LOS ANGELES — Best-selling categories at the juniors-focused Majors Market here included casual jersey dresses, zip-up hoodies and dressy tops. But it was wide-leg jeans — in trouser and five-pocket models — that many vendors and buyers predicted would be most in demand this fall.
The event from April 10 to 13 at the California Market Center drew retail buyers from major department stores and junior chains such as Macy';s West, Nordstrom, Goody';s, Von Maur and Wet Seal who shopped for immediate deliveries and back-to-school fashion.
Tifani Wilt, women';s fashion director for Macy';s West, said the company';s buying team zeroed in on wide-leg silhouettes for fall — often with a high waist — in dark navy and gray washes.
"I call it the Mackenzie Phillips jean," Wilt said, referring to the actress who helped popularize the style in the Seventies. "Seven For All Mankind continues to do some really great versions….Citizens of Humanity did a cute black velvet version. Joe';s did one that';s an indigo denim but has sparkle in the denim fabric, which I thought was really interesting and new."
Wide-leg styles for all three brands retail for about $180 a pair.
Los Angeles denim brand Paris Blues showed styles in dark washes with 22- to 24-inch leg openings. "Trousers with wide legs have been a key trend for us," said sales representative Sharon Nocero.
"A wider leg is definitely exciting right now," said Jamie Gluck, vice president of brand marketing for Hot Kiss, based in Los Angeles. Still, Gluck acknowledged that the company was pushing nondenim merchandise, such as plaid Bermuda shorts, more than its denim pieces because of a glut in the denim market that began around the advent of the skinny-leg jean last year.
"The denim market is so saturated right now," Gluck said. "[Retailers] are coming to us, saying, ‘What';s next?';….We';re not backing away from denim at all, but we';re offering alternatives."
Top sellers for the brand include evening tops with metal chain details that retail for $34, and short day and evening dresses in metallic fabrications, retailing for $39 to $69.Not all retailers said they were ready to heavily invest in the wide-leg silhouette, perhaps having been saddled with unsold skinny styles from the past two seasons.
"Last year was a tough season for fall in junior denim,';'; said Elizabeth Patterson, a junior denim buyer for Goody';s in Knoxville, Tenn. "A lot of people jumped on the skinny [style] early and it didn';t happen. Lucky for us, we didn';t go overboard with it."
As for emerging back-to-school denim trends at market, Patterson cited colored denim, wide-leg trousers, high-waisted jeans and skinny and straight legs.
"Still, your boot-cut [and] flare will be your key pieces for b-t-s," she said, adding that she planned to order the colored denim as well as a variety of jeans with skinny, straight and wide legs. "We haven';t made a decision on the high-waisted [look] yet. Of all the trends, that might be the most challenging for us."
Vendors said dresses remained a top-selling category for fall and back-to-school, and the maxi-length dress was returning as an alternative to the shorter styles of the past few seasons.
"Long dresses are starting to take off," said Pamala O';Brien, creative director of dresses for Los Angeles young contemporary brand Speechless, which showed versions with halter- and bell-sleeve tops that wholesale from $15 to $27.
"The dress cycle is still very strong," said Wilt of Macy';s West. "One of the most exciting trends coming in pretty strong is shine — paillettes, Lurex details, glazed washes….We';ve been in such a minimal [cycle] for a couple of seasons that now shine looks so fresh and new." Wilt said the retailer planned to order dresses with metallic elements from French Connection, among others.
No one embraced the bling quite like Paris Hilton, who modeled metallic looks from her new namesake brand, produced by Los Angeles manufacturer Dollhouse, at a runway show staged by buying office Directives West at the market center on April 10.
"I want to thank Dollhouse for helping me create a line that totally represents me," said Hilton, clad in a gold dress with a handkerchief hem. She also modeled a tunic top covered in gold paillettes, paired with sparkling gold rubberized jeans. Other standout pieces were evening tops and sequined minidresses.Los Angeles brand YMI Jeans staged a runway presentation later that night at nightclub Boulevard3 in Hollywood, featuring jeans in a variety of bodies — from skinny to flare to wide leg — in clean, dark washes.
Back at the showrooms, apparel manufacturers said an increasing number of retail buyers had a "buy now and wear now" mentality.
Gloria Brandes, chief executive officer of BB Dakota of Irvine, Calif., said that as recently as two years ago, buyers placed orders in March for the entire fall season through September. Though buyers booked orders for July and August deliveries from BB Dakota, they were waiting to make last-minute purchases for a trendy item and even then, she added, "They don';t know what that hot item is."
The sweater dress was a surprising bestseller for BB Dakota, including a sheer wool-blend minidress with three-quarter sleeves and a black and yellow polkadot pattern that wholesales for $24. BB Dakota offered as many as five sweater dresses for fall, up from two in the previous year, and plans to increase the number to seven for holiday deliveries.
Kara Yourd, a buyer for dressy tops for Foothill Ranch, Calif., junior chain Wet Seal, said she was looking for tops that were anything but basic that could be delivered within seven weeks. "We';re so ‘wear now,';" Yourd said, noting that among the trends she identified at market were shiny materials such as beading and chunky jewels, fun prints and vibrant colors like teal and pink.
In moderate sportswear, which is a secondary focus at majors market, banded tops were important items for companies, including j.t.b., Cocomo and Moa Moa. J.t.b. and Cocomo spiced up the look with O-ring belts, and Moa Moa mixed in geometric prints in paisley and retro varieties.
"[Buyers] are looking for something feminine, sexy and cute," said Sue Kim, designer for Moa Moa, which sells to Belk and Dillard';s, among other stores. She added that the bulk of Moa Moa shoppers were in their 30s to 40s and were looking for an array of top silhouettes, including mock turtlenecks and tunic-length baby-doll styles.Despite the unseasonably cold weather in the Midwest and East, Keith Schlanger, a sales rep at Moa Moa, said sleeveless tops still sold well.
"If you have the right item on the floor, it doesn';t matter what the weather is," he said. "Last week being Easter, we had some strong sell-throughs. December and January were a little slower."
J.t.b. and Cocomo sales slowed in the regions hardest hit by temperature drops, but sales manager Mitchell Rudnick said brisk sales in regions without weather problems, particularly the West Coast and the South, made up for the losses.
Overall, Rudnick said the two misses'; brands'; businesses were up 35 percent compared with last year. He attributed the increase to the ability of Cocomo and j.t.b. to infuse stores with newness, explaining that the brands "turn new product on a 30- to 60-day cycle. Our success in the misses'; side is to put the fashion out as quickly as the junior companies." — Emili Vesilind, Khanh T.L. Tran and Rachel Brown
LOS ANGELES MARKET TRENDS
-- Wide-leg jeans in dark, clean washes.
-- Zip-up hoodies with appliquéd graphics and allover prints.
-- Men';s wear-inspired pin-striped shorts and jackets.
-- Dresses in metallic fabrications such as Lurex.
-- Printed maxi-length dresses for daytime.
-- Skinny jeans in vivid primary colors.
-- Plaid Bermuda shorts in crisp cotton.
-- Textured textiles such as slubs and waffle knits.
-- Novel sleeve treatments in the shape of bells and lanterns.
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