LAS VEGAS — Uncertainty about retail prospects for the rest of the year hung over the apparel trade shows here as questions about consumer spending mounted, but retail buyers and apparel vendors aimed to entice shoppers with strong color statements and new silhouettes.
Avoiding making risky investments, the majority of retailers scouting brands at WWDMAGIC, ENK Vegas, Capsule, Stitch, Pool, Liberty and the other expos weren’t thinking beyond holiday. Tess Labeth, owner of the boutique Savoir-Faire in Fayetteville, Ark., concentrated on September, October and November deliveries. “We are in fall mode,” she said, adding that her customers “buy for now.”
Neal Click, international sales manager for Laundry by Shelli Segal, said, “Right now, people are looking for immediates. They did go ahead and pick up resort. They are not ready for spring yet. People are buying closer to season and chasing the business.” RELATED STORY: Updated Product Drives Buying in Vegas >>
Price remained a big issue. The delicate balance of offering fashion at a price was in stark display — if not in extreme examples — at the Las Vegas trade shows. On one end, the trends needed to be up-to-the-minute fresh and bargain-priced to compete with fast-fashion retailers. On the other, designers could pile on the details and treatments, especially on denim, to lure consumers to crack open their wallets for special pieces that topped $300 and even $400 at retail.
“The price is very important,” said Jack Hara, president of New York-based junior brand Yoki, which wholesaled end-of-season metallic polyurethane jackets for $8 apiece.
Some designers honed their pricing strategy to allow big mark-ups for retailers. Chip Foster, cofounder of denim brand Chip & Pepper, set the wholesale prices for his namesake denim label launching this fall at between $55 and $60 so that store owners can make a healthy profit that’s two-and-a-half to three times the cost.
Annabelle Lee, designer of junior brand See You Monday in Los Angeles, reduced some of her profit margins in order to keep her made-in-USA line wholesaling between $5 and $48. “You have to be more reasonable than ever [with pricing],” she said. “If I make something special, bold and edgy and I keep [the price] reasonable, why wouldn’t you buy it?”
Despite worries about consumer appetites for purchases, emerging brands reported they got a fair shake. Tanisha Brown, director of sales and operations at Atlanta-based Sylvia Mollie, which presented 14 pieces priced from $38 to $90 in the Launchpad area of WWDMAGIC, said, “A lot of the boutiques are entertaining it. They are very open. They like the sleekness and edginess of the designs.”
While the junior and young contemporary brands were immersed in Nineties grunge, shrouded in slouchy open-knit sweaters, plaid and anarchical motifs such as studs and torn fabrics, the denim labels harked back to the Seventies with flared legs and soft blue dyes. Prints stayed on the scene, and photorealistic images caught the attention of buyers. While novel patterns gave new life to leggings, jeans got baggy. Sweatpants transformed into luxe sport thanks to soft fabrics such as silk and sheer panels exposing the thighs and knees. Black and white proved a popular pairing for the palette.
Randi Siegal, owner of Rapunzel’s Closet in Palm Beach, Fla., gravitated to the sweatpants offerings. “This new sweatpant is dressy. You can wear it out. I think this is a new thing that people are going to want in their wardrobes. It is a great new body,” she said. Discussing the trends overall, she elaborated, “The colors are strong. It is not so glitzy and over-the-top. I think the clothes that we have been seeing are a little bit more conservative, but more fitted, which is great.”
Certainly, the relentless turnover of trends posed the biggest challenge for designers.
“It’s going so fast,” said Tiffany Ferguson, designer of Los Angeles junior brand Ci Sono. “I feel like it’s changing every day.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast