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Women’s Offerings Expand at Las Vegas Magic Show

LAS VEGAS -- Armed with increased budgets, many buyers shopping the MAGIC show here last week for women's wear found more than usual.<BR><BR>A new crop of fashion-forward junior companies exhibited at the four-day show that ended Sept. 12.<BR><BR>The...

LAS VEGAS — Armed with increased budgets, many buyers shopping the MAGIC show here last week for women’s wear found more than usual.

A new crop of fashion-forward junior companies exhibited at the four-day show that ended Sept. 12.

The show, on 1.5 million square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center, attracted 65,000 buyers and had a record 5,200 booths.

While many buyers seeking women’s wear said they were often ordering unisex looks in small sizes, others discovered a number of youth-oriented women’s firms, including Blackheart, Isotope, Wild Cherry, Greed Girl, Serious, The Antique Boutique, Hard Tail, Lip Service, Rubber Soul, Jinous, Touch of South Beach and Box Fresh.

And some denim companies created a buzz at the show with their women’s wear, including Lucky Brand Dungarees, Parasuco, Big Star and Redenim.

Several companies introduced women’s divisions. Clipper Bay showcased Nonchalant, clean knit separates with a nautical flavor, while Generra rolled out licensed pastel knit and fleece tops with prominent logos.

The women’s selection will be significantly expanded when WWD joins forces with MAGIC next spring. The debut WWD/MAGIC show will run at the same time as the men’s wear segment — Feb. 21-24, 1995. It will be held at Hilton Pavilion, contiguous to the convention center.

MAGIC chairman and chief executive officer Glenn Mounger said buyer preregistration for the upcoming February show was strong.

“We haven’t done a big push yet to get women’s majors in,” he said, “But that will change come February.

Meanwhile, women’s wear buyers turning up at last week’s MAGIC seemed to be after cutting edge style.

Nami Nishida — buyer for six women’s stores in Tokyo and Sendai, Japan, that operate as Smiths Co. Ltd., U.K. Hollywood and Strawberry Freeks — looked for junior sportswear at $9 to $100 wholesale. She liked trendy merchandise, including shiny Lycra spandex blend dresses and camouflage-print wrap miniskirts from The Antique Boutique, cartoon-character T-shirts by Fashion Victim, T-shirts featuring various rock groups, cotton thermal separates by Hard Tail, tiny sweaters and HotPants by American Rag and hats by Kangol.

Still, she said: “There was not enough merchandise here for women.” Despite Japan’s slow economy, Nishida reported a holiday buying budget double last year’s.

“We have two more shops than this time a year ago,” she said. “The recession is bad, but if you buy selectively, business still goes up.”

Kathy Shylsky and Tammy Hobbs, buyers for Decadence — six boutiques in Canada with locations in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver — shopped for holiday goods, looking for pastel, metallic and fake fur looks, as well as futuristic designs made from relfective or holographic materials.

“We are having a great back-to-school season, and we’re scrambling to get more immediate goods, too,” Hobbs said. These include plaid and twill A-line apron dresses. They said their budget was up 15 to 20 percent. Still, they noted, they were having a hard time finding women’s apparel in their price range, because of the added costs of importing into Canada.

“We can only buy clothing in the $8 to $30 wholesale range. There’s not much of that here in women’s, so we are going with a lot of unisex lines,” said Shylsky.

Darcy Cook and Melanie Miyahira, owner and women’s buyer, respectively, of Bebe Sport — 14 stores in Hawaii featuring men’s and women’s streetwear as well as cartoon-theme clothing — said they had a field day at MAGIC.

“The selection here is so much better than it has been the past few times,” Cook said. “We are finding a lot more direction.”

Shopping a wide range of prices, they ordered Mondorama’s polyester dresses in pink, black, white and lime; Lip Service’s iridescent mesh dresses and Lycra blend crop tops and HotPants; Hard Tail’s ribbed and waffle-weave baby T-shirts; Parasuco’s denim suspender dresses, and Redenim’s recycled denim separates with lace, plaid and Mexican embroidery details.

“Our women’s business has been hot since spring,” Miyahira said, adding that her open-to-buy was up 20 percent from this time a year ago. “We carry more unique looks, we have more exclusive agreements with manufacturers and — for the first time — we’re buying from Paris.”

Richard Schefren, president of retail for The Antique Boutique in New York, was similarly enthusiastic about the women’s selection at the show.

“It’s definitely getting better,” he said. “I’m extremely happy.”

New finds for Schefren included Greed Girl’s sweater dresses and polyester gabardine dresses, Isotope’s suede baby-doll dresses, camp shirts and knit miniskirts, and Lucky Brand Dungarees’ miniskirts, knit and denim dresses.

“Lucky was a killer,” said Frank Pizzurro, the store’s general manager and buyer. “It’s the first time we ever saw the line. They had tight high-waist jeans in white and primary shades of blue, yellow, red and green with orange and blue stitching that we loved, too.”

The two also reordered looks from such resources as Serious and Hard Tail.

Jurg Huber, owner of Kitchener Boutique, a men’s and women’s store in Berne, Switzerland, was shopping for goods with unisex appeal at up to $150 wholesale. He sought items inspired by snowboarding activewear and clothing featuring Japanese animation figures as well as what he called futuristic “cyberfashion” — high-tech metallic looks.

“We mix things up in our store,” he said. “It’s not very structured. There are no rules. It’s about personal expression.”

Huber’s favorite resource at the market was Front New York, which featured jerseys in unexpected colorways, including bright orange with red.

“Our economy is kind of stagnant and our buying budget is slightly down because we are trying to consolidate our stock,” he said, “But I am finding new and exciting things here, and the right things still move.”