Split Decisions

The contemporary and young contemporary markets are divided on how to weather the recession.

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Special Issue
WWD MAGIC issue 02/03/2009

The contemporary and young contemporary markets are divided on how to weather the recession.

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

Despite a dismal holiday season and the recession’s battering on the retail industry, plenty of manufacturers aim to entice reluctant buyers with fresh, exciting product at WWDMAGIC. Such exhibitors head to Las Vegas with trend-driven items for fall that suggest that mixing it up — not playing it safe — is the way to combat perilous economic times.

Other exhibitors are sticking to what they know, focusing on key items, honing in on immediates and cutting back on new merchandise.

Whatever the strategy, buyers will see plenty of summer and fall first delivery, with lots of trend-driven variety.

“Spring business is pretty much established, and buyers are looking for bright spots at MAGIC,” said Roseanne Morrison, fashion director at the New York-based Doneger Group. “I think people will look forward to fall business at the show — and right now, in this economy, manufacturers are approaching the season with change in trends and new ideas.” For fall, an edgy punk-inspired theme carries through contemporary sportswear and dresses, with lots of slim lines and sharp edges; a modern romantic trend takes “hippie” from granola to fashion-forward; a rustic story expounds on plaids and nature-inspired prints and technical performance fabrics usher in lifestyle weekend wear that revolves around casual comfort.

In recent seasons, contemporary and young contemporary markets have trended toward feminine looks and understated detail. However, fall bursts with tough, rock ’n’ roll edge, apparent in everything from dark or black skinny jeans and shiny leggings to plain white T-shirts and motorcycle jackets.

Contemporary and young contemporary are still heavily denim-driven, according to Morrison, and these roughed-up oversize tops and Ts work well with a variety of offerings from denim lines such as Sang Real, Rock Revolution and David Kahn Jeans. Bright colors in denim were huge for spring, but this season manufacturers stick to very dark or black denim in ultraskinny cuts that work well with boots or pumps.

XCVI Wearables, a Los Angeles brand, heads to WWDMAGIC with mostly immediates and a few fall preview items. Among them is the company’s take on rocker chic — a leather jacket with ruching detail, which is a slight departure from the line’s usual mix of pared down basics.

However, the product mix hasn’t been revolutionized completely.

“We are making our line slightly less diversified in that we are sticking to our proven categories like lightweight woven bottoms and jackets for summer,” said Daniela Zeltzer, director of marketing and communications.

Asymmetrical hemlines on tops, along with ripped jeans and tons of grommets and cutouts, lend a punk feel to fall lineups. Even drapy jersey dresses are toughened up with similar detailing and paired with bright — sometimes neon — leggings or tights.

Granola and peace signs are no longer synonymous with hippie fashion, thanks to trendy sweater knits, mixed patterns and lots of fringe. This season’s extension of hippie chic is more romantic and focuses on deep color palettes, quirky paisley prints, ribbon trims and carries over to accessories such as boots and handbags.

Free People perfectly captures the trend with fringed boots, knit hats, long vests and quirky patterns on tops and dresses.

In the same vein, a romantic, woodsy trend also emerges this season, focusing on updated plaids done on tunics and shirts and paired with denim and corduroy pants. Ruffles add an unexpected visual element to the look, as do a variety of prints that focus on natural elements such as birds, tree bark and peacock feathers.

Mac & Jac, a Vancouver-based line, heads to the show with a Country Plaid group that includes an acrylic jacket and dress in an eggplant plaid pattern. The jacket, a form-fitting blazer with ruffles at the lapel and cuffs, is fully lined and is priced at $44.50 wholesale, as is the sleeveless, knee-length dress in the same group. A loose, short-sleeve cotton top in black plaid gets a boost from careful folds and is priced at $24.50 wholesale.

Oversize cardigans and sweaters are also key for fall, particularly when paired with a white T-shirt and skinny bottoms, due in part to their seasonless appeal.

Charlotte Tarantola, a Culver City, Calif. line of novelty sweaters and tops, continues to focus on its long boyfriend cardigans in rich fall colors accented with rhinestone buttons. Remaining true to its core, Charlotte Tarantola also showcases a slew of printed cardigans and tanks.

Mac & Jac is also capitalizing on the layered look with a boyfriend cardigan in black or deep green. The cotton, viscose and wool item sports a self-tie and a deep V-neck and sells for $34.50 wholesale.

The contemporary and young contemporary markets are also seeing emphasis on performance fabrics translated onto comfortable activewear that works for running errands or shopping on the weekends. Moving away from coordinated tracksuits à la Juicy Couture, brands are now offering cleaner lines, more neutral colors and stylish alternatives to baggy sweats in too-bright palettes. Fabrics like Supplex and Lycra lend a form fit and plenty of stretch and movement.

“J. Crew got into this with its yoga pants, but nobody knew about it,” said Doneger’s Morrison. “I think we’re going to see a lot of focus on these technical fabrics for fall. Manufacturers really have an opportunity there.”

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