The 15 back-to-school fashion items trendsetting teens can’t live without, ranked by price, in descending order
This story first appeared in the August 14, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
For trendsetting teens, the general feel for fall fashion is prepster-meets-surfer-girl with a military twist. Many of the items on the list feature cargo pockets or camouflage-print fabric, or, better yet, a combination of both. If they’re not marching to the beat of a fashion drum, teens are catching the next wave of surf-inspired clothing. Hawaiian-prints are back on T-shirts and skirts, albeit in hipper colors. Teens have a way of appropriating traditional styles. Case in point: Paul Frank polo shirts with cheeky cartoon characters and Heatherette plaid too-short-for-parochial-school microminis. They also see nothing incongruous about accessorizing their outfits with utilitarian canvas tote bags — best if emblazoned with the logo of a nonprofit wildlife organization — and glitter earpieces for their cell phones.
1. CARGO PENCIL SKIRT, Anthropologie
The cargo trend has legs. Pants plastered with pockets were one of the most successful spring-summer trends. Now skirts are having their turn. One of the most popular styles is Philadelphia-based Anthropologie’s pencil skirt with a vintage silhouette and twill tape ribbon for a belt.
2. ARMY STYLE FITTED JACKET, Da-Nang
Military-inspired apparel has been reinvented for the fashion corps. Da-Nang’s cargo pants, designed for maximum impact with chunky metal zippers, have been bestsellers at specialty stores such as Planet Funk. Bloomingdale’s says the emerging brand is showing promise in its California stores.
3. DRESS, Lacoste
Lacoste is making a comeback. Superior quality and tightly controlled distribution has given the label an aura of exclusivity. What teens care about most is the brand’s younger and sexier styling. The Paris-based company had about $900 million in total sales last year.
4. SUEDE TALL BOOTS, Seychelles
Seychelles, a staple of teen magazine fashion layouts, is focused on girls with an independent edge. The Gardena, Calif.-based firm designs trendy footwear such as kitten-heeled thongs, canvas wedgies and embellished boots.
5. CAMOUFLAGE RUFFLED MICRO-MINISKIRTS, Heatherette
Former club kids Richie Rich and Traver Rains work pop culture references such as Hello Kitty logos and “Flashdance”-style sheared sweatshirts into their clothes. The pair’s muses have included Liza Minnelli and Amanda Lepore, a transvestite and nightlife fixture with a ridiculously large chest.
6. TYPE 1 JEANS, Levi’s
In an effort to reinvigorate dismal sales and end a six-year slump, Levi’s introduced Type 1 jeans in the spring. The bolder design features oversized rivets and buttons, a two-horse back patch and back-pocket red tab, and accentuated stitching.
7. MID-CALF SLOUCHY BOOTS, Otto Tootsi Plohound at Urban Outfitters
Otto Tootsi Plohound offers the latest funky styles for men and women, although some of the footwear borders on the absurd. Younger customers complain that the prices are out of this world.
8. AIR FORCE ONE, Nike
$75 to $80
Jay-Z wears Air Force Ones in his videos and professes to love Nike. The shoes are a must-have for African-American boys and Hispanic girls. The real litmus test is that retailers can sell hundreds of pairs in a matter of hours.
9. LEATHER HIGH TOPS, Converse
Nike Inc., which prides itself on innovation and technology, announced in July that it will pay more than $300 million to buy Converse Inc., a 95-year-old maker of the low-tech Chuck Taylor sneakers. Converse sought bankruptcy-court protection in 2001.
10. POINTY PERFORATED LEATHER SHOES WITH KITTEN HEELS, Steve Madden
Steve Madden cultivates teens with Lobo sneaker-style booties and Gosip 3 1/2-inch platform boots. Madden’s Rock N’ Sole Tour and Band Search, now in its fourth year, speaks their musical language. The company signed a licensing agreement with Candie’s.
11. EXTRA LONG-SLEEVE T-SHIRT, C&C California
Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Aniston have sung the praises of C&C California’s sheer, soft T-shirts, but John Eshaya, vice president of women’s for Ron Herman Melrose, has been their most enthusiastic booster. He dubbed founders Claire Stansfield and Cheyann Benedict the new Juicy Couture girls.
12. HAWAIIAN PRINT SKIRT, OP/Itsus
OP was first to create a fashion niche around the surfing lifestyle in the Sixties. After suffering a series of setbacks in the Eighties, OP got its mojo back in the mid-Nineties and is now on solid ground. Sales for 2003 were 40 percent higher than in 2002, according to the company.
13. POLO SHIRT, Paul Frank at Urban Outfitters
Paul Frank is inspired by his Seventies suburban middle-class childhood. Clothes and accessories, in rec-room colors, are drawn from memories of brick, Formica and fake wood, and have a certain wit and charm. Julius, a cheeky simian mascot, appears on everything from tops to towels. The Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company had sales of $10 million in 2002.
14. RETRO GRAPHIC T-SHIRT, David & Goliath
In Los Angeles, where T-shirts qualify as a fashion statement, (providing the fit is tight and the message witty), David & Goliath is one of the hottest brands around. Examples of its corny humor include “Hickey’s, a great place to smooch” and “Hawaiian Tiki Bar, where everyone gets leied.”
15. ONE-SLEEVE SHIRT, H&M
H&M’s biggest market is Germany, where it has 228 stores. The company’s fast, cheap fashion has put other retailers on notice, but H&M has yet to make a dent in the U.S. market, where it operates only 56 stores. For fall, H&M mined the Thirties, Seventies and Eighties and stirred them into a cross-cultural stew.
SOURCE: YOUTH INTELLIGENCE, A MARKET RESEARCH FIRM AND MARKETING CONSULTANCY, SPECIALIZES IN UNDERSTANDING THE YOUTH MARKET: GEN X, GEN Y AND TWEENS AND PUBLISHES THE CASSANDRA REPORT, A QUALITATIVE LIFESTYLE STUDY AND TRENDCENTRAL, A DAILY E-MAIL ON MICRO TRENDS