LAS VEGAS — Rainstorms might have signaled an ominous atmosphere, but retailers’ sunny outlook buoyed the pair of MAGIC trade shows during their four-day run here last week.

While retailers readily conceded sales are flat compared with the same period last year, most predicted robust early fall sales portend a brisk holiday.

“It was a scary summer, but now customers are itching to spend,” said sisters Coral and Rebekka Smith, owners of Sola, a contemporary shop in Austin, Tex. They picked up tweed, Fifties glamour and punk looks at WWDMAGIC, for immediate through spring deliveries.

Catherine Abdalla, owner of Brothers, a 27-year-old shop in Lafayette, La., said customers are buying clothes again, after months of spending on home improvements. Careful with inventory levels through summer, she had open-to-buy left over to chase miniskirts, asymmetric skirts and novelty tops — items “to spice up the store. If I had overbought, I would have missed all these looks,” she said.

Retailers were most interested in miniskirts, either pleated, sailor-style, plain or with Pop Art-style pockets. Noted Sydney Michelle, owner and buyer of Trio in Encino, Calif.: “Legs are in, the pelvis is out.”

Denim jeans might not be the silver bullet of retailing anymore, but the fabric has sprung open the door for tops companies.

Hawaiian Island Creations launched its Ribbons contemporary line of Lycra spandex shirts in tunic styles, Grecian-inspired bodies with bell sleeves and D-rings. “Everything is geared to go back to denim,” insisted marketing director Marci Lackey.

For denim to nudge retailer interest, manufacturers added some surprises: Back pockets stitched in floral shapes like those at Dollhouse; reversible jeans in faded washes at Tomigo, and crinkled jeans and angled loops at Hot Kiss.

Back-to-school was on the minds of juniors resources, who said solid sales were fueling optimism, leading to new ventures.

“We’re already getting reorders and they want cords, cords, cords,” said Moshe Tsabag, chairman ceo of Hot Kiss, adding business was ahead 25 percent at the show compared with last year. The company signed a licensing deal with New York’s Fantasia to produce an intimates line of girly, kiss-splattered camisoles, bikinis and thongs for spring. Tsabag expects the line to pull in $3 million.Bts business also was strong at Zana-di, which launched a 20-piece sportswear collection that generated interest from Wet Seal and Gadzooks. Fall looks included velour sets with rhinestones and clean cotton tracksuits with dainty pink piping and stitched-on numbers.

Although the designer-contemporary section of the show was filled mostly with men’s designer casualwear, retail’s most popular women’s vendors — Earl Jean, Lucky Brand, Blue Cult, Joe’s Jeans, Da-Nang, Guess and Von Dutch — made a strong showing.

News included Joe’s Jeans spin-off sportswear line Joe’s, which owner Joe Dahan tested at MAGIC International. “It’s still vintage-inspired, casual sportswear, but it’s a lot more feminine,” he said. The line included printed tube tops, trousers, metallic linen separates, white denim skirts and satin and leather jackets.

At the hot, nine-month-old Los Angeles resource Da-Nang, designer Estelle Dahan took her comfortable cargo concept a step further by adding pastel pieces in frayed linen and striped cotton, and pleated miniskirts in pastel washed silks with a subtle camo print. The poplin and washed silk drawstring pants are cleaner, with fewer pockets and colored Asian embroidery. Several skirts and tops now have ruffles and ruching and printed cotton button-down shirts are also new to the collection. “We’re taking the line away from army to a Malibu lifestyle direction and we’re getting a great response,” said owner Albert Dahan.

This pleased retailers like Pam Kidd of Global Entertainment, a Palm Desert, Calif., shop, who uttered the oft-heard mantra: “I’m looking for anything different.”

Boutique favorite Von Dutch showed immediates and spring, not veering much from its screen-printed tank, capris and minis. For spring, there were pieces in pastel and brightly hued rubberized denim and vintage-washed capris.

Over at Lucky Brand and Earl, buyers were snapping up soft, washed-cotton shirts and pants with military details. At Guess, one of the few vendors to show a full spring collection, the fashion mandate was sheer pastels and layering, fine gauge cotton T-shirts, jackets with utilitarian details like zip-off sleeves and grosgrain tape, satin and mesh. Key items included the cargo minidress, the pleated mini, roller girl short-shorts, fitted piqué polos and side-ruched pants.Of course, not everything was geared to the younger junior and contemporary customer. At the gargantuan Izod booth, women’s wear president Suzanne Karkus was busy selling from her single rack of spring merchandise at MAGIC International.

“Our target customer is 35 to 45, but she’s still hip. She wants these preppy pieces with a realistic fit,” she said. “We weren’t planning to bring women’s wear to this show, but we’ve gotten a strong response from buyers who’ve come across it unexpectedly.”

In the Streetwear section, most of the buzz swirled around celebrity-endorsed lines. Eve, Thalía and Tommy Mottola, Ashanti, Ja Rule, Bow Wow, Nelly, Outkast and Jackie Chan all turned out, creating bottlenecks in the aisles.

Kelly Stone, whose Sherman Oaks, Calif., company specializes in celebrity dressing, was trying to get in on the action. “I’m here looking for new clients,” she said, “companies who want to get exposure in Hollywood.”

Danny Guez, chief operating officer and partner of Innovo Group, parent of Eve’s Fetish line, said entertainment stars easily translate to fashion stars and that’s an easy sell for department stores. “It’s built-in marketing,” he said, noting stores were picking up the line’s punk-influenced “chain” group and corsets.

Veteran urban lines, however, must buck the celebrity invasion.

“Everyone who has a hit record or movie is getting in the game,” stated Keith Perrin, chief operating officer of six-year-old Fubu Ladies. “Anybody can make a line, but customer loyalty — that’s what stores want.” To stay relevant, the New York-based firm showed a black denim mini with leather criss-cross belts, studded jeans, mesh and Flashdance-style tops, all in expanded sizes.

Proving surf is one of spring’s top trends, retailers flocked to Roxy to pick up hibiscus prints in muted yellows, reds and blues on swimwear, board shorts and sundresses. An “Eighties Our Way” group of pink-and-black checkerboard screen T-shirts and day-glow rash guards also generated interest. The line is expected to increase sales by double-digits this year, according to Maria Barnes, national sales manager. “Back-to-school is really strong and as we’re heading into holiday, we think it’s all good news,” she said.SPRING TRENDS

  • Neon colors
  • Muted blues, reds and burnt orange
  • Pleated minis
  • Denim overalls
  • Oversize buttons
  • Exotic graphics
  • Hawaiian prints
  • Cargoes
  • Flashdance-inspired tops and sweats
  • Short shorts
  • Fifties-inspired party dresses

Source: The Doneger Group

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