By and  on October 25, 2010

LOS ANGELES — Manufacturers, retailers and designers tried to decipher the tea leaves for the keys to spring sales at the trade shows here this month as they sought to deal with rising production costs and a shaky economy.

During the three-day Los Angeles Majors Market focusing on the junior and missy segments, which ended Oct. 6, buyers arrived from stores such as Forever 21, Belk, TJ Maxx, Filene’s Basement, Stein Mart, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and Maurices.

Buyers from department stores, trendy boutiques and online retailers, including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Kitson, and, came out in droves to scour trade shows and showrooms from Oct. 15 to 20 at the California Market Center, Cooper Design Space, Lady Liberty Building and New Mart for contemporary and young contemporary fashion. Coinciding with Los Angeles Fashion Week, the contemporary market also featured a runway presentation called First.LA, which was organized by Directives West to highlight emerging Los Angeles designers.

The impact of higher cotton pricing weighed on vendors and retailers. To cope with the costs, 4Whatitsworth Inc., a producer of moderate denim brands, including Tyte Jeans and Rewash Jeans in City of Commerce, Calif., bought 2 million yards worth of cotton, which it’s storing in its warehouse in China. That’s enough material to cover production through next April.

Retailers expect minor price changes at stores. Patti Simigran, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at the 757-unit Maurices chain, estimated prices would climb less than 5 percent. “Some vendors are holding price…they are going to absorb the [commodity] increases and others are passing it on,” she said.

It’s a gamble to pass on large price increases because stores and vendors are dealing with shoppers seeking value.

Cotton Express, a junior brand offering cotton maxidresses with crochet tops and military-style tunics retailing for less than $30, chose not to lift prices. “We’re just working on lower margins,” said Joy Breg, a sales representative.

Designers paid homage to the easy but sexy Seventies aesthetic made famous by high-end brand Chloé. Tara Subkoff proffered a $125 white lace romper for her contemporary line, Imitation, and Corey Lynn Calter did well with an $89 cream lace minidress with slit sleeves.

April Koza and Lauren Barnes, buyers for Cerritos, Calif.-based, noticed all things Seventies, including high-rise and flared jeans, ditsy floral print tops, clogs, wedges and platforms, picking up for spring. “The look is very Penny Lane,” said Koza, referring to the character that Kate Hudson portrayed in the movie “Almost Famous.” Added Barnes of high-waisted styles, “I hope people grasp this. It’s such a flattering shape.”

Retailers also sought silk and leather at affordable price points.

Blain, a new contemporary line designed by Janine Blain, a former executive at retail merchandising and consulting firm Directives West, made a strong debut with its loose, drapey silk and cotton blouses, dresses and pull-on pants wholesaling from $36 to $66. Nordstrom Savvy was among the retailers that ordered the line debuting for spring.

Mason by Michelle Mason mixed leather with less expensive materials in an effort to keep costs down, such as a $210 minidress which integrated a leather top with a full skirt made of Tencel and cotton poplin.

While a neutral palette was ubiquitous, retailers gravitated toward bright colors for accents. Nathan Jenden’s cropped linen tuxedo blazer in a robin’s egg blue caught buyers’ eyes. Matty M. and Ai for Ai turned to coral to offset tan and navy, respectively.

NSF’s women’s line, which launched for fall, appealed to buyers who wanted comfort with $38 oversize Henleys with fitted arms.

Los Angeles Majors Market

Mood: Retailers and apparel manufacturers reworked their game plan for spring after a lackluster back-to-school season and teenage girls’ lukewarm response to trends such as cargo pants.

Key Trends: A pale palette, white denim, floral prints, stripes, drapey fabrics, harem pants and arts-and-crafts-inspired lace and crochet.

Best in Show: Rewash Jeans, based in City of Commerce, Calif., offered white Capris retailing for $29.99 to $34.99 with removable pastel-tinted legwarmers. New York’s Vanilla Star presented a variety of $29.99 harem pants, including chambray drawstring versions. Almost Famous, from New York as well, displayed a cocoon-like shrug retailing for less than $30 with alternating stripes of lace jacquard and a solid knit. — K.T.L.T.

Designers & Agents
Mood: Downsized from the boom times, the edition was condensed into one floor of the New Mart. Vendors reported steady traffic.

Key Trends: Easy pieces with handcrafted details such as braiding and lace panels; a basic spectrum of black, white and gray with pops of coral.

Best in Show: San Francisco’s M.O.L. Knits spruced up a knit hoodie wholesaling for $155 with lace trim on the shoulders and perforation on the sides. New York-based KAS circled the neckline of a silk georgette dress wholesaling for $64 with hand-braided trim. New York’s Alice Ritter mixed panels of crinkled cotton with lace strips on romantic tops wholesaling for $150. — K.T.L.T.


Mood: About 50 vendors saw a steady flow of traffic from retailers, including American Rag Cie. Buyers sought lower-priced alternatives for trendy pieces.

Key Trends: Comfortable clothes with a funky twist in neutral colors such as gray, mauve, navy and cream.

Best in Show: New York’s Zoa offered $45 hoodies made with silk jersey on the body and silk chiffon on the sleeves. Australia’s Wish made its debut with cream crochet crop tops. Belgium’s Sarah Pacini did a loose weave of nylon and linen for a knit trench wholesaling for $165. — K.T.L.T.


Mood: Roughly 40 exhibitors seemed content with a healthy turnout of retailers from around the country and world, but were disappointed most buyers came just to look and place orders at a later date.

Key Trends: Vendors tried to offer unique, personalized and versatile merchandise.

Best in Show: Stella Page Design, an accessories brand based in Monterey, Calif., only produces around 20 pieces of each handbag, and the pieces are sold with certificates of authenticity. Jacksonville Beach, Fla.-based Reno Rose presented lightweight multifunctional scarves that were checked out by QVC Japan. Newport Coast, Calif.-based eco brand Annie and Jade by Annie Le debuted at Focus with its second apparel collection that emphasized draping; a key item was a silk jumper wholesaling for $208, colored with nontoxic dyes. — R.B.

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