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Seasons Blend Together in Contemporary Market

Economic downturn, coupled with fast-moving trends, prompts manufacturers to ship smaller, more frequent delivieries instead of traditional seasons.

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Special Issue
WWD MAGIC issue 08/11/2008

Contemporary and young contemporary brands are picking up the pace.

 

An economic downturn, coupled with fickle trends that change at lightning speeds, is prompting manufacturers to ship smaller, more frequent deliveries, rather than sticking to the tried-and-true model of launching two main seasons a year. Companies can’t afford to rest on their laurels while buyers do more shows — and write smaller orders — and demand a constant flow of fresh product.

 

As such, the design boundaries between seasons are becoming fuzzy, if not nonexistent, and major trends are far less pronounced, as in past seasons. WWDMAGIC buyers looking for across-the-board trends in contemporary and young contemporary will find only one: anything goes.

 

Exhibitors are bringing the full gamut of offerings to August’s show, including holiday, resort and fall immediates; a little spring, and a lot of variety. Lightweight fabrics rule because of their layering friendliness; color and print trumps neutrals; streamlined silhouettes offer ease and simplicity, and jackets are the easiest and most modern way to update a look, regardless of season.

 

As contemporary and young contemporary trend toward seasonless offerings, transitional fabrics continue to dominate both markets. VFish, a year-old contemporary line, is cutting back on silk and working mostly with Modal and cotton. The Chicago brand is bringing fall immediates and some spring to WWDMAGIC, $30 to $80 at wholesale for both seasons.

 

Styles have a decidedly sporty feel, designed with lots of racer backs and hoods. A flattering maxidress is on tap for spring, offered in solids as well as a print, and details such as ruffles and basket weaving keep items interesting.

 

Joyous & Free, a San Diego line of printed knits, also is focusing on the maxidress, including one in all three December-January deliveries and six resort groups. The maxis, along with bat-wing tops, tiered dresses and tunics, are done in rayon and spandex, rayon and jersey or cotton and jersey, so that stores can easily incorporate these lightweight fabrics into year-round looks.

 

“We’re getting away from [using] too much fabric and we’re moving closer to the body,” said Susan Macy, president. “We not doing many Empire or baby-doll waistlines at all.”

 

Joyous & Free’s woven division, Bliss-i-Tude, also will show at WWDMAGIC, bringing maxis, skirts and caftans, all in paisley, animal, scarf or floral prints; wide-leg pants in scarf prints, and solid tops. Both lines are priced at wholesale from $39 to $59.

 

Los Angeles brand Matty M is incorporating cleaner lines into its spring 2009 offerings, relying on print, not silhouette, to add visual interest. This move marks the company’s first foray into the print business. Patterns include feminine florals, animal and conversational prints. Texture is big for spring, according to Eleanor Sanchez, owner and president of Complete Clothing Co., parent of Matty M, and mixed-media embroidery and embellishments lend further pop.

 

The young contemporary line, priced at wholesale from $38 to $88, is staying away from full, billowy bodies such as trapeze and baby doll, opting instead for styles that skim and hug. Dresses continue to sell well, particularly in the casual Patio style, and the line also is introducing skirts and other bottoms this season.

 

“Matty M does not look at economic turns when creating a new collection,” said Sanchez. “Fresh and new interesting looks are going to be viable even during the recession.”

 

For Voom by Joy Han, a six-year-old Los Angeles line, enticing buyers with exciting product is the most surefire way to weather recession.

 

“We try not to overproduce the merchandise, but at the same time we’re creating a lot of new styles that will catch people’s attention and that are missing in the market,” said Jane Yim, sales director.

 

Monthly deliveries include 30 new styles each, and immediate and spring looks are “bohemian chic” and trend toward fitted, more feminine styles, said Yim. Voom also is reintroducing the bubble skirt for spring. Embroidery, ruffles and Asian-inspired prints dress up simple bodies. Price points range from $79 to $149 at wholesale.

 

Manufacturers are going heavy on color and print for immediate and spring deliveries, balancing rich and vibrant hues with just a few neutral offerings.

 

“Color is huge right now and we’re definitely not afraid of it. Because our designs are so easy and clean, we rely on color to make our styles pop,” said Lisa Galvan, assistant designer of VFish. For spring, key shades include dark magenta, vivid blue and fern green.

 

Also banking on color and print is LA Made, a 10-year-old contemporary line of tops, dresses and jackets, priced $9 to $38 at wholesale. The Los Angeles brand’s spring collection will introduce prints, including an oversize floral blocked with solid panels, a bold tribal pattern and a dip-dyed ombré in vibrant pastels. Key styles include zipper-front dresses, men’s wear-inspired vests, T-shirts in bright solids and Fifties-styles dresses, said sales manager Shanon Martin.

 

Eco-friendly line Zova LA is brightening up offerings for spring, focusing on hot pink, red, purple and turquoise, all in Modal, bamboo, soy and hemp fabrics. The seven-year-old brand, which jumped into environmentally minded fashion a year and a half ago, is showing airy dresses, tops, skirts and shorts for spring, as well as key fall pieces.

 

President Deanna Hodges characterized the line as “slightly spiced-up basics,” and said that spring has a “very California ease to it.”

 

The domestically produced brand is priced from $30 for a bolero to $435 for a cashmere walking cape, with the bulk of the offerings topping out at $90 at wholesale.

 

As contemporary looks become more seasonless, jackets emerge as the easiest way to carry an outfit through, as the fun, novelty styles offer buyers merchandising freedom.

 

Karlie, a five-year-old line of young contemporary items, is coming to WWDMAGIC with a slew of jackets, priced at wholesale from $39 to $49, ranging from short knit styles in plaid or tweed to trenches that hit at the knee.

 

The Dallas company relies on swift turnarounds and a constant influx of interesting product to entice buyers, a model that seems to suit the company during the current uncertainty at retail.

 

“We don’t think in terms of seasons, we think in terms of deliveries,” said Charlie Brown, owner and president. “The seasons all blend together now, so you have to have a constant flow of goods. Buyers can’t just go to market twice a year and load up anymore.”

 

Karlie also is showing maxidresses, lightweight boyfriend sweaters, tops and tunics — many in one-shoulder or off-the-shoulder styles — that work well with denim.

 

K.I.S.S. by Piper (Keep It Shirt and Simple) puts a quirky spin on jackets for immediate fall delivery, offering letterman-inspired styles in ultrafeminine bodies and colors. Printed with the logo “In Lipstick We Trust,” the jackets work back to the line’s cotton T-shirts that include 23 basic and fashion styles.

 

President and designer Akilah McCoy describes the brand as “high-end streetwear with a fun and edgy feel.”

 

“Not all women want to throw on a Juicy [Couture] sweat suit in hot pink and lime green. We really don’t want to be an overly trend clothing line,” she said. The New York line bows at WWDMAGIC in August and is priced at $28 to $36 for T-shirts, $64 for cardigans, $98 for jackets and $73 for hoodies.

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