WWDMAGIC Buyers Warming Up

LAS VEGAS — Storms back east may have foiled arrival plans for many, but buyers arriving at WWDMAGIC were warmed by signs of emerging fashion items that could help fill fashion voids, especially for spring.<br><br>WWDMAGIC, which opened Monday,...

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LAS VEGAS — Storms back east may have foiled arrival plans for many, but buyers arriving at WWDMAGIC were warmed by signs of emerging fashion items that could help fill fashion voids, especially for spring.

This story first appeared in the February 19, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

WWDMAGIC, which opened Monday, runs through Thursday at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

As retailers took their first stroll down the aisles, they talked of holding out budgets for items exciting enough to get consumers to buy — even if their job stability is in question and the country appears to be heading off to war.

Uncertainty about the economy and geopolitics, and recent reminders about the weather, left many retailers reluctant to focus on next fall and winter. Instead, most planned to place their bets on immediate through summer deliveries, although this is technically a fall show.

“You have to be pinpoint accurate about everything you buy,” said Sam Zak, buyer for Mileage Clubwear & Music in San Diego, a boutique with a focus on streetwear. “You see something you like, but you debate with yourself, ‘Should I buy it, should I not?’ You end up looking around and coming back.”

Buyers concerned about the lack of newness the show might offer appeared encouraged by the reincarnations of military-inspired looks, patchwork, leather and fur that dominates fall. Bottoms in twill, corduroy and satin appeared to be taking up where jeans, once so dominant in the junior category, are tapering off. New denim silhouettes to look for include slimmer legs and shorter lengths.

“Nondenim pants are making a comeback since new business has to come from somewhere. Buyers who were in a basic mentality last year are looking for the fashion piece this year,” said Jay Gorman, vice president of sales for New York-based BBC Apparel Group, which produces Dollhouse and Jou Jou.

The most surprising trend is in fabrics flip-flopping tradition: athletic silhouettes dressed up in satin and pinstriped gabardine while fancier separates took on a new slant in casual denim and twill.

“Our new active business is hot,” said Hot Kiss president Moshe Tsabag, who manned the booth while four reps were snowed in in New York.

Added design director Michael Aguirre: “We never thought it would happen since we got in the game later than everyone else. But let everyone else do terry; we’re using dressier fabrics and taking it up a level.” One example: A new career collection featured pieces in sleek denim.

Likewise, the Montreal-based contemporary resource Luscious showed Balenciaga-inspired “bubble” pants and tops in canvas and cotton. “It’s not so much about embellishment detail as it is about design detail,” said designer Rebecca Ford.

As usual, vendors delivered a 5-in-1 interpretation of trends, as well as versions of designer looks. I’vory, a satin separates group featured graphic prints similar to what Tom Ford showed on the summer runway — and what J.Lo recently wore on the red carpet.

“When everything is mixed all in the same garment it looks contrived, so we’ll edit that down,” said Janele Grassle, vice president and general merchandise manager for 600 Wilsons The Leather Expert stores, based in Minneapolis. Joel Waller, chairman and chief executive officer, said the retailer will focus on suede and basic leather items consumers can keep in closets for seasons.

Real and faux fur coats embellished with leather and suede dominated. Such novelties caught the eye of Sharon Miller of Wickman Gardens In-house Boutique in Springfield, Mo. Her strategy is to get away from complete outfits and head toward embellished separates, beaded and printed sweaters, jackets and tops. Hitting a wider age range, from age 30 up, was another focus for the misses’ retailer. “People are ever more reluctant to spend money, so you have to work harder to keep business up,” she said.

Like-minded buyers had clear ideas about how to boost the bottom line. Jenni Smit of 23 Hollidays Fashion junior stores based in Memphis, Tenn., echoed other buyers in her strategy of testing and reordering items. She espoused offering value while avoiding too many promotions.

In the casual lifestyle and resort-swim sections, tropical prints in comfortable cotton knits filled racks. But swim offerings were slim, with a handful of vendors showing in the misses’ category, and junior licenses showing in their respective sportswear booths.

Though women’s resources are spread out between the Sands and the Las Vegas Convention Center, categories here seemed easier to find this year with aisles and signs more clearly marked on a brighter and less cramped show floor.

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