Despite pressure from low-price chains, designers are staying focused on the needs of young women.

The junior and young contemporary markets are all about providing trendy and individual looks at prices these cash-strapped consumers can afford. As mass retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart try to woo teens with rock-bottom prices on private label and exclusive brands, many of the junior and young contemporary resources exhibiting at WWDMAGIC are standing their ground with unique, quality clothes at competitive prices.

“The key to staying ahead in this business is knowing who your target market is and giving them what they want, but with your personal style and flare. Young people easily adapt to trends, but it’s a matter of keeping up with their constant change,” said Tiffany Carter, owner and designer of Beverly Hills-based young contemporary resource April & Mae. “You have to change before they do by introducing one or two great trends in your line per season and mixing it with classic styles and basics that will keep your sales flowing.”

CHEAP BUT CHIC

Carter saw a keyhole in the market for lingerie-like apparel that could also be worn out of the house. “Loungerie is what I like to call it,” she said of the mini terry robes and satiny cami sets that wholesale from $42 to $80.

Although thousands of similar items are sold at mass retailers, Carter feels that juniors would rather wear her original butterfly logo. “They are still into labels and will pay for it,” she said of her line, which sells in Los Angeles area boutiques such as Blue Violet. “Wal-Mart and Target are great for add-on items and layering pieces, but I don’t think that their strong presence is going to hurt small boutiques. Boutiques will always be ahead of what’s happening in fashion and that’s where the young market wants to be,” she said.

New York’s Rubber Doll prides itself on providing juniors with innovative tops that, with wholesale prices of $9 to $16, are well below boutique prices. “Our customers are looking for a product with no duplication and we provide that,” said co-owner Steven Oshatz.

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