Specialty store owners are shopping WWDMAGIC with a list of runway-inspired trends in mind.

The trickle-down effect of catwalk trends rages on. Designers sent a phalanx of über-feminine looks down the runways for fall, and retailers have narrowed down their favorites. For spring 2005, specialty store owners across the country have come to WWDMAGIC in search of fashion trends that run the gamut from vintage-inspired print dresses and skirts to shrunken jackets, tweeds and Western wear, along with seasonal staples like denim and Ts.

Retailers agreed that WWDMAGIC is the place to get a read on what the mass merchants are selling for spring and fall. They are focusing on small vendors that may not have a large presence in department stores, and they are looking to pick up new vendors for the ever-expanding knit and denim categories. Coming off a robust spring and surprisingly profitable summer, most are optimistic about selling spring 2005.

Jaye Hirsh, owner of Los Angeles boutique and online operation Intuition, carries a wide range of goods, from $300 Ugg Australia handbags to $12 Havaiana flip-flops. But at WWDMAGIC, value-oriented items top her list.

“My customers are really looking to us for trend and fashion, but also for value,” she said, noting that she will keep an eye out for vintage-inspired, textured and appliquéd T-shirts. “My T-shirt business is huge right now. We are probably selling 50 pieces a day online at a $25 price point.” Armed with a 300 percent uptick in business, thanks to the launch of Intuition’s online operation one year ago, Hirsh is prepared to write orders for denim and accessories à la Ralph Lauren’s Americana fall season or silver-and-turquoise concho belts and cuffs.

“This whole Western thing is going to trickle down,” she said. “Our red cowboy boots from Frye are already selling.”

Ruthie Miller, the women’s buyer at American Rag, which has two locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco, said she attends MAGIC to get a pulse on the industry. Normally, she breezes through the edge streetwear show “for kitschy things” and looks for T-shirts at WWDMagic.

She does the bulk of her buys in New York and Australia, but “If I see a great poncho, I’ll buy it,” she said. “I go to see what the mainstream is doing.”For spring, Miller has an eye out for sexy, girly silhouettes, fashion denim and items to “fill in” the merchandise mix.

Women have been picking up feminine, sexy dresses, vintage prints and florals at Undercover’s two stores in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Owner Adam Shaffer is taking that as a cue for spring 2005. “I will be looking for interesting colors and a mix of those interesting colors,” he said, noting he will snap up dresses for day, denims, cottons, twills and jerseys.

“It seems customers are taking more chances and wearing more prints, oranges, purples, greens and yellows.”

While at MAGIC, Shaffer is planning to court vendors from Asia, India and Latin America that generally offer better prices than their European counterparts. “People are still watching what they spend,” he said. “I don’t think we’re totally out of this recession.”

At Billy Martin’s, the three-unit chain that sells primarily Western wear, “We will be looking for boots, belts, buckles, really cool things that go with Western wear, but are not necessarily Western,” said Enda King, manager of the Billy Martin’s store in Sunset Plaza in Los Angeles, which is currently being remodeled.

He said Western wear is on “a new run this season. A lot of people are doing it.”

Robin Levine, owner and buyer of Details, a contemporary women’s and men’s specialty store in San Jose, Calif., said, “Since we are in a conservative area, in Silicon Valley, I have to be careful of the trends,” she said, adding that even the ubiquitous flower and brooch embellishments won’t necessarily fly with her customer.

San Jose’s conservatism is also an issue with pricing. “When I go to MAGIC, I always look for something new and watch my price points,” Levine said.

In women’s, Levine said she is focused on items across several categories, including sweaters, accessories, shoes, skirts and pants. “I am just really item-driven. Skirts have been big. I am going to do lots of skirts. They’re nice, easy items to wear, whether dressing up or throwing on flip-flops.”Dresses are not on the agenda, she noted. Instead, “I want a great bottom that can fit a lot of women. I hate to put an age on our customer, but they’re generally 30 to 60 — but it’s really more of an attitude. My customers are always looking for great jeans. I have done great with Lucky, and Indigo Palms jeans have [done well in women’s.]”

Summer Forrest, owner of Hub, a men’s and women’s contemporary store in Denver, is looking for a new denim line at MAGIC this year. “I’m so tired of all the originals right now,” Forrest said. “I’m looking for something that’s different. Something that will stand out.”

The majority of the store’s offerings are from strong contemporary brands such as Diesel, Miss Sixty and G Star. “At MAGIC we go to pick up little lines to fill in the floor,” explained Forrest.

While she is waiting to see if shoppers will pick up on the pastel color trend, she’s definitely nixing miniskirts, keeping her focus on denim and outerwear. “We’re very denim-heavy, but I’m also looking to do light spring jackets like tweeds, but with a twist,” she added.

Sharon Michie, owner of Shaz, a boutique in Fort Myers, Fla., classified her tastes as running toward the classic and the feminine. Her women’s offerings are made up mainly of dresses, blouses and skirts — no jeans, no trousers. “This is a dress shop. People come to me looking for party dresses for church and fund-raisers,” explained Michie.

At the show, she’ll be looking for retro-inspired skirts and dresses, and beautiful slips to line the sheer silk georgette dresses she carries. She eschews trendy items and disposable clothing, opting instead for classic pieces.

Michie is also on the hunt for smaller clothing vendors. “At MAGIC, there’s always a mix of big companies and little companies, which I tend to gravitate toward,” she explained. “With the smaller ones, you can strike a deal. They won’t turn around and sell to another shop two doors down.”Bill Hallman owns three eponymous stores in the Atlanta area and carries such contemporary brands as Yana K., Paper Denim & Cloth, James Jeans and C&C California. At MAGIC, Hallman typically searches for his more immediate seasonal needs.

“In terms of what I’ll be looking for in the coming seasons, it’s definitely newness and freshness, which we’re sort of lacking,” said Hallman. “I want to get more sweet and sexy looks going at the same time, like with lacing and beading. Also, great accessories like hats, bags and jewelry to sort of fit into that whole trend.”

Hallman is particularly enthusiastic about vintage looks. “I’m really going big into Forties-inspired pieces,” he said. “It’s such a great look, because you can dress it up or down with denim, and it can be street-smart or savvy chic. It’s sort of versatile, which I think people like.”

— With contributions from Kristin Young, Los Angeles, and David Moin, New York

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