By  on October 31, 2007

LOS ANGELES — The adage that shorter hemlines foreshadow a robust economy might need tweaking.

Although buyers saw a parade of thigh-grazing frocks, economic uncertainty produced price sensitivity as they cruised showrooms from Friday to Tuesday in the California Market Center, New Mart, Cooper Design Space and Gerry Building, as well as the trade expos Designers & Agents and Brighte Companies.

Liora Levy, a buyer for Notorious in Los Angeles wasn't keen on picking up too many of the itty-bitty numbers. "I'm not buying a lot," Levy said, adding that she had reduced her budget by more than half.

Retailers from big cities, in particular, appeared to be focusing on price. "There is more competition," said Lindsay Myers, a sales representative for Los Angeles contemporary brand Amo & Bretti.

Andrew Mason, production manager for Los Angeles' The Maitlands contemporary line, said retailers bought larger quantities of select items. Versatility was key, he added, noting that a white Swiss dot minidress was popular because of its $98 price and ease in being worn by itself or with pants.

Dale Pike, senior account manager for Inge Christopher, based in San Rafael, Calif., said many buyers stopping by the handbag brand's booth at Brighte were shopping for immediate deliveries. "They are being more deliberate with their choices," she explained. "They will buy many colors of one thing they like rather than 20 different things."

Genie Parada-Fishman, whose sales agency represented Linda Loudermilk at D&A, agreed that retailers concentrated on ordering "fabulous items" instead of entire collections. And EM Productions, which represents lines including Grai and Society for Rational Dress, saw that many buyers were loyal to tested brands and cautious about picking up new ones.

Some emerging labels cut wholesale prices. Venice, Calif.-based Parballe replaced cashmere with a cashmere-silk blend for a short-sleeved hoodie cardigan in order to slash the price 60 percent to $110. Denmark's Baum Und Pferdgarten trimmed its profit margins for its U.S. business because it wanted to do well here. "It's a big market. It's important for us to have good stores," said spokesman Christian Hansen.

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