By  on November 21, 2006

Allen B. Schwartz, whose A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz business has always zigged and zagged with the trends, is on to the next big thing.

"Now it's all back to categories. The item in sportswear is driving the business," said Schwartz, whose Los Angeles-based contemporary label does in excess of $50 million in wholesale volume. Buyers are purchasing "deep in a category," and want to see what you have in jumpers, or knits, or dresses or jeans, said Schwartz during a recent visit to New York. "They'll buy all the white shirts."

A strong focus on items is a departure for A.B.S., which, in recent seasons, has emphasized collection-driven groupings. In addition, Schwartz's previous embellished denim division, Allen B. by Allen Schwartz, has gone by the wayside after six years. "It was confusing to people. Now everything goes under the A.B.S. [by Allen Schwartz] label, which represents whatever is happening," he said.

"I want to say, ‘This is what we represent, this is fashion.' I want to bring color, a leather jacket, a corduroy pant or a jumper to drive the business. You can do 95 percent of your business on four or five items. Collection is the kiss of death."

Some of Schwartz's predictions for spring:

  • "The minidress is the new jean."

  • "The T-shirt dress is huge for sportswear."

  • "The wide leg will be more important than narrow ever was."

  • "There's a big resurgence in vests."

  • "It's all about color."

  • "The biggest resurgence in the business is the woven top. The T-shirt has gone the way of the jean. It's the sexy top, and prints are huge."

For the past 26 years, Schwartz, creative director, always has reacted to where he sees the business going and has steered his company from junior to better junior to contemporary to bridge and back to contemporary. Three years ago, he took on a business partner, Armand Marciano, and they bought the business back from the Warnaco Group, which owned it for two years."The best thing I did was meet and go into business with Armand. He's the captain of the ship and is navigating the business," said Schwartz. The company has expanded the A.B.S. brand through licensed bags, accessories, jewelry and belts.

For years, A.B.S. was very department store-driven, but that's changing as well. "We're going after boutiques on a national level," said Schwartz. Currently, 50 percent of the company's business is with boutiques such as Theodore and Fred Segal, and 50 percent with department stores.

Schwartz is looking to expand his freestanding stores, which are located in Westhampton and Roslyn, N.Y., and Pasadena, Costa Mesa and Brentwood, Calif. "We're looking for prime spots to open more stores. We have to find the right people," he said.

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