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Project Geared to Practical Matters

FINDING NEW BRANDS THAT appeal to price-sensitive consumers required a lot of legwork at Project.

Finding new brands that appeal to price-sensitive consumers required a lot of legwork at Project, which offered about 1,300 vendors brimming with denim and sportswear at the Sands Expo & Convention Center here.

This story first appeared in the September 3, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

But the effort was worth it for retailers such as Jaye Hersh, who ordered $68 denim rompers from Heartloom and Dégaine’s $95 boyfriend jeans for her specialty shop, Intuition, in Los Angeles.

“We’re really on a treasure hunt to find something well-priced under $300 at retail,” Hersh said.

As blue as retailers were about the economy, so was the color palette awash in varying shades of azure: a $249 French blue leather jacket enhanced with curving seams and braided epaulets from William Rast, Grey Ant’s $85 cornflower blue jeans torn with little holes, Modern Amusement’s $51 blue plaid shirtdress and Corpus’ $78 white cotton oxford jumper trimmed with navy piping.

Buyers were willing to shell out a little more for special dresses. Verum offered a $250 navy silk linen strapless frock spruced up with a big ruffle in front. Edie-France tie-dyed a $150 silk chiffon peasant style in a purple haze and Whitney Eve brightened up a $150 tube dress with a sweetheart neckline in a bold floral print.

The days of clean, dark denim seemed to be numbered as Kentucky Denim Co. handsanded jeans after overdyeing them a berry tint, Rigid Brand Jeans coated denim to resemble snakeskin and People’s Liberation printed a portrait of a funky chick with crazy hair all over white drainpipes.

Buyers are “looking for design,” said Marcella Lindeberg, creative director of People’s Liberation and William Rast.

They are also seeking lower prices. People’s Liberation downgraded its retail prices to $120 from the previous range of $150 to $200, while Ranahan relaunched for the holiday selling season after decreasing its wholesale price 18 percent to $73.

Alternative Orange, the new casualwear line from T-shirt vendor Alternative, found a market for its jersey and linen strapless jumpers and other pieces wholesaling from $17 to $78. The key was to keep wholesale costs low enough so that retailers can mark up the retail prices by as much as three times, said sales representative Robin Cohen. In other words, she said, it was “giving them value to have a healthy margin.”