STREETWEAR VENDORS DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE ABOUT THE ECONOMY. THEIR PREDICTION FOR 2002? IT’S GONNA BE DOPE.

Celebrity endorsements, e-commerce applications, price adjustments and “happy” clothes are some of the strategies that vendors of young and hip lines are implementing in order to boost business.

Add to that the fact that stores are going to need to replenish their stocks after months of holding off, and it’s not surprising that the majority of vendors anticipate a strong season.

“It’s been great so far,” said Guy Brand, vice president of Los Angeles-based Fine, which produces Super Lovers, Lover House and Hello Kitty. So great, in fact, that prices are higher because of superior quality fabrics — and customers are responding well, nonetheless.

“We are working hard to make it fun, and it’s always stuff we believe in,” he said. It helps also that Fine’s following at The Edge is a loyal one and made up predominantly of what he described as “the new mom-and-pop stores.” Still, in order to stay on top of the game, he also has to respond to the new urgency in the market.

“Customers always want us to ship yesterday,” he said. “That’s why we make goods ahead of time — we can ‘guesstimate’ who will be ordering what.”

Other vendors were equally upbeat. Dana Rand, director of marketing of Montreal-based Itsus, said the tide seemed to have turned immediately after the new year. “Naturally, everyone was nervous after September and that affected us, but it’s been picking up ever since,” said Rand. “There has been a change in attitude, and everyone seems to want to move forward.”

That change of attitude should also be reflected in the clothes; Rand believes that the key to generating sales is in producing “feel-good” clothes.

“We’re not putting skulls on anything,” she quipped. “The product is bright, cheerful, happy.”

Ben Schacter, founder of Ben Ryan Clothing in Los Angeles, said buyers and the end-consumer were now much more selective about their purchases — which puts additional pressure on vendors to come up with interesting, appealing merchandise.

“I’m being as creative as possible,” he said. “I’m putting a lot more effort into having a really solid line. Instead of having, say, 10 good pieces and then filling it in, I’m making every piece worth something.”

Elsewhere, vendors are expanding their customer base by opening up e-commerce. Carlo Gholami, owner and designer of Couture, The Clothing Co., which is based in Los Angeles, said business via his firm’s couturecc.com Web site was “exploding.” “I’m getting clients now from places that I didn’t know existed,” he said.

Last year, the company recorded a 150 percent jump in business, despite a slow last quarter, he said.

“If things went up a further 50 percent this year, we’d be happy,” he said. “We have increased our prices around 5 to 7 percent, but as long as the customer knows the product, they are happy to pay a few dollars more. And we are selling to more stores this year than last.”

At New York-based Nukwear, co-owner Michael McMillan said: “Our biggest challenge is making sure we have the financing in place once orders are in.” He added: “When taking orders at a show, some customers are not used to putting down a deposit. If they cancel, the risk is in our hands. We are trying to protect ourselves in this industry. If we ask for a deposit, some customers balk, while others offer us financing up front.”

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