LOS ANGELES — California’s heat wave and fires, the nation’s economy and post-war Iraq spooked retailers this Halloween, coincidentally the first day of Los Angeles market week that ended here Tuesday, capping a week of some 60 fashion shows.

But this is a resilient group. Most said year-to-date sales have grown between 5 and 30 percent, although most conceded they were also working harder for those gains. The verdict for holiday through next spring? Robust.

Here’s a wrap-up of hot picks, trends and vendor and retail reaction from Los Angeles fashion and market week.

TOP FIVE SPRING TRENDS

Retailers’ Picks

  • Pleated miniskirts.Graphic prints in green, fuchsia, blue and yellow.
  • Fluid jersey dresses and tops.
  • Layering.
  • Denim.

Manufacturers’ Picks
  • Color, color and more color.
  • Day dresses with drop-waists or blouson and tube shapes.
  • Distressed Ts and flashy rib tanks.
  • Bouclé jackets.
  • Trenchcoats.

HOT BRANDS

Retailers’ Picks

  • Louis Verdad
  • Sass and Bide
  • Daryl K
  • Citizens of Humanity
  • True Religion

SHOP TALK

“We went two directions for spring: antique and modern. We bought colored crystal floral jewelry, and big Sixties- style bangles and hoop earrings.”
— Cindy Ollig, Posh boutique, Denver

“We’re from Chicago, so the jelly bags haven’t caught on yet, but we know they’re going to be big since they’re almost over here. We also like patent, denim and feather accents on bags, and baroque cocktail rings.”

“We’re up 30 percent because we understand our clients better now. They are more price sensitive and will buy pieces they can wear on a daily basis — versatile pieces that go from day to night. We once looked down on denim but we’ve had to embrace it because it is, admittedly, part of fashion.”
— Campbell McDougall, owner, Bruce contemporary boutique, Vancouver“Business is the same versus one year ago. And I think [sales during] the holidays will be OK, not great. For spring, I think dresses are ready to rock but there are just no good ones out there. They’re either too vintage or too serious. Denim is saturating our market to the degree that we’ve told our sales associates, ‘No jeans at work.’ It’s just lazy dressing.”
— Carl Dias, buyer, Trafficcontemporary boutiques, Los Angeles

“Business has got to get better now that the fires, Iraq and 9/11 are all behind us. Already, we’re up 20 percent, compared with last year.”
— Cha Cha Weinstein, owner, contemporary boutique Lisa Angel, Studio City, Calif.

“Misses’ customers want the young look. If it’s low-rise, we choose an inch or more on the waist. If it’s skirts, it’s knee-length and A-line. August sales were horrendous but I’m confident in business if we don’t have any more tragedies.”
— Ellie Robins, owner, Chameleon Ltd. boutique, Sherman Oaks, Calif.

“It’s hit and miss for the misses’ customer with all the little girl, short pleated skirts. It’s also mostly retro fabrics. Simple and elegant is gone. I think it’s going to be a sad fall because my customers are grown-up women, doctors and attorneys. Hopefully, the stock market will lift spring sales. My sales are 5 percent ahead of last year, but I’m working more days and enjoying life a little bit less.”
— Christine Olsen, owner, Christine’s boutique, Edmonds, Wash.

“It’s my first day open and we’re already getting traffic and orders and I haven’t even had a chance to e-mail my customers.”
— Matt Germaine, co-owner, Select Showroom at the Gerry Building

“Our business is up 35 percent year-to-date, as soft dressing and color continues to drive sales.”
— Steven Barraza, owner, Tianello misses’ line

“The market is so top crazy — I’m selling five tops to one bottom.”
— Rebecca Bacon, co-owner, Rebecca and Tom Sales showroom, California Market Center“Everyone is leaving paper, which doesn’t always happen, and retailers are feeling better about the economy.”
— Lloyd Singer, president, A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz, at Brighte Companies

Show Wrap

Designers & Agents Show

It was the biggest D&A show yet in Los Angeles, taking over the third floor of the New Mart and two floors of the Cooper Building. Buyers received gift coupons at the New Mart for redemption at Cooper to ensure they walked the entire show, which was a mix of contemporary lines highlighting denim, colorful beaded silks, elegant silver jewelry and the launch of Chan Luu’s new apparel line.

Agenda
Buyers from TJX Cos., Hot Topic and Up Against the Wall found their way to the three-day Agenda streetwear show, although action was slower, owing to its location in the gift wing of the California Market Center. Women’s vendors Gentle Fawn, Stussy and Megami Boogie said traffic was spotty, but buyers were serious.

ENK
Fashion Coterie producers transformed their Brighte Companies show into a riot of yellow and white. Fashion and accessories vendors from both coasts, including Fray, Eisbar and Coco Kliks, showed comfy, casual designs, while Joyce Marie offered bold, fish scale-patterned embroidery on vinyl jackets. Still, even the free snacks couldn’t keep traffic hearty.

On Five
Free lunch for four days didn’t hurt business on the fifth floor of the California Market Center, where showrooms came together with tote bags, a cyber lounge and cocktails for buyers. Retailers were picking up accessories, sporty, chic athletic tops and jersey dresses.

Henri Bendel Open-See
Henri Bendel’s once yearly open-see in Los Angeles, held at The Standard Downtown LA on Oct. 29, drew more than 75 designers, some of whom queued up at 6:30 a.m. “We all really felt that this was one of the best open-sees that we had done in years,” said Scott Tepper, fashion director. “Every single department found something to buy.”

The retailer’s four buyers and guest panelists — designer Richard Tyler, celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch, Daily Candy founder Dany Levy and “General Hospital”costume designer David R. Zyla — picked up the following:
  • The Rabbi’s Daughters: Nina Bush, Myla Fraser and Daniella Zax, daughters of prominent Los Angeles Rabbi Jerry Cutler, make T-shirts and tanks with Yiddish phrases for $16 wholesale. Bendel’s chose tanks with “Oy Vey” (woe is me), “Meshuggenah” (crazy girl), “Shiksa” (non-Jewish girl), and “Bubelah” (darling, honey or sweetie).
  • Murielle: Designer Murielle Hamilton land-looms and dyes ponchos made from 20 specialty yarns, including alpaca and microfiber from Peru, kid mohair, nubby rayon and cotton, in caramel, pink, olive and orange. Ponchos run $60 to $110 wholesale.
  • Primp: Designers Wells Butler and Emily Kersman showed Eighties-inspired splattered bleached-out sweatshirts and ruffled minis. Wholesale prices range from T-shirts at $60 to sweatshirts at $80.
  • Cynthia Luna: Flower hairpins from vintage fabric, priced about $30 wholesale.

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