LOS ANGELES — At the Los Angeles Majors Market, buyers from major department stores and national chains including Nordstrom, Macy’s and Tilly’s sought to up the fashion quotient in juniors tops, denim and a slew of other clothing categories in an effort to distinguish themselves from fast-fashion retailers and drive teen customers to stores.
At the three-day show at the California Market Center, retailers discussed two key trends: Bohemian looks that relied on volume and romantic flourishes, and geeky-chic, characterized by preppy skirts and shirts. At the Directives West fashion show, buyers soaked up key trends including flare jeans, feminine blouses, fur trim and open cardigans.
Heading to fall, Kirklan Wells, a buyer for the Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based 120-store chain Styles for Less, pointed to boxy sweaters, ponchos and maxi skirts as pieces that could be essential sellers during the season. “The maxi skirt trend is a little forward for juniors, but I definitely think it is going to be important,” she said.
Hannah Du, divisional merchandise manager for Billabong-owned Swell.com, which is based in San Clemente, Calif., said the color palette is getting softer. “I am seeing newness in browns and tans versus blacks and grays,” she said.
In the price-conscious juniors segment, rising retail prices resulting from escalating sourcing and energy costs were on the minds of retailers and vendors at the market. “She loves a good bargain, but yet she wants to be on trend,” said Wells of the Styles for Less juniors customer. “If it is the right product, she will buy it at any price, [but] if you are going high at retail, it needs to be wow, fabulous, amazing.”
For fall and holiday, Du anticipated prices increasing by $5 to $10 on some items, but she wasn’t overly concerned. “As long as the product is great, we don’t have to worry about price resistance,” she said, citing the popularity of dresses nearing $200 from Ella Moss and swimwear nearing $250 at Mara Hoffman on Swell.com. “The attention to detail is really important. If there is a lot of print and pattern and, overall, it is not just simple and there is a lot of detailing, that warrants a higher price point,” she said.
“Everybody now, from Kohl’s to J.C. Penney, they want fashion,” said Katie Leytus, a sales executive at Self Esteem in Montebello, Calif. “They feel it’s what’s getting their girl into the store.”
To emphasize that point, Self Esteem spruced up tops in a number of ways while keeping wholesale prices under $10. It updated stripes in poncho bodies with fringe trim tweaked athletic wear such as French terry sweatshirts with animal-print sleeves and dyed polyester chiffon in cobalt blue, marigold and burnt orange.
For $10 to $12 at wholesale, Los Angeles’ Miken Clothing offered a variety of blouses, including a polyester chiffon number enhanced with lace and the skinny belt, which is becoming a key outfit maker.
Several jeans brands pinned their hopes on flare denim as a new silhouette to update teens’ closets that have been dominated by skinny styles and leggings. Los Angeles-based YMI increased its offerings of flare jeans, which measured as wide as 23 inches in the leg opening, by 15 percent and unveiled a new group of trousers retailing for between $42 and $48. New York’s Dollhouse widened the leg openings for styles retailing for $48 to 26 inches. Vanilla Star Jeans, also based in New York, displayed a flare style that hugs the leg down to the knee and then kicks open.
“The flare is helping boost denim,” said Ira Spiegel, Dollhouse’s vice president of sales, adding that he’s confident teen customers will adopt flares more quickly than they did skinny jeans. “It’s not a contemporary trend. It’s a juniors trend.”
Several juniors companies capitalized on retailers’ demand for freshness by launching new businesses.
YMI introduced lingerie produced under license by Madison Avenue Intimates. Wholesaling from $2 to $3 for individual bras and panties and from $4.50 to $6 for sets, the line will expand to include sleepwear and robes.
Andrew and Barbara Strasmore left Fire Jeans as president and creative director, respectively, last November to launch Band of Gypsies, a Bohemian line of printed dresses, tunics with batwing sleeves and palazzo pants, for fall. Retailing from $15 to $45, Band of Gypsies, which is owned by Los Angeles’ Unger Fabrik, has already been picked up by British e-tailer Asos.com.
Los Angeles’ It Jeans widened the launch of its new juniors brand, SONG, for fall. First tested by Nordstrom last August, SONG unveiled 20 styles retailing for $38 to $48 for fall. In addition to flare jeans and belted twill trousers, there were slouchy slim jeans with a dropped crotch and black skinny jeans embellished with black metal stars on the back yoke.
“There isn’t anything new and exciting for the juniors girl,” said Julie Divine, SONG’s vice president of sales. “We see this as an opportunity.”