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LOS ANGELES — Neiman Marcus is looking west for inspiration — specifically, to California.

The Dallas-based luxury retailer, seeking to fine-tune the California market, has signed with Directives West, a Los Angeles consulting firm that works with more than 70 retailers, including Nordstrom, Federated Department Stores Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch and Tootsie’s.

Neiman Marcus, which has its in-house buying office in New York, picked Directives to better “tap into the pulse’’ of the West Coast, said Sandy Richman, a principal with Directives West.

With the Los Angeles contemporary market on fire, retailers are looking to target a younger, hipper set and capitalize on the demand for the hottest contemporary labels coming out of the city at a rapid-fire pace. Neiman’s already carries Los Angeles-based brands such as Joie, Antik, Gold Hawk and Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent.

“In the contemporary business, you can’t live without coverage of the Los Angeles market,” Richman said. “The whole premium denim market is out of California, and a lot of the hot T-shirt people, sweaters, cashmere.’’

Richman said part of the allure of the Los Angeles brands is that the city is gaining a reputation for generating fashion trends. “In a lot of cases, we are the first to begin and the first to end [the trend],” she said. “Look at embellished denim: Seven had the embellished pockets. They were the first and then everyone jumped.”

Liz Pierce, an analyst at Sanders Morris Harris, said Los Angeles designers are putting their stamp on trends that may have started on the runways of Paris, Milan or New York.

“L.A. gives it the once-over and does it the L.A. way, then it takes hold in the rest of the market,” Pierce said. “What matters is who has the staying power, and I think it’s here because you have a very eclectic community out here.”

Ann Stordahl, executive vice president and general merchandise manager for Neiman Marcus, said, “We look forward to their [Directives West] insight in the California market, and we believe that there is a great opportunity.”

This story first appeared in the March 25, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.