SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Following a fairly steady year in sales, creativity and new trends proved to be the deciding factor for buyers who attended the first Launch LA trade show here at the Barker Hangar, though it didn’t mean price point wasn’t on the mind.
The more than 1,000 attendees who went to the event late last month — including buyers from California-based specialty stores Kitson, Tilly’s and Fred Segal — perused some 125 booths for surf, contemporary and streetwear brands such as Maui & Sons, Loomstate and Hoodie Buddie. Organized by GLM, the White Plains, N.Y.-based company that also owns Surf Expo in Orlando, Launch LA emphasized well-dressed casual looks rooted in the California lifestyle.
Most exhibiting brands showed their summer 2012 lines and also a preview of the spring 2013 collections. However, many buyers were focused on purchases for the here-and-now market.
“We’re here to capitalize on the last bit of this summer’s business, so we placed a $5,000 order with this bracelet company, Wakami, to sell in the store immediately,” said Fraser Ross, owner of Los Angeles-based Kitson.
Courting extremely price-conscious customers, Billy Stade, who recently opened a men’s and women’s apparel store called Stade California in Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza, sought premium quality brands that retail near or less than $100. As far as trends go in high-end surf clothing, Stade said, “The Mexican blanket redone with bolder patterns and color will make a strong comeback in sportswear.”
At Launch LA, Maui & Sons previewed its spring line, which retails for between $24 and $60. Sharleen Guerieri, a buyer for Diane’s Beachwear in Torrance, Calif., ordered the entire collection for her company’s chain of 18 stores on the strength of the neon details and shorter lengths for men’s swimwear. She also placed an order for the smaller Brazilian-cut string bikini from Los Angeles’ Stone Fox Swim, which retails for between $84 and $92 apiece.
Other major trends in women’s swimwear included tribal prints, polka dots and smaller-cut bottoms with tassel details. A new California-based brand, Seea, by designer Amanda Chinchelli Greer from San Clemente, translated these new ideas into rash guards and swimwear that freely mix stripes, polka dots and a tribal pattern. Seea retails from $65 to $150.
Launch LA highlighted mostly swimwear, but on the few women’s sportswear pieces, tribal prints and neon detailing held true. Mara Hoffman, who introduced her first swimwear line for resort 2013, displayed the bright tribal trend on jersey knit and chiffon dresses that retail from $238 to $600.
Touching on the West Coast cool and relaxed trend, several men’s clothing brands went a bit more casual this season while still maintaining a well-dressed look. Rivera Club, a men’s brand from Santa Barbara, Calif., which typically exudes a more nautical vibe, introduced a new line of sun-washed shorts and collar shirts that appear more laid-back than in past collections.
In other words, said Jim Demet, president of Maui & Sons: “Neon detail and bright patterns are still just as big, especially in the surf world. Aside from that, the worn-in look seems to be important to all of the California-based brands exhibiting here.”