The contemporary crew is keeping inventory tight, cutting prices and tinkering with designs in order to maintain a competitive edge.
Jitters about an impending war with Iraq and frustration with a lackluster economy are forcing contemporary vendors to rethink their business plans, from their collections’ overall design aesthetic to pricing strategies. Going into fall, contemporary resources are cutting prices, overhauling their image and speeding up deliveries. And in addition to keeping a closer eye on the bottom line, designers at contemporary labels are increasingly aware of the importance of keeping merchandise fresh and eye-grabbing among the sea of competitors in department and specialty stores.
WHAT YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT IT: Vendors are constantly seeking ways to keep costs down and one way they are achieving this is by producing exactly what is ordered, when it is ordered. "We’re going per order and not keeping any stock," said Viviana Gabeiras, designer and vice president of Miami-based Petit Pois. "We keep the fabric on hand, but only cut as our customers ask us to do so — they will continue to buy conservative, instead of taking on too many adventures. Because we produce everything on-site, we can control overheads and cut costs. And if we can lower prices, we do."
Firms based north of the border are in a similar predicament with buyers, as well. "People are definitely holding back," said Anita Bacic, president of Toronto-based The People Have Spoken. "The dollar is dropping daily, and our customers are not ordering too far in advance. Normally, by this time, summer would be in the bag. But our customers haven’t even ordered yet. That means that we have to then work like crazy to make things happen."
Last-minute production and deliveries, however, impede efforts on the part of vendors to keep costs down. "It doesn’t help, as we can’t make things as cost-efficiently as possible," Bacic said. "Because we anticipate these problems, we almost have to pad our costs. It’s not drastic, but it’s definitely a factor."
At Los Angeles-based Lili Rose & Jessie USA, production costs have been lowered. "We wanted to increase volume and maintain our quality, so we are using different techniques," said vice president of sales Isaac Armony. "We are pushing on our end to lower costs as much as possible, so we can give the customer a better price. Today, when we build a product, the main person we think about is the end-user, the customer who is going to pick it up off the rack. And we feel the market is not going to support high prices."
CONQUERING NEW TERRITORY: For some vendors, altering an established design aesthetic is beneficial since it allows them to capture new groups of shoppers. "We have tried to use new materials, new yarns, a new type of knitting," said Alex Perrey, manager for Los Angeles-based Sofia Perrey. "We are known mostly for evening dresses and special occasion wear, but we have included other things for regular customers, as well."
Eric Shargani, president and chief executive officer of Mon Chateau Inc., the Los Angeles-based distributor for Vertigo, said the brand’s crossover appeal is key in securing a stronger foothold in the marketplace. "We are trying to have a range of customers so we don’t limit ourselves to a certain age group," he said. "In the past, we may have lost customers as they get older, while gaining younger ones at the same time. Now, we are going toward the ones we might lose. We are trying to be somewhere in between." Forthcoming collections, said Shargani, could be worn by anyone between the ages of 18 and 50, and would be "tri-dimensional." He added: "It’s not just about a jacket or suit or pants, but about all sorts of different merchandise, like long coats or bustiers."
But Harveys, a maker of contemporary and intimate apparel based in Orange, Calif., prefers not to tinker with its established look. "We have found our true focus and our niche," said spokeswoman Nicole Petersen. "We have to set precedents as designers, but do our best to forecast what will be selling well. For us, it’s all about a strong, curvy collection. We are going for the ultimate girlie, and concentrate on having a definite image and brand recognition."
STYLE VS. SUBSTANCE: Los Angeles-based label Mica has observed that novelty pieces are appealing to trend-hungry shoppers. "We have found that we have to be very novelty-driven," said designer Kim Holbrook. "People will pay more money as long as it looks like it’s worth it. Nobody is interested in run-of-the-mill dresses." That translates to poplins, sateens, appliqués — in which interest has already been strong. "We have to continue finding things that will make the shopper want to spend $150 or $200 on a dress. We have to give them something that nobody else is offering."But at Sisters, another Los Angeles-based resource, the realities of a sluggish economy and the finicky shopper have affected how far its design team will push the envelope. "We’ve found that if we stick to a more basic category, rather than anything too fashion-forward, it’s an easier sell," said account executive Rebecca Eslamboly. "We’re designing a little less over the top, and a little more in wise selling pieces." This direction will translate into "color and more color," Eslamboly said, replacing the taupes and other neutrals that have dominated fashion in recent seasons. "That’s what retailers are asking for," she said, "so that’s what we’re going to give them."
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye