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Bubblegum Loses Flavor

If a teenager’s taste in music moves to an edgier sound, will a consequent wardrobe shift be far behind?<br><br><br><br>NEW YORK — With more teen girls looking to singers such as Gwen Stefani, Pink, Avril Lavigne and Kelly Osbourne as...

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If a teenager’s taste in music moves to an edgier sound, will a consequent wardrobe shift be far behind?

NEW YORK — With more teen girls looking to singers such as Gwen Stefani, Pink, Avril Lavigne and Kelly Osbourne as their fashion commanders, it’s pushed alternative fashion into the limelight of the junior market.

The trend can even be found in Britney Spears’ career hiatus: teens are tired of bubblegum and bellybuttons.

While the relationship between musicians and fashion is a long-standing one, apparel executives said they see a big shift going on, but that it’s too early to tell why and where it’s going. Some said the change could be a post-Sept. 11 reaction, in which teens stepped away from the glossy femininity surrounding artists like Jessica Simpson, Spears and Christina Aguilera.

For David Alpern, sales manager at New York-based streetwear firm Illig, as the market moves away from being less teenybopper, clothes will move that way, too. He said music has a tremendous influence on the company, but there is also an overall cultural feeling that plays a key role.

“If you look at the world today, there’s war, economy and terrorism,” Alpern said. “Bubblegum music doesn’t apply.”

Some retailers, such as the 409-unit Hot Topic, merchandise their stores for the edgier teen that pays attention to trends in counterculture and the music sphere. The chain offers a wide range of T-shirts featuring band logos, similar to those available at rock concerts. Fashion trends stemming from the music industry is a significant part of the business at Hot Topic, and there is an increase in sales on band T-shirts when groups come out with new albums, according to marketing manager Aubre Gutierrez.

“And with somebody new like Avril Lavigne, we’ve sold a lot more ties,” said Gutierrez, in reference to Lavigne’s signature necktie-and-tank-top combination that she recently wore to the MTV Video Music Awards in New York. “For girls, pop stars have a huge influence. They see their friends dressing like this singer or that singer and there’s a lot of pressure. Avril is a little more punk rock and it’s a huge influence on the way teens dress now.”

But Gutierrez said it’s not a monkey-see-monkey-do phenomenon and that kids only adopt certain elements of a music star’s style to mix with their own. Hot Topic customers are teens that take an idea from a star and make it more extreme, Gutierrez said.

Killah, the junior counterpart to trendy Italian denim label Miss Sixty, looks to music icons of the Seventies, such as David Bowie and the current music scene to create part of its style, according to Andrew Pollard, director of sales and marketing at Sixty USA.

“American music is really one of those things that effects style,” said Pollard. “With the junior market, these kids aren’t familiar with an era like the Seventies, so we’re reinterpreting it in a fresh way, like a graphic Seventies print, but on a modern shape. Rock ’n’ roll influences pop, which influences hip hop, which influences South American music and Electronica, so you have all these influences contrasting together. You see the same thing with fashion.”

Similarly, Barbara Coulon, vice president of trends at consulting and marketing firm Youth Intelligence, said the relationship between music and celebrities and how they effect one another is nothing new. From the looks of Mick Jagger in the Seventies and Madonna in the Eighties, Coulon said kids have always taken style cues from rock stars, especially teenage girls.

“I went to a Puff Daddy and Jay Z concert and everyone was dressed in hip-hop style,” said Coulon. “Girls were wearing the tiniest little clothes, you almost thought they were going to have to change before going home. And I was recently at an Avril Lavigne concert and literally everyone was dressed like her.”

With rock stars like Lavigne, Pink, Vanessa Carlton and Michelle Branch, whose music tends to be less-pop-more-rock, Coulon said the sound is more in tune with what’s going on today, with concerns like terrorism and a weakened economy.

“It’s not all about money, pop and happy music anymore,” Coulon said. “It’s similar to the grunge era, when all of a sudden the economy crashed and it’s all about thrift shopping, long, unwashed hair and grittier music. I definitely think stores react to what’s going on in music.”

Steve Strickland, senior vice president of Wet Seal Inc., said the chain has evolved from focusing on a Britney Spears look to rising R&B star Ashanti, who Strickland said is really working fashion.

“But Avril is not our deal,” Strickland said. “She likes tank tops and shops at Wal-Mart and we’re definitely not into that.”

But that’s not to say Wet Seal doesn’t follow trends that may be attributed to certain teen idols. The store currently carries neckties, but Strickland said his customer will probably use it as a belt à la Ashanti, rather than on a bare neck like Lavigne.

Strickland acknowledged the music and fashion relationship is constantly evolving.

“It’s just a new crop of girls,” Strickland said. “You can compare them in fashion impact, record sales, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s anything different than what we’ve had. They’re all being created.”

As far as business, Strickland said he thinks the number of girls that want to look “alternative” is a smaller market compared with a more mainstream idea of fashion, and that he will continue to chase a customer that likes the idea of being the first to get in and out of the latest fashion trend. While he said he appreciates an alternative look, he said he doesn’t think retailers should try to mimic it.

“I bet Avril Lavigne hates the mall,” Strickland said.

Stylist Albert Mendonça said the current antiestablishment styles popping up on young musicians is really just a revisit to styles from the early Eighties when bands like The Cure and Siouxsie & The Banshees were in vogue. Since retailers and brands are so quick to jump on trends, many of which are introduced by musicians, Mendonça said the style is somewhat downgraded.

“The funkiness is gone and it’s made it less eclectic,” Mendonça said. “Kids don’t have to think anymore. If you go to Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s, it’s already cut, dyed and tattered. All they have to do is ask for a credit card and bam: instant punk.”

Steve Strickland, senior vice president of Wet Seal Inc., said the chain has evolved from focusing on a Britney Spears look to rising R&B star Ashanti, who Strickland said is really working fashion.

“But Avril is not our deal,” Strickland said. “She likes tank tops and shops at Wal-Mart and we’re definitely not into that.”

But that’s not to say Wet Seal doesn’t follow trends that may be attributed to certain teen idols. The store currently carries neckties, but Strickland said his customer will probably use it as a belt à la Ashanti, rather than on a bare neck like Lavigne.

Strickland acknowledged the music and fashion relationship is constantly evolving.

“It’s just a new crop of girls,” Strickland said. “You can compare them in fashion impact, record sales, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s anything different than what we’ve had. They’re all being created.”

As far as business, Strickland said he thinks the number of girls that want to look “alternative” is a smaller market compared with a more mainstream idea of fashion, and that he will continue to chase a customer that likes the idea of being the first to get in and out of the latest fashion trend. While he said he appreciates an alternative look, he said he doesn’t think retailers should try to mimic it.

“I bet Avril Lavigne hates the mall,” Strickland said.

Stylist Albert Mendonça said the current antiestablishment styles popping up on young musicians is really just a revisit to styles from the early Eighties when bands like The Cure and Siouxsie & The Banshees were in vogue. Since retailers and brands are so quick to jump on trends, many of which are introduced by musicians, Mendonça said the style is somewhat downgraded.

“The funkiness is gone and it’s made it less eclectic,” Mendonça said. “Kids don’t have to think anymore. If you go to Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s, it’s already cut, dyed and tattered. All they have to do is ask for a credit card and bam: instant punk.”

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