Kitty on acid.” In jewelry, pieces worn on body parts not typically adorned with metal were conversation starters. Ryan Elisabeth’s namesake line featured gold, silver, gunmetal and beaded headpieces for $30 to $45 wholesale. Oakland, Calif.-based Nous Savons showed a harness design for $54 wholesale that drapes over shoulders and is made from brass and nickel.

Show Buzz: Pool tends to be source of rather bizarre wares that sometimes take off. Eco-friendly brands continued to occupy a good chunk of the real estate at Pool, but environmental missions this time were mostly coupled with messages about American manufacturing. Nearly three-year-old dress specialist Frock Los Angeles, for instance, advertised itself as being both made in the U.S., where it pledges to employ domestic fabric suppliers and factories that pay fair wages, and 100 percent eco-friendly. Nooworks’ recipe of working with textiles designed by American artists and making its clothes in California has been fruitful.

Best in Show:
Stores were taking a chance on Pavonine by Jessica Solomon, a two-year-old Los Angeles-based line. Key pieces included wide-legged viscose twill mustard trousers for $109 wholesale and a basket-weave rayon twill trench for $152. Another Los Angeles designer, Samantha Eng, made her trade show debut at Pool with a 29-piece collection of what she described as primarily easy-fitting, comfortable clothes in wearable colors like navy, gray and black, such as a rayon and spandex silk blouse wholesaling for $35 and an off-the-shoulder polyester and spandex dress for $51.

ENK VEGAS

Mood: Novelty gave a boost to retailers that shopped the show as well as to the vendors displaying their latest wares. “We’re selling a lot of novelty fabrics,” said Marc Murfitt, vice president of sales and merchandising at Ridgefield, Wash.-based Agave Denim. “Not everybody needs denim.”

Key Trends: Denim designers mined textiles for alternatives to blue denim and fabrics that mold the body. Agave Denim used stretch velvet, in rust and brown, for $90 ski pants. James Jeans unveiled a new grouping called Couture Collection that it claimed would hold the shape of jeans, thanks to a stretchy cotton-Lycra fabric. Available in three rises in skinny, straight and boot styles, Couture Collection wholesales from $80 to $84. SkinnyJeans combined the trend for color and the fanaticism of college and professional sports fans in a collection of straight-leg styles called Team Colors with a wholesale price of $75 a pair. Bella Luxx integrated the high-low hem in $52 teal Modal-silk tank dresses with side ruching. Unsatisfied with just using a leaf print, Norway’s By Timo added lace-tipped collars and ball fringe on the cuffs of $120 silk blouses.

Show Buzz: To make it easier for retailers to shop, ENK Vegas dedicated one ballroom at the Wynn hotel to only women’s brands and another located across the hall for a mix of men’s, women’s and coed denim brands.

Best in Show: Citizens of Humanity captured an autumnal ambiance with a paisley print on brown and rust-colored skinny velveteen jeans wholesaling for $99. Mink Pink, an Australian young contemporary line, gave its own interpretation of paisley-printed velveteen in $36 cuffed shorts and $68 hooded coats with fake fur trim and buckles. Hudson Jeans turned to technology for digital prints that evoked a celestial landscape as seen through a telescope. Hunt No More, a young contemporary line that is the sister brand to Mink Pink, launched for fall with drape-front sequin and velvet tuxedo jackets, dresses fashioned from black ponte and metallic snake-print fabric and other items that could provide nightlife options for young women on a budget. Wholesaling from $30 to $175, Hunt No More picked up orders from retailers including Akira in Chicago and NastyGal.com.

WOMENSWEAR IN NEVADA (WWIN)


Mood:
The show in the Rio Las Vegas Hotel & Casino housed some 2,000 missy, contemporary, plus-size, petite and accessories lines. Buyers remained price-conscious, but ready to spend for spring-summer immediates as well as for fall.

Key Trends:
“The tunic is still king,” remarked Rose of Lana Lee, where wholesale prices ranged primarily from $18 to $40. On tunics and other tops, cowl necks were everywhere. Pure Sage and Chalet, both L.A.-based brands, displayed a cowl-neck oversize sweater for $39 wholesale and a long terry cowl-neck tunic for $41, respectively. Larry Ammon, who handles Chalet’s corporate sales, said buyers were drawn to the versatility of cowl-necks that could be worn around the neck or over shoulders.

Show Buzz:
Due to warm winter weather, buyers searched for lightweight outerwear such as Madison Hill New York’s denim jacket for $39 wholesale and vests for $50 to $64. Buyers were also on the hunt for plus-size merchandise. Laura Ellis, co-owner of the shop 2 Shabby Divas in Clovis, N.M., praised WWIN brands’ plus-size efforts. “We are constantly looking for cute, trendy plus-size clothes up to 3x,” she said.

Best in Show:
Real or fake, fur was a WWIN staple. Ming Wang, the knits brand based in Grapevine, Tex., weaved fake fur made from acrylic into vests priced mostly from $85 to $95 wholesale.

CURVE NV

Mood: Lingerie buyers were focused on trends and bigger cup-size bras at the Sands Expo show.

Key Trends: Long line bras; black lace over jewel-toned satin lingerie; faux thigh-high tights in mélange knits; cup-size swimwear.

Best in Show: Chantelle’s Paris Paris group featured classic French lace woven onto stretch satin, allowing for the look plus comfort ($38 bra; $20 panty). Huit’s Rumeur black mesh and satin long line bustier ($50) and high-waisted panty ($30) exemplified one of the season’s top trends.

MODA

Mood:
Buyers came in search of colorful and comfortable knitwear and sweaters, lightweight wool jackets, raincoats and trendy furs.

Key Trends:
Furs with novelty textures such as rosettes, weaving and patchwork; the layered look exemplified by cropped sweaters over tunics over maxiskirts; exaggerated shawl collared jackets and sweaters.

Best in Show:
Bryn Walker’s boiled wool coat embellished with colorful wool flowers; Gorski’s diamond woven sheared beaver vest in red and purple ($695).

ACCESSORIESTHESHOW


Key Trends: Nature-inspired jewelry such as metal leafs and feathers from Urban Nature and Anju; adjustable wrap belts like those from Sacramento-based Ada for $25 to $60.

Show Buzz: Atlanta-based PurseN’s Ooh La La lingerie travel bags sparked a partnership with Spanx for celebrity gifting. Los Angeles-based Lavender Girl’s headbands for $6 to $65 ranged from single elastic “bindi bands” to braided deerskin and filigree pieces worn by Halle Berry, Jessica Alba and Scarlett Johansson.

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