By  on March 16, 2005

CHICAGO — Identifying women’s urbanwear as a growing segment of their businesses, many Midwest retailers placed larger orders at Chicago’s Pulse apparel market.

They banked on Eighties-influenced fashions and major label denim, with Apple Bottoms among the hottest at the show, which ran March 1-3 at the Merchandise Mart here.

“It’s the sexiest, most intelligent line,” said Frank Uible, urban buyer for Glik’s, a 57-store chain with its largest presence in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. “I thought the collection was right on.”

Uible ordered the line’s signature denim and loungewear, as well as faux leather bustiers and miniskirts.

Apple Bottoms wasn’t the only line to do a lot of business at Pulse. P.J. Southard, sales representative for Girbaud, estimated the firm worked some 48 accounts.

“We were booked solid for three days,” he said. “Our business was great.”

Retailers ordered denim like crazy. Describing the general focus of the market, Southard said, “It’s really all about wash and texture. The styling is somewhat cleaner regarding the logo presentation, otherwise it’s the same.”

Button-front stretch poplin shirts in emerald and ruby were top sellers as back-to-school items, he said, along with jogging suits in technical fleece in black, charcoal, white, electric blue, cherry and emerald.

At Pulse, however, “There’s not one hot item,” said Susan McCullough, vice president of apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., which produces the show. “[Retailers] look to the brand first and then go from there. These brands are so major, retailers trust them to set the trends. It’s trend-driven in its own way.”

John Han, general manager of T.N.T. Fashions in Dayton, Ohio, also noted the selling power of hot labels like Apple Bottoms, which he recently introduced in his urbanwear stores.

“It’s extremely hot,” he said “It sold out to the piece.”

That response led T.N.T. Fashion to open a women’s urbanwear store called Honey be last August, where top brands also include Rocawear, Baby Phat, Southpole and Pepe Jeans.At Pulse, Han noticed that “everything’s following a cleaner look,” and he ordered polo shirts in aqua blue, lime, fuchsia, neon green and orange.

Uible also shopped for some of the preppy flavor. He bought Le Tigre striped polos, denim from Guess and Members Only jackets in pink and other cheery colors for juniors’.

Of Glik’s 57 stores, three are purely urban, with women’s wear accounting for about 25 percent of business and growing. Uible estimated that he ordered 50 percent more women’s merchandise at Pulse to meet increased demand.

In addition to Apple Bottoms, Uible may add items from Baby Phat, Southpole and Girbaud to his store’s mix.

Ivy Robinson, owner of DIP Fashions in Windsor, Ohio, didn’t buy into the polo-shirt trend, instead ordering fox fur jackets from Outlook Furs, Capri jeans, cotton and terry cloth dresses from Johnny Girl, and a white denim outfit with coordinating top and jacket with red and blue detailing from Pepe Jeans.

Overall, McCullough said both retailers and most vendors appeared upbeat.

“People had a good holiday, a great January and an OK February, which is expected,” she said.

Although McCullough was pleased with the turnout, some retailers from Michigan couldn’t make it because of heavy snow.

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