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Split Personality

The junior market is divided between denim and active-influenced looks.<br><br><br><br>Sure, denim is popular across all age groups, but it’s the junior and young contemporary customers who can’t get enough. So apparel makers in the market...

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The junior market is divided between denim and active-influenced looks.

Sure, denim is popular across all age groups, but it’s the junior and young contemporary customers who can’t get enough. So apparel makers in the market know that if they don’t make jeans, they better make things that can be worn with them, whether it’s a screen-printed T-shirt or an embroidered peasant-inspired top.

These days, though, activewear-inspired looks are proving a close second to denim. Vendors are churning out velour and French terry-cloth jogging sets — to be worn, of course, with those ubiquitous Ts.

Here are some of the season’s key looks:

New York–based knitwear firm Kalico knows a thing or two about denim-friendly wares. The company produces an array of sweater styles, from a basic black turtleneck to a fur-trimmed sweater jacket with suede accents.

“We put a lot of effort into making our products work with denim,” said Steve Brimberg, national sales manager. “Denim is what it’s all about in this market, so about 75 percent of the line is denim-friendly.”

Kalico’s fall sweater collection includes novelty looks such as multicolored striped cardigans and pullovers in earth tones like brown, black and dark rust. There’s also a peasant-inspired suede tie-up V-neck sweater in colors like black, olive, rust, brown and burnt orange.

Brimberg predicted the suede grouping will book well. This group includes a black sweater jacket with knitted arms, leather vest and rabbit-fur trim. The jackets are the company’s follow-up to last year’s big success story: the sweater coat.

The Kalico collection wholesales between $10 for a basic sweater and $40 for a leather and knit sweater jacket.

Tapping into denim-ready looks is also a priority at Chica, a San Fernando, Calif.–based knitwear company. While some vendors will showcase spring collections, this two-year-old company will instead focus on holiday offerings.

“Our customers are not really ready for spring yet; they are still looking to fill the stores for holiday,” said Constance Burge, vice president of merchandising and design.

Chica will steer away from the ever-popular peasant look in favor of Indian-inspired designs. For example, Burge said, embroidery and beading will show up on T-shirts in jewel tones as well as in always-popular powder blues, blacks, whites and reds.

“No matter what beautiful colors I come up with, it’s always the basics I end up booking,” she said.

Of major importance for the company are its screen-printed T-shirts. Also in basic colors like blue, red, white and black, Burge said, the most popular Ts feature the Chica logo and those screened to look like movie posters. The Chica line was recently picked up by J.C. Penney and Sears, and it wholesales between $5.50 to $8.50.

For the Los Angeles–based Karl Kani, the newest grouping is strong on velour, seen in pants and hoodies made of velour mixed with mesh accents on the arms and legs in color combinations like camel/pink and blue/beige. The velour and mesh combination also turns up on dresses and henley tops.

Also available in jogging suit sets are the French terry pieces in indigo, which, according to Keri Alberghini, merchandiser at the company, looks like denim, but is much softer to the touch.

Karl Kani also has high hopes for its denim collection, which includes basic and novelty styles. But the biggest news for the denim line lies in its combinations with fabrics like mesh and cotton spandex. The basic jeans jackets and pants come in light and dark blues with brightly colored stitching, while the novelty jeans collection includes silhouettes with mesh accents, like a dark blue denim jacket with mesh sleeves. Denim accents are also important for the spring-summer season, an example being a cotton and spandex striped dress in a bold red, tied with a denim string belt.

The Karl Kani women’s collection wholesales from $19 to $32.

Novelty denim is the focus at Bubblegum, a Los Angeles–based junior denim firm. The company is translating the peasant look into a pair of jeans with colorful floral embroidery down the sides of both legs.

The vendor will also offer jeans in boot-cut and flare styles. Both silhouettes come in a herringbone stretch denim with a raised pinstriped and a dark indigo denim. Belted styles are also popular, some with wide waistbands, others with studded belts.

According to Laura Hong, co-owner and designer of Bubblegum, skirts in all lengths are booking well.

“Business is good,” she said. “In previous years, we tripled our business. Now, with retail being soft, we haven’t tripled, but we are still up by about 30 percent.”

The Bubblegum line ranges in price from $13 a basic style to $18 for novelty jeans.

When Holly Sharp, her husband Michael and daughter Amber founded the Costa Mesa, Calif.–based skate and surf label Lucy Love three years ago, they created a character, Lucy. Each season they would create a collection based on Lucy’s fictional travels.

For spring, according to Holly Sharp, Lucy is Cuba-bound, meaning the company will turn out short-shorts in clean browns and whites mixed with cotton T-shirts.

“We are going for a lot of halter-top and full-tiered skirt dresses in a vintage-inspired earthy look,” Sharp said. “It’s very Seventies, with a lot of draping in the dresses as well as super short-shorts and miniskirts.”

The Lucy Love line wholesales at $17 for T-shirts to $95 for the dresses.

When it comes to mixing fabrics, the Los Angeles–based junior sportswear firm, Hot Kiss, knows what to do. The company, which is fast becoming known for its denim dress collections, will combine denim and crocheted knit to create dresses for the season, as in one strapless look with a denim top and crocheted skirt.

Hot Kiss denim doesn’t hew to the basics. According to the company’s owner and president, Moshe Tsabag, color denim will be big for holiday. Thus, Hot Kiss is ready with a line of bleached-out jeans tinted in pastels like pink, green, blue and yellow.

Hot Kiss will also showcase some of its licensed swimwear, handbags and children’s wear at the same booth for the first time.

“This year, we took out a bigger booth and we will see how we do with some of the licensed products,” said Tsabag.

Printed knit and woven tops will also be available in everything from subtle florals to bold graphics.

“This is the year of the print,” Tsabag said. “And all the printed tops work well with the jeans.”

Hot Kiss products wholesale between $10 and $20.

Montreal has become home to many young contemporary firms, including Guido and Mary, founded almost two years ago by the designer Winnie Wong. The company’s line for the spring and summer season is heavily vintage-inspired, dominated by flower print patched jeans, dresses and capris, with T-shirts in muted colors like rusty rose and vintage blue to match.

New for the company is a group of twill bottoms in earth tones like beige and stone gray, which, according to Wong, compliment many body types, since they are low-waisted with correspondingly low pockets.

The Guido and Mary collection wholesales between $40 and $55.

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