LOS ANGELES — For apparel companies here, the summer season has grown in importance, and retail buyers were all business as they wrote orders for staples such as shorts and light cotton Ts, and experimented with new lines and younger, fresher looks at the contemporary market that ended Tuesday.
Not even a power failure that blacked out half the showrooms on Sunday morning on the eleventh floor of the New Mart, which houses contemporary and emerging labels, slowed specialty store buyers who came from as far as Sydney.
Inside booths at Designers & Agents and Brighte and the showrooms in California Market Center, New Mart, Cooper Design Space and the Gerry Building that form the heart of Los Angeles' garment district, buyers shifted their focus from ornate embellishment to the subtle detail and soft hand of quality fabrics.
"I didn't buy anything with ornamentation," said Jeannine Braden, owner of Fred Segal Flair in Santa Monica, Calif., adding that white dominated her color palette and cotton jersey and voile were her fabrics of choice. "I paid attention to interesting textures and layers."
Even though some designer labels in New York have begun to unveil pre-fall collections, sales representatives said retailers placed immediate orders for spring items to replenish stock after a strong holiday, as well as for summer collections.
"People have found more dollars to use," said Marc Gruber, an account representative at 10 Eleven Showroom, which carries lines such as Joie, Jet and Catherine Malandrino. In addition to orders from shops that plan to open soon, 10 Eleven accepted orders from established retailers testing a new vendor. "It's a good time for stores to experiment with a new line to see how it does before they drop dollars before a major market [such as spring or fall]," he said.
Barbara Kramer, co-producer of Designers & Agents, said buyers are also spreading their purchases throughout the year. "I don't think the dollars are as concentrated on fall and spring," Kramer said. "All these in-between markets are becoming more important."
What's more, the summer market is generally strong for Los Angeles companies, which lead the pack when it comes to denim, T-shirts and other clothing that exemplifies the casual lifestyle."I want fashion trends from California," said Angela Kantanto, a buyer who grew up in Yorba Linda, Calif., in the northern tip of Orange County, and flew to Los Angeles from Seattle to shop for a new men's and women's clothing shop called The Industry opening Feb. 1. Among the buys for her women's department were cotton polos and deep V-neck cashmere sweaters from Lacoste, tops featuring skulls and lace backs from Salvage, boot-leg jeans in dark and light washes from Tag Jeans and skinny, dark denim from Saltworks Jeans.
Denim was updated for summer with dark indigo, lightweight denim and styles that tweaked the popular silhouette of the basic five-pocket blue jean. Lengths varied from Bermuda shorts to capris, and colors such as white and cream were top sellers.
Polo Jeans Co. Ralph Lauren strove for a clean and classic look by offering a long white denim skirt with a tail and eliminating the embellishment.
Jeans firm Hudson said that in contrast to past seasons, when the company sold only boot-leg jeans, it received three orders for skinny styles for every seven orders for boot-leg cuts. The company also offered five lengths, ranging from 17-inch cuffed Bermuda shorts to 28-inch capris to 31-inch skinny jeans, said vice president Rick Spielberg. He added that viscose cotton was a top seller. "The lighter the weight, the better it is," he said.
Retail buyers, including Adrienne Gray, were scouting for cotton tops to wear with jeans. Gray, who co-owns Sumthin Savvy in Corona, Calif., said denim makes up 70 percent of the stock in the women's boutique. "We're going for the girlie T-shirt," Gray said.
Christina Lehr, who designs tanks, Ts and dresses made of Belgian cotton, said buyers were attracted to tops with longer bodies and neutral hues such as white, ivory, gray, black and brown.
Aurora Gloryalice, a T-shirt line started last year in Los Angeles by retailer Mark Fox, found an audience with hand-drawn graphics depicting hares dressed in blue coats and gold-buckled shoes and other fairy-tale characters. Fox highlighted the compatibility between his Ts and jeans by adopting a stitching technique that denim companies use and sewing multicolored side seams on tops.Moi, another T-shirt line founded in Los Angeles last year, veered from prints and specialized in tops that had feminine fits because of the use of Egyptian cotton and Italian silk, but aimed for an avant-garde aesthetic with brass eye and hook closures and raw edges.
The trade show was also an opportunity for new lines to be shown. Rory Beca, a 23-year-old designer in Los Angeles, presented her first full collection of linen shorts with side bow ties, silk tunics trimmed in a pink-striped grosgrain ribbon and other feminine pieces that befitted a stroll on the beach.
"My passion is the fabrics," said Beca, who uses beading and lace selectively to trim the jersey, linen, cashmere and silk for her line.
Jacqueline Lee Rose, Beca's sales rep at Jalaria, said she projects the label to generate $1 million in wholesale volume in the first year from boutiques such as Brunette in Los Angeles and Karisma in Corona del Mar, Calif.
Autumn Dumont, a sales representative at Sea Showroom, agreed that apparel makers placed more emphasis on fabrics, particularly imported cloths that allowed their garments to stand out in the marketplace. "They're focusing on the hand, subtle detail and the quality of the fabrics instead of the disposable embellishment," she said.
Big sellers at Sea Showroom included nautical stripes and stonewash piqué from T Luxury Apparel, dark denim from Citizens of Humanity and tailored linen shorts from Sunner.
Sunner's miniskirts with rope belts were a draw for John Eshaya, vice president of women's wear at Ron Herman, who said he opted for a younger, beachier feel at his influential boutique.
In a shift toward the quality of fabrics, vendors toned down embellishment by selectively placing adornments on the clothing and using matching colors for the thread embroidery and garments. Chick by Nicky Hilton had the word "chick" embroidered under the back collar of an ice-blue silk polo that had a bow-tie neck and cuffed sleeves. "The label is a little more subtle, a little more sophisticated," said Ricky Self, vice president of sales for the junior brand.
In the women's category, embellishment was a tad more heavy-handed than in the contemporary sector. "But it's sophisticated," said Sunny Meyerson, a partner in Studio III Showroom. Best-selling items at the show included Hugging Kisses' white hoodie festooned with black flowers that had tulle buds.At Charlotte Tarantola's showroom, manager Dana Pederson said the embellishment was more subdued. For instance, on a pointelle cardigan printed in muted flowers and dyed in a color that evoked a tea stain, the company used shells instead of the label's signature rhinestones for the buttons. "Glitz is not where it's at," Pederson said.
The California Market Center tried to show that it had the action. The building cosponsored a party at the Nu on 5 Showroom on the contemporary-centric fifth floor. Celebrating the opening of the 7,000-square-foot showroom, owner Alex Jamaleddine welcomed some 400 partygoers, including singers Ziggy and Rohan Marley and Jacoby Shaddix of the band Papa Roach.
New Lengths: From capris to cutoffs, denim is at every length, neatly finished with a cuff and deep indigo wash.
Jean Sequence: Classic denim shapes get a new feel in crushed velvet, fleece and combed cotton.
Soft Edge: Tissue-thin cotton T-shirts with a worn-in feel and edgy, deconstructed details.
Brass Section: Brass hardware on bags and belts, brass-colored foil graphics on T-shirts and sweatshirts.
Light as Air: Soft, relaxed silhouettes in airy fabrics of cotton voile and linen, often in pale tones of beige, lilac, blush and sage.
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