Fast Turnaround Is the Mantra at Project

Project was in the center of the action for national retailers such as Charlotte Russe and J. Crew and specialty stores.

Project was in the center of the action for national retailers such as Charlotte Russe and J. Crew and specialty stores including Fred Segal Fun and E Street Denim Co.

This story first appeared in the September 9, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

There was a focus on immediacy as buyers roamed the Sands Expo & Convention Center for the latest trends in premium denim and contemporary fashion. Some 800 brands, evenly split between men’s and women’s, displayed product for spring — and holiday and fall.

Designer John Eshaya said as many as half of the orders for his namesake contemporary line were to be delivered Sept. 30.

Daniel Landver, chief executive officer of Lucas Design, which creates costume jewelry for brands such as Landver and Disney Couture, didn’t even bother to bring spring collections to Las Vegas.

“Spring — people haven’t even talked about it because they’re so scared,” Landver said. “They want what’s in stock or to be delivered immediately.”

What retailers also wanted was sharp pricing blended with fashion-forward trends. Landver found a market for its $21 chunky resin bangles set with large geometric stones in contrasting colors. Babakul, the casual contemporary line designed by Kym Gold, capped the wholesale prices of its garment-dyed Tencel cargo pants at $82 so they will retail for less than $200.

In addition to price, items that mixed innovation, fun and creativity topped the shopping list for David Walker, owner of Winds of Change Boutique in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Along with boyfriend jackets and jeans from Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B., he liked the prints and textures at Voom and whimsical pieces at Odd Molly.

“They want to update their look but not revamp their wardrobe,” Walker said of his customers.

The leading trends in premium denim percolated at Project. Diesel flicked pigment on dungarees, Netherlands-based Dept offered a denim harem pant and Siwy electrified short shorts with a giant zipper running down the right side.

“The trends don’t seem so predictable,” said Michelle Siwy, designer of Siwy. “People want everything now.”

Evisu unveiled its denim relaunch for next spring under new global chief executive officer Scott Morrison, the New York-based founder of Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn. Encompassing four fits, 10 washes and wholesale prices from $84 to $110, the women’s line will be Evisu’s first in the U.S., Morrison said.

Though the women’s business is expected to contribute no more than 10 percent of total sales in the first season, Morrison hoped to appeal to fans of vintage looks by smearing dirt stains on the jeans and fading the seagull-wing logo on the back pockets. Retailers who have already ordered the women’s styles include Selfridges in the U.K. and Ron Herman in Los Angeles.

Joe’s Jeans is also testing new territory, launching three subbrands to complement its core jeans business: The Pant, The T and The Belt. The new extensions are modeled after The Shirt, its line of woven shirts that debuts in stores this fall. The Pant encompasses Capris, cargo pants, shorts and any other kind of pant that is not made of denim; wholesale prices range from $44 to $62. The T, priced between $26 and $49, offers tanks, cardigans and crinkled tops embellished with studs on the shoulder pads. The Belt features an array of leather straps adorned in studs with wholesale prices running from $22 to $42. While The Belt will hit stores for the holiday shopping season, The Pant and The T will be available next spring.

Mek Denim is defying the recession with plans to open 20 stores in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Salt Lake City and other cities across the U.S. The Los Angeles-based denim company intends to open the first shop by the end of this year.

Seven For All Mankind is on track to open 15 stores this year in the U.S., widening its worldwide retail footprint to 62 shops in 18 countries. Especially as business in specialty and department stores remains challenging, “Our retail initiative is a great way to augment our wholesale business,” said Topher Gaylord, president of Seven For All Mankind.

For Kasil and It Jeans, surviving a recession means joining forces. Los Angeles-based It, whose jeans retail for less than $80 at stores such as Nordstrom, acquired a 50-percent stake in premium label Kasil for an undisclosed sum in July. While retaining a separate sales and design team, Kasil will be able to utilize it’s efficient manufacturing operations.

For spring, designers pushed shorts for warm weather. WeAretheSuperlativeConspiracy more than doubled the number of shorts in white, inky indigo, weatherworn denim and other styles.

Leggings are evolving into a fashion item with a plethora of textiles and design touches. Hope and Glory turned to Tencel for $60 trouser-style leggings in a pastel psychedelic print. Japan’s As Know As De Base knitted blue cotton into $22 leggings with contrasting white chevron embellishments. Work Custom Jeans made a $79 motorcycle style in 8-ounce denim. Citizens of Humanity overdyed superstretchy denim in yellow, red, tan and royal blue before dipping it in an acid wash.