By  on September 3, 2008

ENK International bucked conventional wisdom for its first contemporary-oriented trade show here.

In contrast to Project, which featured about 1,300 vendors occupying 550,000 square feet at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, ENK Vegas highlighted only 67 exhibitors that its screening committee chose to set up in mini showrooms and booths at the Venetian Hotel’s Bassano Ballrooms. Transformed to resemble ENK’s Coterie trade show in New York with white curtains and matching plush carpets, the venue sought to offer intimacy and exclusivity to appeal to labels such as Clu, which exhibited in Las Vegas for the first time since launching four years ago.

“I don’t think Clu would fit into that other market [at Project],” said Aya Morimoto, a sales representative for Los Angeles-based Clu, which presented $95 T-shirt minidresses trimmed with silk ruffles on the sleeves, among other looks from its resort collection. “We get lost in that massive environment.”

While ENK Vegas’ signs diverted some buyers walking toward the Sands through the Venetian’s hallways, the show primarily attracted retailers and vendors who have frequented Coterie. As in other trade shows, retailers carefully stuck to budgets while picking what they thought would be new and different for their customers.

Jackie Brander amassed a pile of burnout sweats wholesaling from $48 to $52 from JET by John Eshaya for Fred Segal Fun in Santa Monica, Calif. Diane Merrick in Los Angeles ordered easy jersey pieces from Riller & Fount. Capitalizing on the nascent trend for baggy boyfriend jeans, Kitson’s Fraser Ross bought baggy versions from J Brand and Genetic Denim.

Black denim sold well for Serfontaine and Hudson. Rick Spielberg, Hudson vice president of sales, said black is becoming a staple color in the denim market because “the idea is to be the base for the brightly colored handbag or shoe.”

The troubled economy spurred efforts among buyers to attract shoppers with bright hues and novel treatments in sportswear and ready-to-wear. France’s Cacharel integrated its signature bird print with the trademark stripes from the label’s new creative directors, Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto, who also design London-based Eley Kishimoto. Orange was a key color for a high-collared nylon jacket from Nicholas K and a silk jumpsuit from Paul & Joe Sister. At Alpinestars, buyers liked cut-off shorts, jeans, cardigans and denim jackets that have been airbrushed with ink by hand but cost less than $50 at wholesale.

“They’re being cautious with money but not with colors,” said Alpinestars designer Denise Focil.

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