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L.A. Tries for New Take

If the clouded holiday selling season has any silver lining, West Coast vendors hope it’s to shake buyers out of complacency and bring them to next week’s market ready for long hours and hard looks at new approaches.<br><br>"Just going to...

If the clouded holiday selling season has any silver lining, West Coast vendors hope it’s to shake buyers out of complacency and bring them to next week’s market ready for long hours and hard looks at new approaches.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Just going to your usual showrooms is not the way to get through tough times,” observed David White, president of Los Angeles-based contemporary resource Syrup. “People need to be doing their homework. They need to be coming up with new answers and new ways to handle things.”

White recently reassessed his business, deciding to pull back from denim, which he believes is saturated, and launch a dressier collection, Syrup Nouvelle, focused on career and evening options.

Trendwise, vendors predict stripes will prevail across categories for the five-day market, Jan. 17-21. Pinstripes, wider awning stripes and multicolored stripes will be shown on skirts, denim, loose drawstring and cropped pants. Perhaps the most dramatic direction is in bottoms, where the shift from low-rise denim to geared-up cargo styles is expected to gain momentum, according to several vendors.

“Denim is oversaturated,” agreed Mark Hoftman, vice president of sales for Los Angeles-based junior bottoms line ILU. “The way to go in bottoms is any nondenim, casual army look.” To that end, ILU is showing pants with utilitarian details, such as rivets, grommets, judo-sash tie waistbands, cargo pockets and belts.

In contrast, misses’ pants resource Fabrizio Gianni offers cargo-style pants with fewer pockets for a more figure-forgiving interpretation of the look, said sales representative Lynn Girard.

Sales rep Christine Simek, who sells New York-based designer Derek Green, said Green captures the current military-feminine zeitgeist with his silk chiffon camp shirts.

Based on spring bookings, sales executives expected skirts to turn in another strong performance.

There’s renewed interest in polkadots, wide-cuffed trousers and rayon prints. Some of BCBG Max Azria’s summer offerings “touch on the Thirties and Forties,” said a spokeswoman for the Vernon, Calif.-based vendor. “We have a lot of graceful tea dresses that are Forties in spirit. Similarly, our pantsuits — wide palazzo-style or cuffed and cropped trousers paired with short, tailored jackets.”

Also working within the vintage sensibility: T-shirt resource Michael Stars, which added a dainty picot neckline trim to one of its summer T-shirt groups. The company will also introduce low-rise yoga pants at market, to capitalize on that other major trend — comfort-casual sportswear. With the popularity of loungewear-inspired sportswear, several vendors cited washed-down fabrics — either garment-dyed or pigment-printed — as an important look in the trend.

Vendors are also hoping increased traffic from the California Market Center’s first joint apparel and gift-and-home accessory market — and its official “relaunch” under the CMC name instead of the previous CaliforniaMart moniker — will rev up the market. Until this month, the two industries that share the 3 million-square-foot showroom facility had held markets in separate weeks. Ultimately, the building plans to overlap markets as often as feasible to encourage cross-buying. Many small apparel boutique owners have used sales of candles and picture frames to increase volume in recent years. Apparel reps, particularly those with novelty tops collections that are relatively easy to sell, said they welcomed gift-and-home buyers.

The building’s new management team has planned a string of activities, including the debut of a new lecture series co-produced by CMC and Otis College of Art & Design. The series, dubbed, “Inside the Designer’s Studio,” will feature designer Bob Mackie as its inaugural speaker.