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Moderate companies are seeking out international sources for authentic ethnic looks.

This story first appeared in the August 12, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Instead of re-creating the ethnic look in their own designs, several companies in the moderate sportswear market are going straight to the source.

For example, Apparel World, based in Dallas, will begin importing for spring 2003. From India, they will offer linen separates with floral embroidery. From Indonesia, they will bring in a batik-print in dresses, flowing pants and wrap skirts with scarf-tie closures. Fitted print tops from Hong Kong will round out the collection.

Apparel World Vice President Tanuja Chhabra said ethnic looks are strong because they offer customers both comfort and creativity.

“Just being more casual and more comfortable, with more of a relaxed fit, is very important right now,” she said. Importing unusual items like the batik dresses gives her company an edge, she added. “The economy is tougher, so you have to stand out and be different.”

The owners of the Gainesville, Fla.-based Sacred Threads have offered bohemian looks since they started their business 10 years ago, so they are in a prime position to benefit from the current craze for anything with an ethnic flair. To create their distinctive patchwork designs, they travel to India to collect used sari fabric. Sacred Threads takes the fabrics and recycles them into loose-fitting dresses, overalls and jackets.

Here are highlights from the lines moderate companies are showing for spring:

Apparel World, the Dallas-based updated misses’ company in business since 1987, offers related separates for women age 25-55 under the Tanuja brand. The company is known for making knit pants, tops, jackets and dresses in a slinky acetate and Lycra blend.

“For spring, the colors are very citrusy, with turquoise and a lot of lime,” said Chhabra. “We’ll do a lot of beaded trimming and fringe.” A linen and cotton dress with patchwork and beadwork wholesales for $40, while a batik-print wrap skirt wholesales for $25.

New York–based Don’s Collection, which launched four years ago in New York, offers versatile looks to its misses’ customer base. “Our line is more dressy, so they can wear it for day or evening,” said Samuel Dong, owner of the New York–based company, which has showrooms in New York, Atlanta and Dallas. The company mainly works with retail boutiques, such as Shell Seeker in the Virgin Islands and Cruz Cortez in Galveston, Tex. A ruffled georgette blouse sells for $35 wholesale, and a three-piece silk set with jacket, top and pants, sells for $65 wholesale.

Variety is the trademark of Beverly Rose, a Miami-based misses’ sportswear company that has been in business for 18 years. Beverly Rose offers 22 different groups of separates for spring 2003, including peasant tops, fitted tops and dresses in cotton, linen and cotton/linen blends. A sleeveless flowing cotton/linen blend dress sells for $55 wholesale.

Avance International, which has offered the Lavon brand of activewear and sportswear since the late Eighties, is based in Walnut, Calif. The company offers fashionable, casual looks for customers over 30. “For the moderate, even older customer, they want to have something hip too,” said designer D.J. Uytingco. “We use the same fabric; it’s just a different silhouette.” A cotton T-shirt with a number logo wholesales for $8, a nylon jog set for $25.

In business for 20 years, the New York–based moderate sportswear company Kaktus has a well-defined target market: “We bring junior looks that are adaptable to missy size ranges and larger sizes,” said executive vice president Marty Klein. A beaded rayon/linen capri set costs $16 wholesale. An embroidered cotton gauze peasant top is priced at $8.

Coordinated separates and bright colors are the trends Sacred Threads will focus on for spring 2003. “In the summer, people want light, colorful energy,” Henderson said. A loose-fit natural-fiber rayon top sells for $12 wholesale, and a patchwork dress made of recycled sari fabric sells for $20 wholesale.

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