By  on August 30, 2005

LAS VEGAS — This town wouldn't be the same without the flicker and flash, so it should be no surprise that even a trade show like MAGIC, which opened Monday, and its various offshoots aren't about to go without.

Hip-hop power couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles and pop star Justin Timberlake headlined promotional launches for their respective collections at the exhibitions around town.

Jay-Z held court at an invite-only dinner Monday, poolside at the Bellagio, for his latest collection for Rocawear.

Knowles and Timberlake both made their appearances at the Project Global Tradeshows at the Venetian. Knowles appeared on Monday afternoon at her booth for the debut of The House of Deréon, including its denim line, while Timberlake met with retail buyers Sunday for the new men's and women's sportswear line, William Rast, which he started with Danny Guez and Trace Ayala.

Not to be outshone, the show floor over at the Las Vegas Convention Center will see a few of its own stars.

Nicky Hilton will turn out today to tout her Chick by Nicky Hilton line, showing at WWDMAGIC. Launched this past spring, Chick has expanded its selection of trend-driven items from striped nautical tops with braided straps to camouflage-print sundresses. As a result, its denim group decreased to 15 percent from 30 percent, said Ricky Self, vice president of sales for licensee Benvin Industries Ltd.

From Project to WWDMAGIC, which opened at the Las Vegas Convention Center Monday, juniors manufacturers advanced more deeply into fashion, generating looks ranging from sailors to retro hippie chicks to Edwardian dandies.

Those efforts pleased Shannon Merced, owner of Shae Belle in Springfield, Mo. A first-time visitor to the trade show, the boutique buyer said she normally doesn't shop the junior category, but she was attracted to the more stylish looks at lower price points.

Bohemian trends and embellished denim continued to dominate offerings for spring at WWDMAGIC. Throngs of buyers waited to hit the floor as early as 7:30 a.m., placing orders for rock 'n' roll Ts, clingy jersey tops that could be layered and novelty belts, among other items.

"We're seeing if the ethnic look is moving on, but it looks like everyone is touching on it," said Albie Johnston, a designer for J.C. Penney. "The whole romanticism for fall is kicking in for spring."Vendors and retailers were optimistic. "This is such a strong show for us," said Moshe Tsabag, chief executive officer of juniors manufacturer Hot Kiss Inc. For the first time, the Los Angeles-based company showed its nine licensees for shoes and other merchandise in the same booth.

Yet rising gas prices provided a reality check. For Fred Levine, owner of the M. Fredric chain, which operates 19 stores in California, that meant reducing the number of deliveries per week to three times from five. "We're doing that until the cost of gas comes down," he said, adding he first tried the policy change six months ago when gas prices began to surge.

Still, buyers churned out orders.

T-shirts, as always, are a staple for spring. "Retail from a T-shirt standpoint has been fantastic," said Blaine Halvorson, co-owner of Junk Food Ts, which wholesale from $9.50 to $20. Retail buyers scooped up rock Ts and tops emblazoned with soda and cereal brands, but passed on cartoon character-based tops.

But Walt Disney Co., which is known for Mickey and other famous characters, was on the hunt for anything with crowns, crosses and other symbols for its theme park shops, and Warner Bros. bought apparel with its licensed characters for its online store,

Bohemian items such as embroidered tunics and gypsy skirts crossed the threshold from juniors to women's.

Kathy Cleary, who owns Toujours boutique in Newport, Ore., said the store "traditionally buy[s] anything ethnic, such as wide belts studded with stones." But this year, she said she is kicking it up with embellished jeans and a more rock flair.

Diane Mohn also was scouting for embellished looks. "We also wanted to see if the metallics were moving into spring," said the owner of Finishing for Her in Kansas City, Mo.

Women's vendors, such as In Gauge Design Group, Papillon and Creative Looms, spiced up crochet sweaters with stones and pearls, in contrast to plainer knits from last year.

Another look popular in the women's category was anything Western. The show devoted an entire aisle to vendors carrying everything from cowboy boots to fringed suede jackets to studded cowboy hats. The Western motif even extended to dress vendors, including Western Kitty, which produced skirts with matching corsets.While traffic was brisk during MAGIC's opening day on Monday, the action got started the day before when Project lived up to the buzz for its second run in Las Vegas, as it doubled the number of expected attendees to 10,000. Project focuses on premium denim and streetwear, and has become the venue of choice for debuting new lines.

(As reported Monday, Advanstar Communications Inc., owner of MAGIC, acquired Project and the Pool Trade Shows.)

Chip & Pepper introduced new knit line CP University, which combines the logos of 15 universities with the vintage styling the denim company is known for. "The only thing to hook to a denim bottom is a cool college top," said co-designer Chip Foster, who is collaborating with licensing agency Collegiate Licensing Co.

Jade Howe, a seasoned men's wear designer whose aesthetic is a meeting between a cowboy punk and an English country gentleman, introduced a women's line of jeans and T-shirts. Spring tweaks the best of his men's line for female sizes and fits. Howe said that, given that 15 percent of the consumers who bought the men's jeans in his store were women, his expansion into the women's market was a natural.

But according to Joie Rucker, the surfeit of jeans forces some buyers to look for an alternative to denim. Rucker, who designs California lifestyle label Puka and jean and Ts line Archindigo, said stores were searching for cargo pants, twill and cute tops.

Still, Rucker said she continues to sell denim, especially overly embellished models, including one adorned with abalone shells. As for jeans with simple, clean washes, she said that, despite talk of the trend, the look doesn't seem to be selling at retail yet.

Harajuku Lovers, Gwen Stefani's line produced with Jerry Leigh Entertainment Apparel, scored an early hit with T-shirts screen-printed with watercolor paintings of nubile girls, reminiscent of the works of Japanese illustrator Aya Takano.

And Stefani didn't even have to show.

— also by Michelle Dalton Tyree

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