The exhibitors at The Edge may look a little different from their counterparts at the WWDMAGIC trade show, but they bridge the alternative gap through their business practices.

In the face of uncertain economic times, all apparel companies have to prep themselves for a rough ride, and the vendors at The Edge certainly aren’t afraid to toughen up. Like their mainstream counterparts, they worry about brand image, more product lines, generating top-line growth when they launch a new business and effective production.

Take Uzi, a juniors “evil rock ’n’ roll” apparel firm in Brooklyn, N.Y., that decided to bring production in-house after dealing with “flaky” contractors for the past five years, according to vice president Mari Gustafson.

“They were screwing up left and right, they weren’t delivering or they were shipping the wrong sizes. I just had it,” she said. Now, she brings in several friends at $8 per hour (who can eat pizza and beer on the job), which means she is able to exert more control over the sourcing process. Here, several methods for increasing revenue that vendors at The Edge employ:

  • AVOIDING STICKY NICHES: It’s true that apparel players at The Edge reflect a broad swath of lifestyles, servicing retailers who may feel disenfranchised elsewhere. Dare we say, however, that some of the vendors now embrace the mainstream, especially as tattoos and piercings aren’t so novel anymore. Last February, Shining Light Body Jewelry from San Diego broadened its styles — beyond extreme selections — to include classic and trendy categories. General manager Ed Lammers now offers more prosaic looks, such as dangles and crystals, along with those spikier earrings, ear plugs and tunnels. “Now, we have multiple genres and the jewelry doesn’t scare them away,” he said. With triple the product and wholesale prices on the higher end down about 20 percent (now from $2 to $6), Lammers said sales volume has increased about 20 percent.

    Shrine clubwear in Los Angeles is pursuing different crowds through mail-order catalogs. Owner Peter Graham notes that The Pyramid Collection catalog, which he said attracts many readers who refer to themselves as pagans, go for his higher-end, “classic rock”-inspired men’s and women’s looks — a stretch velvet lace-up dress has consistent orders. The International Male catalog finds progressive male customers. In it, his 17th-century tapestry frock coat is a top seller. About 25 percent of Shrine’s multimillion-dollar business stems from sales in catalogs.“If people think you’re gothic or punk, they’ll say, ‘I did that in 1989 and I’m not interested,’” he said.

  • BRANCHING OUT: Accessories are the hot ticket of the fashion sector, and that momentum has trickled down to The Edge. Tripp N.Y.C. Inc. co-owner Ray Goodman said that in the last year the club line has added belts, wristbands, hats, gloves and other accessories. He believes the extension is natural since the apparel lends much of the products’ design direction. Goodman said those hardware treatments on vinyl pants also work nicely on shoulder bags.

    Wholesale prices for accessories, which accounts for less than 10 percent of the business, start at $3.50 and top out at $20. Compared to the line’s pants at $30, the chance to increase sales to existing customers or reaching new customers is another draw. “It’s a way for them to test the waters with a nice wristband,” he said. “There isn’t much thought to the purchase.”

    At Uzi, Gustafson said she thanks Avril Lavigne for keeping the accessory gravy train chugging along for fabric armcuffs. She said her own quirky sensibilities have sparked ideas for new panty looks and a sock garter — “my knee-high socks keep falling down,” Gustafson said. She hopes there’s some crossover value to her company’s bestseller, a T-shirt with an arrow that reads “I’m With Stupid”.

  • NEW BREED GETS SERIOUS: Newcomers often enter the apparel industry with just some pluck and a handful of samples. But The Edge mosaic continues to draw players who display more left-brain thinking, driven by experience and competitive heat.

    Susie Clancy, owner of apparel line Gurlie Show, plans to launch at The Edge with a two-pronged attack. First, she’s heightening suspense by releasing little information on her fall line of stretch velvet dresses, wide-cuffed pants and zip-up hoodies, and twills and vinyl wear. It’s not on her Web site, but she did cave and send a line sheet to a magazine fashion editor. “We’re very paranoid,” Clancy said. “We don’t want other companies to know what we’re doing. It’s important to make an impact.”Reconnaissance is her other focus. She’s monitoring newsgroups online, seeking input on other clothing lines Web visitors like and don’t like. “We can keep track of trends, we see complaints about what they don’t like from certain lines and the more info we have, the more we can service customers,” said Clancy, who projects a modest $100,000 in first-year sales.

    For Skull Clothing owner Ruben Espinoza, it was a calculated move to market his line underground before the product develops widespread distribution and hits at least $100,000 in sales by next year. Reno, Nev.-based Skull sponsors 18 bands, including The Silence, as well as sponsoring cage fighters — full-contact sporting exhibitions of caged participants engaged in mixed martial arts. Last month, his Web site generated 6,000 e-mails for the product. But up until now, the 15-piece line of T-shirts, muscle tees and hoodies, has only been available at one store: Dank Clothing in Huntington Beach, Calif.

    “We wanted to create the street buzz first, but hold back on the product,” he said. “If they want it, they just can’t walk into a store and find it yet.”

  • To access this article, click here to subscribe or to log in.

    load comments
    blog comments powered by Disqus