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LAS VEGAS — Uncertainty about retail prospects for the rest of the year hung over the apparel trade shows here as questions about consumer spending mounted, but retail buyers and apparel vendors aimed to entice shoppers with strong color statements and new silhouettes.
This story first appeared in the August 26, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Avoiding making risky investments, the majority of retailers scouting brands at WWDMAGIC, ENK Vegas, Capsule, Stitch, Pool, Liberty and the other expos weren’t thinking beyond holiday. Tess Labeth, owner of the boutique Savoir-Faire in Fayetteville, Ark., concentrated on September, October and November deliveries. “We are in fall mode,” she said, adding that her customers “buy for now.”
Neal Click, international sales manager for Laundry by Shelli Segal, said, “Right now, people are looking for immediates. They did go ahead and pick up resort. They are not ready for spring yet. People are buying closer to season and chasing the business.”
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Price remained a big issue. The delicate balance of offering fashion at a price was in stark display — if not in extreme examples — at the Las Vegas trade shows. On one end, the trends needed to be up-to-the-minute fresh and bargain-priced to compete with fast-fashion retailers. On the other, designers could pile on the details and treatments, especially on denim, to lure consumers to crack open their wallets for special pieces that topped $300 and even $400 at retail.
“The price is very important,” said Jack Hara, president of New York-based junior brand Yoki, which wholesaled end-of-season metallic polyurethane jackets for $8 apiece.
Some designers honed their pricing strategy to allow big mark-ups for retailers. Chip Foster, cofounder of denim brand Chip & Pepper, set the wholesale prices for his namesake denim label launching this fall at between $55 and $60 so that store owners can make a healthy profit that’s two-and-a-half to three times the cost.
Annabelle Lee, designer of junior brand See You Monday in Los Angeles, reduced some of her profit margins in order to keep her made-in-USA line wholesaling between $5 and $48. “You have to be more reasonable than ever [with pricing],” she said. “If I make something special, bold and edgy and I keep [the price] reasonable, why wouldn’t you buy it?”
Despite worries about consumer appetites for purchases, emerging brands reported they got a fair shake. Tanisha Brown, director of sales and operations at Atlanta-based Sylvia Mollie, which presented 14 pieces priced from $38 to $90 in the Launchpad area of WWDMAGIC, said, “A lot of the boutiques are entertaining it. They are very open. They like the sleekness and edginess of the designs.”
While the junior and young contemporary brands were immersed in Nineties grunge, shrouded in slouchy open-knit sweaters, plaid and anarchical motifs such as studs and torn fabrics, the denim labels harked back to the Seventies with flared legs and soft blue dyes. Prints stayed on the scene, and photorealistic images caught the attention of buyers. While novel patterns gave new life to leggings, jeans got baggy. Sweatpants transformed into luxe sport thanks to soft fabrics such as silk and sheer panels exposing the thighs and knees. Black and white proved a popular pairing for the palette.
Randi Siegal, owner of Rapunzel’s Closet in Palm Beach, Fla., gravitated to the sweatpants offerings. “This new sweatpant is dressy. You can wear it out. I think this is a new thing that people are going to want in their wardrobes. It is a great new body,” she said. Discussing the trends overall, she elaborated, “The colors are strong. It is not so glitzy and over-the-top. I think the clothes that we have been seeing are a little bit more conservative, but more fitted, which is great.”
Certainly, the relentless turnover of trends posed the biggest challenge for designers.
“It’s going so fast,” said Tiffany Ferguson, designer of Los Angeles junior brand Ci Sono. “I feel like it’s changing every day.”
Mood: Nine months following Advanstar Global’s acquisition of ENK International, the identities of Project and ENK Vegas — former competitors and now sibling brands — were more clearly shaped at the latest edition in Las Vegas. Project, along with its offshoots known as The Tents (high-end contemporary) and MVMNT (skate and surf), concentrated on men’s brands, while ENK Vegas hosted all the women’s contemporary and young-designer labels. Project displayed its foundation in premium denim by placing big, bustling booths run by AG Adriano Goldschmied, Hudson Jeans, Joe’s Jeans, Paige Denim and True Religion in the front entrance on the first floor of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Located outside of the building in what resembled fashion glamping, or glamorous camping, The Tents featured a smattering of women’s looks, mostly shown as part of dual-gender denim businesses, including J Brand, Citizens of Humanity and Levi’s Made & Crafted.
Key Trends: After multiple seasons of bright pop colors and vibrant prints for women’s denim, designers dipped back into indigo for spring. The Seventies, in particular, served as inspiration for shades of medium blue, wider leg openings and soft, drapy materials for tops. Fabric and technology also played integral roles in making jeans. Los Angeles’ J Brand began turning its attention to fabric for fall, when it introduced a trio of denim fabrics and one new sateen textile, the most for introductions at a time. “[Fabric is] more important than wash; it’s more important than print,” said J Brand chief executive officer Jeff Rudes, although J Brand saved its new spring collection for Coterie in New York.
Show Buzz: Project maintained its status as the premier stage to unveil new lines. Making its debut at The Tents after three years of participating in ENK Vegas, Huntington Park, Calif.-based Citizens of Humanity introduced a women’s subbrand called Premium Vintage for spring, offering two jackets, two shirts and 11 styles of jeans retailing from $228 to $350.
Best in Show: Los Angeles-based Seven For All Mankind continued its fall collaboration with French textile mill Malhia Kent into spring with updates on three jeans and one jacket, including a $455 skinny ankle-zip style that popped with a textured weave of Lurex and sky-blue threads on the front leg panels. Channeling rocker Jimi Hendrix, Hudson wrapped zippers around skinny indigo cotton jeans that unwound to reveal black suede flare panels. It’s fitting that City of Commerce, Calif.-based Hudson will photograph the $350 jeans in Morocco for its new spring ad campaign with rock progeny Georgia May Jagger. — Khanh T.L. Tran
Mood: Just as consumers have modified their shopping habits as a result of the Great Recession, so have women’s retailers at trade fairs. Several brands ranging from Clover Canyon to KAS New York showed nothing at ENK Vegas that would ship after resort. They saved spring collections for Coterie in September. The contemporary sector was highly concerned with price points. According to some exhibitors, the international representation from countries such as Japan was strong among buyers, and there was a notable contingency from the West Coast and Southern region of the U.S., but major retailers such as Anthropologie were missing.
The trade-show business has evolved to enhance attendees’ experience on the floor and supply services that can help boost sales. When not offering complementary nail-polish changes, Butter London representatives promoted its new cosmetics line that will undergo a wide launch Oct. 1, after exclusive distribution through Ulta. Boutiika, a year-old technology company from San Francisco, met with more than 50 retailers who were interested in its software that not only enabled e-commerce sales but also allowed shoppers to view a brick-and-mortar store’s inventory and reserve clothes to try on in the dressing room.
Key Trends: The booths were awash in tints of sky and cornflower blue as well as combinations of black and white. In many instances, blue fabric was bleached to yield a soft hand in icy white. Prints evoked nature as seen in Tahitian tropics, flowers and dragonflies. The trend for luxe sport inspired easy dressing via drapy pants, shorts and varsity jackets. Even Siwy Jeans, known for its tight skinny styles, loosened its silhouettes with flare legs and a version of slim boyfriend jeans.
Show Buzz: The number of brands exhibiting at ENK Vegas increased to 520 this August from 500 a year ago. To help buyers discover the new and noteworthy, ENK Vegas designated a section in the front of the show as Oasis, spotlighting 41 brands, including Tom Ford Eyewear, Calvin Rucker, In My Air and Kain Label, which were compatible in terms of pricing and aesthetics.
Best in Show: Calvin Rucker from Los Angeles stood out from the pack of boyfriend jeans with its $335 rendition that’s made of Italian selvage in a vintage wash and featured double belt loops to better show off accessories. San Clemente, Calif.-based Seea melded fashion and surfwear into $120 cropped swim tanks and $90 high-waisted bottoms crafted from gold and magenta Neoprene and intricately woven spandex. Los Angeles’ In My Air mixed recycled denim and black-and-white patent leather sleeves for a varsity jacket wholesaling for $160. — K.T.L.T.
Mood: Pool can seem like the forgotten stepchild in the MAGIC milieu. It has less established, sometimes quirky brands and several vendors lamented buyer traffic was spotty. However, they praised the relative inexpense of exhibiting at Pool and were pleased that retail buyers walking neighboring ENK stopped by.
Key Trends: Pool is a good platform for novelty brands aimed at retailers looking to appeal to shoppers with impulse gift items. This go-round, socks with sayings, splashy colors and striking prints for some reason took center stage. Sweet Marcel, Gumball Poodle and Sock It to Me were among the sock brands. Pool remained a hotbed for companies with eco underpinnings. Sustainable clothing brand Make It Good presented $22 T-shirts, $27 tanks, $24 miniskirts and $36 dresses with arrow prints. First World Trash demonstrated that PVC used for billboards could be turned into accessories retailing from $9 to $180.
Show Buzz: Jewelry exhibitors, especially those with dainty and intricate designs, attracted attention at Pool. One jewelry brand, Joyo, made its trade-show debut with laser-cut wood pieces wholesaling mostly from $17.50 to $32.50. Another jewelry brand, Marida, showcased its feminine, yet edgy pieces, including $12.50 14-karat-gold fill rings with hematite beads and $23 14-karat-gold fill necklaces with aquamarine, labradorite, moonstone and lapis lazuli stones.
Best in Show: Plenty of upstart apparel brands set up shop at Pool. Sabrina McMillian, a sales rep for the brand Hi Expectation, said it’s a valuable place for them because buyers come there full of curiosity. Hi Expectation was doing its best to pique that curiosity with dresses from $42 to $55 featuring retro, California-inspired prints. Ren, a brand from designer Jing Ren, exhibited two collections: a cotton, linen and silk line dubbed L&C priced primarily from $30 to $110, and a limited-edition collection of silk pieces dubbed Studio priced from $300 to more than $500. Designer Jin Seo brought 51 Inc., a brand retailing predominantly from $100 to $600 that bridges ready-to-wear and activewear, to Pool for the first time. Talking about 51 Inc.’s best-selling drawstring skinny pants, she said, “I designed it as an easy-to-wear tight for yoga, Pilates and the studio, but women have gravitated to wearing it as a ready-to-wear piece. It’s a great convertible piece.” — Rachel Brown
Mood: Liberty Trade Fairs’ Las Vegas debut hosted about 380 brands. The cardboard-and-wood booths made for a laid-back, workshoplike vibe and the contemporary denim-heavy show also featured accessories, eyewear and footwear. Traffic was steady.
Key Trends: In women’s denim, boyfriend jeans with drop crotches, cropped styles, distressed vintage denim, jacquard, patchwork and other textures looked fresh. In sportswear, perforated leather at Closed and Skingraft, photo prints at Joyrich and Eight to Four and Navajo-inspired textiles at Pendleton translated onto sweaters and silk dresses in its Portland Collection.
Buzz: Women’s clothing occupied a small percentage of the floor, but there was little overlap in styles, allowing each line to stand out.
Best in Show: Closed’s perforated leather jacket for $580 and G-Star Raw’s Type C jean for $86.
— Marcy Medina
Mood: The California-based surf, skate and streetwear show brought a raucous atmosphere to the Sands Expo, where a mermaid in a giant tank and a carnival provided entertainment on the show floor. Beachy brands like Hang Ten Gold, Hurley, RVCA and Vans mingled with clubby looks from WeSC, Just Hype and LATHC.
Key Trends: Photo-printed T-shirts, tank tops and accessories, graphic swimwear, oversize sunglasses with mirrored lenses.
Buzz: Grammy-winning hip-hop and R&B artist Pharrell Williams caused a minor mob scene when he made an appearance at the booth for his brand, Billionaire Boys Club.
Best in Show: Lira’s reversible tiger-print bikinis for $36 and Civil’s graffiti-print nylon moto-style jacket for $90. — M.M.
Mood: The mood was cozy and intimate, owing to a new location in a Venetian hotel ballroom with plush carpeting and flattering chandelier lighting.
Key Trends: Soft colors such as peach, baby blue and aqua, delicate jewelry and smaller prints, from hand-drawn wildflowers to abstract photo patterns.
Buzz: A one-stop shop for boutique buyers looking for smaller contemporary labels like 10 Corso, Sloane & Tate, Loup, Althea Harper and Just Female.
Best in Show: Christine Alcalay’s delicate lace-back silk tops and dresses ($219 to $379), Gabriela Artigas’ rose and yellow gold tusk jewelry ($80 to $560). — M.M.
Mood: The buyers were focused on orders during the two-day show, which hosted high-end lingerie labels like Chantelle and Lou and swim brands from California, Miami and Colombia.
Key Trends: In lingerie, lace and mesh in shades of coral, watermelon, vibrant blues and aquas and floral-printed silks. In swim, lingerie-inspired adjustable straps, lace-up backs and three-quarter bra styles, plus athletic tops with smaller bottoms.
Buzz: Several new swim lines made their debut at the show, including Mia Marcelle, Ladaska Mechelle, Eniqua and Pitahaya.
Best in Show: Atelier Va Bien’s Lily Dream bustier ($129) and L Space by Monica Wise’s Cozumel print bikini separates ($28 to $55). — M.M.
Mood: Buyer traffic appeared up over the last few seasons and several brands expanded their booths.
Key Trends: Tribal-inspired necklaces featuring horn, wood and fabric, stacking rings, black-and-white bags.
Buzz: Well-priced offerings were plentiful and on-trend.
Best in Show: Zenji’s black-and-white chevron Lucite box clutch ($74), Whitley V’s gold-plated brass necklaces ($28 to $60) and Cool and Interesting’s mismatched dangle earrings ($28). — M.M.
Mood: Long-standing relationships and appointments make this less of a discovery and more of a get-down-to-business show.
Key Trends: Shades of orange and turquoise, white dresses, black-and-white stripes and handkerchief hems.
Buzz: Classic sportswear staples ground the show, but trendier dresses and tops seemed more prevalent this season.
Best in Show: Ravel’s multicolored swirl sequined minidress for $37 and Julia Jordan’s white stretch lace chevron dress for $89. — M.M.
Mood: Vendors felt the number of small retailers at WWIN was flat to down from past seasons, but the retailers that did attend were serious about placing orders.
Key Trends: If many of the exhibitors and buyers at the Las Vegas apparel trade shows stuck to fall and holiday, WWIN was an exception. It clearly looked like spring in the aisles as bright oranges, pinks and blues cheered up assortments. At the rayon jersey specialist Modesce, turquoise was a top pick from among the 27 colors offered. Alison Sheri showed dresses awash in orange and pink.
Buzz: Comfortable items with a fashion twist were key at WWIN. Flora Ashley spotlighted a lightweight cold-shoulder sweater for $32. Chalet focused on crinkle tunics priced from $30 to $39.
Best in Show: Cartise displayed a spring collection full of stripes, animal prints, polka dots and floral patterns in a sea of strong spring hues. The brand’s price range is largely $60 to $160. “We’re concentrated on easy-to-wear, versatile styles that are still fashionable,” said Cartise chief executive officer Gadi Padan. “Last spring, we were doing more niche items that weren’t for everybody.” — R.B.