with contributions from Kira Cole and Christina Silvestri
 on June 25, 2012

LOS ANGELES — At the Los Angeles contemporary fashion market, buyers displayed a bit of nervousness as they decreased their open-to-buy budgets and weighed prices carefully amid economic uncertainty.

Encompassing the trade shows Designers & Agents, Focus, Select and the showrooms housed in the California Market Center, Cooper Design Space, New Mart, Gerry Building and Lady Liberty Building, the four-day show that ended June 14 differed from previous markets in which the mood was largely buoyant. Perhaps sensing retailers’ cautious approaches to ordering, some vendors were willing to adjust minimum amounts for orders. Moreover, in reflection of buyers’ last-minute shopping tendencies and designers’ urgency to place orders with factories in advance, the collections shown ranged from cozy fall cover-ups to glitzy items for holiday.

Stephanie Robinson, owner of The Jean Pool in Santa Maria, Calif., was one retailer who decreased her open-to-buy. “I didn’t really see a ton that stood out,” she said. “I think it’s harder when it comes to fall because there’s not as many crazy trends. People just tend to start bundling.”

Carrie Coutula, owner of a namesake clothing, jewelry and gift boutique in Venice, Calif., also decreased her open-to-buy while espousing a wait-and-see attitude. “I’m really hoping it’s going to pick up,” she said. “For us, it’s very sporadic [whether] we’re really busy or not…[It] used to be really consistent.”

Price remains a key concern as retailers honed in on special items to justify expensive purchases. “The customer is price-conscious, but wanting to find stuff that is unique and worth the price,” said Kobi Amzalag, owner of the women’s apparel shop Divine in Beverly Hills, Calif., who ordered jeans from J Brand and dresses from Haute Hippie and Nightcap.

Ashley Lazarus, operations manager at accessories and footwear store Sole Comfort in Newport Beach, Calif., said the pricing spectrum shifts from one end to the other. “Our expensive products are doing really well this season, but we try to bring in things that are a little more affordable, too,” she said.

Color and prints continued to catch buyers’ eyes. The novelty factor was amplified even more for the holiday collections that retailers hoped shoppers would scoop up for end-of-the-year parties.

Tucker, the New York-based contemporary brand known for its silk blouses and dresses, offered a variety of prints, ranging from a Pop Art version of tiger stripes on $148 pajama-style pants to yellow flowers laid atop navy streaks on $130 tops with blouson sleeves. Tucker plans to translate the colors and patterns of its popular prints to a lipstick palette that it will sell in its New York boutique, in addition to a collaboration with sneaker brand Tretorn.

Marika Charles, from Schenectady, N.Y., combined its strength in ombré dyes and prints with the fit of Los Angeles-based Jet Jeans in a new denim collaboration called Marika Charles Jet. Launching for fall with wholesale prices of $100, the stretchy skinny and straight-leg styles are printed with large paisley swirls and other Bohemian-inspired prints in nine colors.

The trend for color jumped from sportswear into swim, as seen at New York’s Cala Ossidiana. Dusty, inky versions of green and navy did well for the two-year-old line, as did bright pops of magenta and marine blue. Its mix of fashion detail and colors also appealed to buyers, who liked a $135 purple halter style enhanced with pleating and mesh cutouts.

Design details such as burnout, sequins, studding and leather trim that made a piece look special also gave a lift to orders. In particular, tops took a more sophisticated turn away from casual silhouettes. Anna Catherine added leather piping to $90 collarless tweed jackets, while Matty M. applied an ethnic burnout pattern to $48 silk and rayon peasant blouses and Willow & Clay laser-cut fake leather into $42 peplum shirts.

Summing up shoppers’ practicality in a time of economic uncertainty, Denyse Shokett, the national sales manager at Complete Clothing Co., which handles sales for Matty M. and Willow & Clay, said, “It’s not too novel but novel enough to wear a few times.”

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