Aiming to Please

Finding new trends to lure in retailers in tough economic times has been quite the challenge.

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WWD MAGIC issue 02/03/2009

Finding new trends to lure in retailers in tough economic times has been quite the challenge. But as the WWDMAGIC trade show preps for fall buying, women’s sportswear and dress designers are confident they have new items to please even the most fickle of shoppers.

This story first appeared in the February 3, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For the Los Angeles-based Hippie Ink, owner and designer Jennifer Ashley said she is continuing to evolve her screen-printed T-shirt designs, which have always been based on a theme of peace and love. Ashley said she is working with a lot of bright new colors to freshen up the line for fall — such as with the bright green tank with a crystal-encrusted globe on the front or the purple iPod graphic T-shirt with “Music Is My Life” printed on it.

“I’m taking that peace and love theme from the Sixties and making it modern and current,” she said. “People are so depressed about this economy, so I wanted to make sure my collection is bright and uplifting.”

Ashley said she will also have a line of cotton burnout T-shirts in colors like white, black and gray. She has super-soft cotton thermal T-shirts with an array of graphic options, such as with the bright color waterfall of hearts and peace signs, a black crystal tiger and a range of sayings including “Love Our Children, They Are the Future,” “Smile, Life Is Short” and “Love Is Not an Option.”

Ashley said she is also introducing some accessories — hats and tote bags — in order to give even more options.

“It’s so important right now to work with the customers to know exactly what it is they need from us,” Ashley said. “We have to give them a lot to chose from, but not overload them.”

The Hippie Ink collection wholesales between $30 and $45.

Jean Mercier, account executive at the New York-based Berek knitwear, said she will bring the full summer line to WWDMAGIC in addition to the fall collection. Originally known for Christmas sweaters, Mercier said they have moved far beyond those with their array of suede-fringe sweaters in colors like black and teal. There are also embossed leather jackets and lazer-cut leather jackets with mesh linings, and alligator printed jackets in colors like red, brown, black and purple. Also in leather, the company is offering a motorcycle jacket made a bit longer for an older woman who wants to have coverage around her waist.

Mercier said they also plan to introduce new shapes and treatments on jackets such as funnel-neck collars and a splashed gold metallic printed on suede. There are ruffle-front blouses, soft cotton wrap cardigans that tie in front, mesh pullovers in an array of print options and twin sweater sets in animal, floral and geometric prints, refined cowl-neck sweaters in a zebra print and beading on solid tops. The collection is available in a wide range of colors from basic black and white to bright purple, red and green.

The Berek line wholesales from $14.75 for a knit layering tank to $169 for a leather jacket.

Barbara Lesser, owner and designer of the Los Angeles-based Barbara Lesser Fibers, said she is ready to show her collection, which she sees as seasonless.

“The weather is warmer and warmer each year, so I worked to make sure I offer pieces that people can wear year-round,” she stressed.

At the show, Lesser said she will offer a range of silhouettes in lightweight fabrics such as soft cotton fleece jackets, cotton sweaters with oversize collars, bamboo velour jackets and pants and casual cotton dresses paired with cardigans featuring soft silk ruffle details. Lesser said she is working with a strong neutral color palette of chocolate brown, safari green, gray and tan, paired with a range of cool colors usually seen in summer such as jade and peach.

The Barbara Lesser Fibers line wholesales from $39 to $79.

Julie Jordan Browne, director of sales at the New York-based Nic + Zoe brand, said she is feeling extremely confident about the fall collection.

The collection includes a range of items including modern graphic floral and ethnic-inspired prints on knit sweaters, supersoft cotton and silk knit tops that feel like cashmere, knit motorcycle jackets, sweater vests and watercolor printed woven skirts. The colors include just about everything under the rainbow, from burned brick, yellow and brown to camel, gray and deep red.

Jordan Browne said they are also adding many details such as with the knit tops with woven sleeves, skirts embellished with lace and embroidery, sequins on cardigans and three-dimensional collars on sweaters.

The Nic + Zoe line wholesales between $39 and $210.

Shop Therapy owner Ron Hazel said he will have an extensive array of items at WWDMAGIC ranging from T-shirts and skirts to scarves and hats.

“Since I have four of my own stores and we manufacture everything ourselves in Asia, I know exactly what it’s like to be a retailer in these hard times,” he said. “You have to keep up when it’s slow and can’t risk a customer going to someone else.”

So the Provincetown, Mass.-based company will have a full line of embroidered and stonewashed T-shirts, tie-dyed tees with sequin accents, long gypsy skirts and multicolor patchwork hoodies. They will also have crushed-velvet drawstring handbags, patchwork messenger bags with sequin details and a range of scarves to work with the collection. The color palette is huge — pink, red, blue, green, gold — almost any and every color is seen throughout the line. The collection wholesales from $12 to $15.

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