LOS ANGELES — Will the real bohemian please stand up? Despite the refrain from many retailers that the ubiquitous look is so yesterday, it seemed alive and well for the juniors category this week at the majors market, a trade show focusing on junior brands, at the California Market Center. Trend consultant office Directives West showed everything from gypsy skirts and embellished tunics to flouncy tops at their runway show on Monday.
But despite a regurgitation of many of last spring’s strong trends, the look was noticeably cleaned up with a lot less embellishment. Victorian and military-inspired looks emerged strongly. Most noticeably, denim took a back seat, with buyers consistently singing the praises of dresses, bubble skirts and gauchos, which were seen in everything from sorbet hues to stronger turquoise and orange colors.
“I think bohemian is still important, but it has become more ethnic-centered,” said Siiri Dougherty, divisional merchandise manager for J.C. Penney Co. Inc. “And the resurgence of femininity is really refreshing.”
Indeed, it was a welcome direction for many buyers. “I was surprised to see how many dresses were at the [Directives West fashion] show,” said Stan Friedlander, a buyer for Macy’s Northwest.
Los Angeles’ Hot Kiss increased the number of dresses to make up at least 20 percent of its spring collection, up from 5 to 10 percent a year ago. Hot Kiss also unveiled a division called Emphasis, which will be positioned between junior-focused Hot Kiss and sister contemporary brand Jak & Rae, to compete against the likes of To The Max. Hot Kiss founder Moshe Tsabag forecast that Emphasis, which is designed and managed by the Jak & Rae team, will generate $10 million in first-year wholesale sales.
Vendors ranging from BB Dakota to Self-Esteem offered versions of bubble skirts that puffed up at the mid-thigh or knee. “It’s a nice replacement to the miniskirt,” said Cheryl Pellegrini, a buyer for Filene’s in Boston, who said her store will likely test bubble skirts before rolling them out.
Another word that rolled off of many buyers’ tongues was “gauchos.”
“Gauchos are going to be a huge item,” said Jeff Goodfriend, divisional merchandise manager for Goody’s Family Clothing Inc. Goodfriend was bullish about business for spring, but he acknowledged the hurricanes and sky-high gas prices have taken their toll on business.
“I think that you’re looking at spring as the next chance to have a shot at improving business, because holiday is unlikely,” said Goodfriend, who hopes the strong feminine trends will help drive sales.
On Sunday, Barbara Fields Buying Office guided 340 buyers from stores such as Belk and Gottschalks through a dozen spring trends, ranging from Victorian lace blouses to T-shirts emblazoned with skulls.
“With a record number of buyers in attendance, this was our strongest year to date,” said Fields. “In addition to the biggest names in the industry, we also welcomed many hot new stores for the first time to the majors market, including Dots and Rue 21.”
Mari Horn, who buys sweaters and jewelry for plus-sized retailer Lane Bryant, said she came to the junior-focused market to make sure the Reynoldsburg, Ohio-based company’s product development department wasn’t missing any trends. She said she also wanted to check on the importance of crosses, pendant necklaces and long multiple strands that are worn together.
Denim isn’t usually as popular in the spring as it is in the fall. Anne Modliszewski, West Coast sales representative for Doki Geki and Street Denim, said that while denim will always sell, the market has become a little saturated. “People are looking for the next new brand,” she said.
One brand launched at this market for spring was Ilin from Los Angeles’ It Jeans. Ilin, which means “beloved” in Chinese, will retail from $26 to $44 in 50 styles, including five-pocket jeans, gauchos and Bermuda shorts. Kimmy Song, the chief executive officer of It Jeans, said the prices for junior-focused Ilin will help it stand out. “It’s all about value,” she said.
Coming off slow sales for long denim pants in July and August, Bongo Jeans diversified for spring by offering various nondenim styles, including rip-stop, poplin, gauchos and camouflage prints.
“Our spring orders have been off the chart,” said Jimmy Tate, ceo of the Miami-based Iconix unit, which yields $70 million in annual wholesale volume.
As for tops, Self-Esteem ceo Richard Clareman said gold-embellished tops were losing favor because they don’t pair well with utilitarian or camouflage-print bottoms. T-shirts with sublimation prints and vests were top sellers for BB Dakota. Gloria Brandes, the designer of Irvine, Calif.-based BB Dakota, said the vest can be interpreted as the new blazer.
While gold may be going by the wayside, Directives West is planning a little glitz for its runway show on Oct. 20, during the contemporary market week.
The show, which will be located at the California Market Center’s fifth-floor atrium, will feature model and new boutique owner Niki Taylor walking the runway. Some of the scheduled designer appearances at the show include Paige Adams-Geller from Paige Premium denim, Allen Schwartz and Cynthia Vincent. And if showgoers are really lucky, they might be treated to a finale with singer Macy Gray. Sources said the singer is in talks to close the show.