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In The Spotlight

The DIVA awards are back, and they’re proof that good things do come in smaller packages. DIVA, which stands for Designer Impact Vision Atlanta, is also downscaling its awards, held Oct 18. this year — only designers are being honored,...

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The DIVA awards are back, and they’re proof that good things do come in smaller packages. DIVA, which stands for Designer Impact Vision Atlanta, is also downscaling its awards, held Oct 18. this year — only designers are being honored, rather than the retailers, celebrities and journalists who’ve also been included in past years.

Chosen by over 50,000 retailers who were asked to cast votes by mail and during recent markets, the 13 designers are in women’s, children’s and men’s wear categories, plus a hot item of the year — denim.

The event itself has been scaled back, too. Called “The Galaxy Gala: Out of this World’s Fashions,” it will be held for the first time in AmericasMart’s grand atrium, after six years in downtown Atlanta’s hotel ballrooms.

The gala will be black-tie optional, with heavy hors d’ouevres — a switch from the previously lavish formal affairs, that included a sit-down dinner and live entertainment.

“We want to bring excitement back to the mart,” said Peg Canter, vice president, general manager, AmericasMart. “For this event, buyers won’t have to leave the building after shopping all day.

SPECIAL OCCASION: A.B.S. By Allen Schwartz

This year, 20-year-old A.B.S. used the tried-and-true method of simplification to sell sexy and ultrasleek cocktail and evening dresses, said senior account executive Gary Rosenblum.

“We take trends that are most popular and break them down for our customer,” Rosenblum said.?”We simplify the design scheme and transfer it into something understandable and enjoyable.”

Taking the “less is more” approach, the collection uses clean shapes, relying heavily on mini floral prints, frilly scalloped and asymmetrical hemlines and soft colors. Though it follows no specific seasonal pattern, A.B.S. adds roughly 150 new pieces to existing transitional silhouettes throughout the year.?Fabrics include matte jersey and taffeta with stretch fiber blends and chiffon. Colors range from rose to muted cantaloupe.

Sized 2-14, wholesale prices average between $98 for a simple knee-length matte jersey cocktail dress to $190 for a lace-embellished formal gown. Rosenblum said annual sales for 2002 are estimated at nearly $25 million. A.B.S. has over 2,000 specialty and department store accounts including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s.

This story first appeared in the September 25, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For future seasons, Rosenblum said A.B.S. plans on “toning the line down” for a more casual, less embellished collection. Following the lead of many other special occasion lines, A.B.S. will inject their evening line with more muted colors, including several neutral groupings. For prom, however, the line will continue its use of traditional brights and spice tones.

BETTER SEPARATES: JOSEPH A.

An eight-year-old knit-driven top resource based in New York, Joseph A. relies on attention to fit and trendy styling to power its business, said owner and president Elan Eliau. “Our chief goals are to put a spin on whatever the current trend happens to be, while making sure it fits the customer as comfortably as possible,” he said.

Eliau said color heavily influences the design of Joseph A.’s quarterly 250-piece collections. The line offers a palette of more than 50 base colors that change each season. The current holiday collection features pieces in shades of brown and beige, while spring will see the return of colorways in pink and light blue. Key fabrics in the novelty and basics groupings are silk and nylon. For spring, however, Eliau said the company will begin working more extensively with newly acquired viscose and silk-spandex blends.

The line wholesales from $20 for a silk tank/shell combination to $59 for a heavily embroidered silk-and-metallic blend knit cardigan. Best-selling items include novelty tops with prints and fringe and striped knit tops. Though he declined to give figures for the current year, Eliau said he expects 2002’s sales to exceed last year’s by 25 percent. The company has more than 3,500 U.S. accounts, including Nordstrom and Macy’s.

DESIGNER/BRIDGE: VOTRE NOM

Designed and manufactured in both Los Angeles and Paris, Votre Nom offers two separate bridge collections — a fashion-forward group of highly tailored leather jackets, suits and urban-inspired silk turtlenecks and tops, and a second, sportier, more casual activewear and denim grouping, introduced in 2000. President and chief executive David Guez described the line as “classical designs with modern interpretations.”

With two major collections yearly, the 11-year-old company uses fabrics such as ring-spun cotton, corduroy and silk and microfiber blends with wholesale prices between $45 for a knit sweater to $180 for a novelty linen jacket. The denim collection is made exclusively of cotton-spandex blends and also features skirts, jackets and coordinating stretch cotton tops in colored washes and various treatments. Wholesale prices for denim pieces average $45 to $65. Both collections offer eight to nine colors apiece, with camel, red and blue as key fall colors.

The Votre Nom line is carried in over 450 specialty boutiques in the U.S., with 2002 volume estimated at $25 million.

BETTER CLASSICS: TELLURIDE

Cotton is king at Boston, Mass.-based Telluride Clothing Company. The broad base of comfort-inspired stretch denim jeans and casual knit tops are made entirely from cotton-spandex and cotton-sateen blends.

“Cotton is such a versatile fabric and appeals to our huge client base in the South,” lead designer Andre Cornelius said. “We manufacture almost everything we do in brushed cotton, simply because it’s a casual fabric that’s easy to work with and wear.”

Cornelius occasionally works with cotton and wool blends, but prefers to stick to fabrics that allow for stretch and resiliency.

Targeting a core market aged 35- to 55-years-old, the line is sized 2-14 and wholesales from $14 to $84. Telluride also produces transitional corduroy skirts, ruffle-trim blouses and low-rise stretch pants with zippered sides. Popular this season are the company’s cotton-spandex T-shirts and striped boot-cut stretch twills. The line’s spring collection features watercolor and pastel printed tops and coordinating bottoms and lightly embroidered jeans in various washes. Cornelius said 2002 sales are expected to exceed $25 million.

PROM/PAGEANT: ALYCE DESIGNS

lyce Designs is known as an innovative, trendsetting prom and pageant gown resource, with beading as its trademark. Jean Paul Hamm, ceo, said the line “brings sophisticated styling to prom dresses, with a more modern and updated look.” Alyce Design, based in the Chicago area, will introduce 200 dresses this season, bringing the total collection for 2003 to 250 styles. Wholesale prices average at $125.

Hamm said significant trends for 2003 will be fuller skirts with beaded organza overlays and two-piece styles. The company, which projects sales of $20 million this year, also plans to expand its pageant business with higher-priced collections, starting at $500 wholesale, twice the price of the current pageant gown line. Hamm said higher-priced gowns will help propel the prom business even more.

“If we’re successful with a high-end pageant look, we’ll keep the look but cut down on the beading for a prom style,” he said. Alyce plans to also introduce bridesmaid dresses, produced in China — allowing for more detailed designs at lower costs, starting at around $70 wholesale. “It will be a bigger value,” Hamm said.

BRIDAL: ANJOLIQUE

Anjolique Bridal Collection built its business by focusing on only the gown business — no head pieces or accessories for this Waterloo, Ontario-based company. “We are focusing on this business. We don’t want to put too many things on the plate,” said Denny Horn, national sales manager. New looks for spring include simpler skirts, softer fabrics, and the use of gold-hued fabric and new beading, including Swarovski beads and multicolored beads.

“Women gravitate to something that looks different,” Horn said.

Anjolique is also focusing on a back lace-up bustier style, along with one of Anjolique’s newest programs — mix-and-match skirts and top silhouettes. Brides can choose from 18 skirts and 20 tops to create a more personalized dress for a wholesale price of $349. Typically, though, Anjolique Bridal Collection gowns wholesale from about from $160 to $250, although prices will soon increase to $170 to $300, for this season. The company just introduced a moderate-priced line of gowns, called Joli Bridal, with wholesale prices from $199 to $279. The line is the third for the company, which includes Joli Prom. Sales for Anjolique will reach about $6 million this year.

JEWELRY: BARSE & CO.

Dallas-based Barse & Company’s wide range of jewelry includes double-strand and lavaliere-style necklaces in a variety of styles and stones. Handbags feature intricate stone beadwork, high-quality sterling silver and generously applied semi-precious stones.

Wholesaling from $12 to $120, the fashion jewelry line appeals to women aged 25 to 45.?The 18-year-old company’s success is due primarily to a piece’s “ability to be mixed and matched at an affordable price point,” said marketing director Jenny Williams.

Barse & Company continues to build on its signature sterling and gemstone jewelry with its broad collection of necklaces, bracelets and rings. Jewelry makes up about 85 percent of total sales. Introducing 15 to 20 new collections a year with 12 to 50 pieces each, the line pairs staple stones, such as turquoise and onyx, with textured multi-toned leather strands to create colorful and organic looks.

Spring brings new amber and coral necklaces, mother-of-pearl earrings and a handbag collection featuring amethyst, citrine and smoky quartz crystal beading. The line’s current handbag collection focuses mainly on tooled leather with beaded turquoise.

Barse & Company has more than 4,000 better specialty and department store accounts, including Dillard’s and Parisian. Wholesale volume for 2002 is estimated at $30 million.

JUNIOR

Montreal-based Parasuco Jeans continually develops new styles, fabric combinations and looks to keep its denim designs fresh for juniors.

“We develop our products with feeling,” said Salvatore Parasuco, president, designer and founder. The key is maintaining “quality, fit and a never-ending flow of design ideas to keep [the consumers] sexy, young and aware of [their] bodies and spirit.”

Parasuco will offer more than 800 styles next year in a limited series, and 60 basic items, set up for reorder business. Wholesale prices range from $40 for basic jeans to $450 for signature jeans, which are known for their jewel adornment and metallic finishes.

The line is sold primarily in high-end specialty stores throughout the U.S., Canada, Italy and Japan. Parasuco also operates a chain of retail stores in Canada, which it plans to extend into the U.S. within the next few years.

While “we don’t make the styles hot, the consumers do,” Parasuco said, new looks for 2003 will include embellishments, embroidery, cutouts, studs and new washes and finishes. He declined to reveal the company’s sales, but noted that Parasuco Jeans produced more than 3 million garments in 2002 and is “growing fast.” Parasuco’s revenue is an estimated $100 million.

HOT ITEM OF THE YEAR: ANDRIANO GOLDSCHMIED

It’s not surprising that denim is DIVA’s hot item of the year, nor that Adriano Goldschmied propelled the category to its current position with A.G. Jeans, the line he owns and designs. Goldschmied, who started in the category owning a denim boutique in Italy in the Seventies, is a veteran of the denim industry. Vanessa Milano, southeast regional sales manager, calls him “the godfather of denim.”

A.G. Jeans include trend items such as jeans with leather, corduroy and super washes, wholesaling from $55 to $70. His jeans are sold in such trendy outlets as Fred Segal, Saks, Bloomingdale’s and Atlanta retailers Blue Genes and Mitzi & Romano.

Goldschmied said denim is not only about design, but also about experience, knowledge in washes and details. His background gives him the advantage of combining fashion with experience “that is not very common in the category,” he said.

New spring styles will include more distinctive washes and snug fits.

Goldschmied added that the reason the company has been able to build and capitalize on the denim trend is an exclusive deal with a high-end denim manufacturer in Los Angeles. Reorders can be shipped in a week, which is critical in a trendy category.

“We’re really a vertical operation,” he said. “We have complete control of our quality. In fact, I spend half my day at the factory.”

Goldschmied said sales for 2002 will be between $17 million and $18 million, “more than I expected,” he said. “When I started, I thought I’d ship $3 million to $4 million.”

ACCESSORIES: CAPELLI STRAWORLD

Bonnie Rubel is the third generation of her family to own Capelli Straworld, a company known for trendy novelty straw hats and handbags. The company dates to the Thirties, when Rubel’s grandmother started making hats out of her kitchen. Today, the company has annual sales of $10 million. The key factor in the line’s success, Rubel said, is attention to detail. For example, as a nod to the animal print trend, Capelli introduced straw purses accented with little wooden animals, coordinating vinyl lining, and matching hats. Capelli’s emphasis for 2003 will be on ethnic designs, updated prints and vegetable dye colors, such as olive green, coral and rust. Hats and shoes will feature raffia and wooden accents in these colors. Capelli Straworld products sell in major department stores such as Belk, Proffitt’s, Parisian and Dillard’s, as well as specialty stores. Wholesale prices range between $8.50 to $12.50 for purses and $5 to $10 for hats.

CONTEMPORARY: BLUE DOT

Comfort and simplicity are the hallmarks of Blue Dot, the bottom-driven contemporary line. “We’re really all about ease and repose,” said Angela Furlong, president and lead designer of the five-year-old Los Angeles-based resource. “Slight details, little embellishment and designs that are never over-the-top set us apart.” Eighty percent of the company’s total sales come from denim and casual drawstring pants. Skirts, jackets and knit tops, as well as an array of basic yet stylish ribbed T-shirts are also offered. Brushed cotton is the key fabric in Blue Dot’s signature and staple pieces, but many holiday items feature linen and rayon-jersey blends. The spring collection will introduce tops in silk-linen blends as well as velour cropped and capri pants with ticking stripes. Jeans and T-shirts wholesale between $24 to $49, while jackets average from $60 to $80.Upcoming silhouettes will also feature detailed embroidery and printed over-dyed cargo pants with color contrast stitching. Blue Dot’s annual sales volume for 2002 is projected at $4 million.

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