By  on September 14, 1994

MUNICH, Germany -- The latest edition of the ISPO trade fair here for sporting goods and sports apparel appeared quieter than in past seasons, as vendors and buyers waited for the next boom sport to emerge.

The second-half edition of the twice-yearly show traditionally focuses on swimwear and surfwear, but many exhibitors also continued to push outdoor wear -- rugged apparel for camping, hiking and climbing -- as the hot area. Some buyers complained, though, that there was little new to be seen and the continued focus on the outdoor category ignored the fact that sales of those products already are beginning to slow in Europe.

Among exhibitors pushing other themes, Adidas, Converse, Puma and Franklin offered footwear and apparel for street basketball, street soccer and street hockey; W.L. Gore and Obscure, a subsidiary of Head, launched lines of biking apparel, and Saucony and Speedo Europe introduced apparel for triathletes. Speedo also launched a line of swimwear and accessories for aqua-fitness.

Attendance at the four-day show, which ended Aug. 26, fell to about 33,000 from 35,397 the year before. An outdoor sports show held in Munich 10 days earlier might have taken some of the edge off ISPO.

Among apparel fashion trends, retro and oversized looks in natural colors continued to be key ideas, although swimwear and other categories ranged from bold prints with an ethnic feel to washed-out plaids and checks to pale shades of tan, cream, sage and white. According to some exhibitors, allover bold prints are still favored in swimwear in Europe.

Pamela Bennett Boucher, trend and color forecasting manager at Reebok International, predicted the market will shift to neon brights by spring 1996.

Many of the swimwear styles for women and men also took their cue from beach volleyball, and that was expected to grow.

The crossover of athletic apparel into general streetwear continued to move ahead.

The resurgence of the German companies Adidas and Puma, in particular, has been helped by the adoption of their classic apparel and footwear designs as clubwear in the U.S. and Europe. Both firms moved to capitalize on this at ISPO, with Adidas showing an Authentics line that included new colors in its Gazelle suede footwear and the use of its three-stripe and trefoil logo on everything from nylon vests to a cropped, quilted black leather jacket.Puma was even bolder, transforming a corner of its exhibit into an area with hip-hop ambience, including corrugated iron walls, concrete floor and graffiti. The firm has expanded its classics collection with nylon jackets, soccer jerseys, T-shirts and sweatpants, all with the Puma stripe. There also were new neon colors in the Puma Clyde footwear.

Some exhibitors pointed out that there is a trend toward a more relaxed look in activewear, reflecting a more relaxed lifestyle that has taken hold in this decade. This, they say, is why there has been a move away from the more aggressive surfing and snowboarding styles of the last few seasons.

"The look in Europe now is American streetwear because the surf boom is gone," said Andrea Stapleton-Hain, sales manager at the German company Time Zone, which has a license in the U.S. with Free Motion Inc. "People are moving away from allover prints and toward plain, classic designs with good style."

Time Zone showed women's, men's and children's wear in solid colors and all-natural fabrics. The collection included baggy jeans with deep pockets; a reverse cord zipped jacket; bleached and sandwashed ribbed shirts, and short ribbed catsuits.

An American line showing similar styles was N.E. Wear from San Francisco, which was exhibiting at ISPO for the first time as part of a mission funded by the state of California. The three-year-old company, which until now has done only men's wear and has sales of about $3 million, showed part of its new 30-piece women's apparel collection for spring-summer. It included skirts, dresses, shirts, jackets and tops in washed, sherpa and brushed finishes in cotton and cotton and linen blends. The collection wholesales from $20 to $49. Chuck Doyle, president, predicted the women's line should do $2 million in its first year.

Treading a middle road between the natural hues and bold prints was Killer Loop, part of the Benetton Sportsystem group. The line, which takes inspiration from volleyball, included chambray-style, windowpane-checked and striped swimwear for women. Enrico Ceccato, marketing and sales vice president, said Killer Loop plans to launch a larger women's apparel collection for spring 1996.

The firm does about $40 million worldwide, including sunglasses licensed to Ray-Ban. The goal is to increase this to about $100 million over the next five years.-- Fairchild News Service

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