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Special Issue
WWD MAGIC issue 07/16/2008

Juniors brands are running with the bulls when it comes to fall, sometimes leaving much of the middle ground in the dust.

This story first appeared in the July 16, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Vendors are reporting brisk sales as they head into the season. This sales momentum coincides with a 10 percent increase from last year in juniors firms showing at WWDMAGIC, in categories ranging from apparel to accessories to the growing section of footwear. Paul Frank, Dakine Girls, Fifth Sun and Vintage Blue are among the new brands in the junior area.


Hot categories are dresses, T-shirts, outerwear and accessories, and key trends include form-fitting dresses, vintage-inspired T-shirts, puffer vests and skinny jeans. A common theme is that many makers are targeting either higher-end or downmarket customers.

“The lines are going through an evolution,” said Barbara Fields, who owns a namesake juniors buying and consulting firm in downtown Los Angeles. “There are two levels of junior customers: those in the mass chains and those in specialty stores. So, brands want to chase the business in both directions to reach new customers.”

It’s a strategy that’s relatively easy to pull off, said makers. Infrastructures are already in place; firms use better fabrics and tweak designs for upmarket retailers or substitute less expensive textiles for the mainstream crowd.

“For us, it’s a no-brainer,” said Billy Blu Campisciano, vice president of creative development for Clearwater, Fla.-based David & Goliath, which makes knits tops, pajamas and accessories. “We just take a portion of the line and make it more sophisticated.”

David & Goliath is adding a contemporary line called Goliath. It will feature drapier fabrics, longer T-shirts in tunic styles and knit bottoms using some of the company’s cheekier graphics. Wholesale prices range from $22 to $30, about 80 percent higher than David & Goliath.

Junk Food Clothing, a maker of licensed T-shirts, plans to launch a capsule collection called Gourmet, crafted with a contemporary edge. The T-shirts have higher-end fabrics, more embellishments and undergo extra treatments, like distressing. With wholesale prices starting at $20, the line targets stores like Fred Segal and Bloomingdale’s, said Junk Food owner Natalie Grof.

BB Dakota, which has established itself in Nordstrom’s Brass Plum department, is launching a juniors line called Jack by BB Dakota and is offering an ambitious 100 pieces out of the starting gate. It comprises jackets, outerwear, dresses, hoodies and vests in textured fabrics, such as oversize piqué, tweed, plaid, polysatin, polygeorgette and flannel. Key looks are melton coats, felt-belt dresses, sweater dresses and miniskirts, wholesaling from $8 to $30.

Sales rose 30 percent in 2007 from 2006 at Los Angeles-based 26 International, known for its Ashley line of embellished outerwear. The company will offer puffer vests and twill trenches at the show. It maintained sales momentum during the year despite raising its wholesale prices by 5 to 8 percent due to rising manufacturing costs and the weak dollar. “We know our customer is value-conscious,” said Gary Garner, national sales manager. “So we try to put more emphasis on quality and on accessories like detailed hardware and fur trims.”

Nostalgia and whimsy continue to curry favor among teens, as in the signature apple print as well as cupcake, heart and digital motifs at New York-based Sour Apple, another launch at the show. With 20 items, it strives for a cheery aesthetic with bright, lace-trimmed T-shirts, camis, pullover hoodies and yoga pants in cotton, rayon and French terry, wholesaleing from $10 to $19.

Vintage Blue, which hearkens back to the Forties with the license for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, will also bow. The line includes distressed T-shirts, hoodies, skirts and dresses, like its signature floor-length polo dresses, wholesaling from $16 to $45.

A rock ‘n’ roll vibe flavors denim styles at New York-based Bongo with patent leather touches, coated fabrics and foil prints. Kimberly Lee Minor, vice president of brand management, says sales are good, with much of the growth in denim.

Meanwhile, novel denim silhouettes — dresses, one-piece jumpers and blazers — are fashion alternatives at Dollhouse. Skinny jeans, high-waisted looks and trouser styles are key trends.

And, if denim fashions don’t drum up excitement, maybe a little celebrity access will. Paris Hilton will be on hand to support her new namesake line, which will be touting high-waisted denim pants and shorts, linen sailor pants and tunics, and possibly host an after party.

– Retro looks and whimsical prints.
– Denim continues as a growth category.
– Knit dresses and outerwear offerings increase in popularity.


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