LONDON FLIPS FOR MARTIAL ARTS LOOK

Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — The street’s gone from martial law to martial arts.
Streetwear and clubwear inspired by various forms of hand-to-hand combat and Japanese apparel was a major theme at the three-day 40 Degrees exhibition here, which ended Aug. 24.
Other trends for spring-summer 2000 included the proliferation of coated and treated fabrics; styles inspired by protective and military clothing, including the continued use of camouflage prints; embroidered and printed tops and sweatshirts, and a plethora of pants influenced by the cargo styles that have become popular over the last several seasons.
The martial arts looks were seen in crossover, tied jackets and cropped, loose pants with tie belts from such designers as the New York-based Slinky Vagabond and Anti-Dote and in the “Japanese cowboy meets British geisha” wraparound styles at All Saints.
The Japanese theme also was picked up by many designers in prints on tops, dresses and pants. For example, No Pain-No Gain, a three-year-old line from London, showed tops with Japanese-style tattoo prints or cherry blossom prints and bamboo buttons.
Designers said the return to the past for inspiration stemmed partially from all the futuristic styles already out there.
“So many people are doing futuristic clothing that I thought it would be interesting to do that but interpret it through history,” said Keanan Duffty, owner and designer of Slinky Vagabond, which was launched last season and sold to such stores as Fred Segal and Louis of Boston.
Duffty, who is showing at WWDMAGIC in Las Vegas this week, drew from Elizabethan knights as well as karate for his inspiration for spring 2000, with ruched collars on coated cotton jackets; a denim jacket similar to a fencing top, and zip sides on sleeveless tops similar to tunics.
While many of Slinky Vagabond’s styles are unisex, Duffty said he will extend the line to include women’s wear for fall 2000. He also plans to continue looking to the past for his ideas. The initial women’s wear line, he said, will be inspired by Joan of Arc.
The retro feeling at 40 Degrees also was evident in the mass of embroidered and printed tops and pants inspired by old school styles.
Blue Marlin, the San Francisco casualwear line, was showing at 40 Degrees for the second time as part of its plan to build its European sales. The line, which initially focused on old baseball team logos, is expanding for spring 2000 with tops embroidered with the words Kingston and Cuba and with the logos of the former women’s baseball league in the U.S. It also is increasing the focus on its own brand with tops and pants embroidered or printed with Blue Marlin.
Another retro line at 40 Degrees was Original Issue, a subsidiary of Pangea Sport that focuses on vintage-look sweats and tops with the logos of such schools as Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge. The line initially was unisex but for spring it has introduced women’s cuts in tops and bottoms, said Dan Mirman, its production director.
But looking to the past doesn’t mean the future isn’t out there. Exhibitors continued to emphasize techno-fabrics, ranging from coated cottons and linens to shiny, metallic styles in microfibers. There also was a sea of zips — heavy zip trims on jackets and tops, hidden zips on bags and tops at Boxfresh and styles that unzipped long pantlegs to short ones or converted pants into a bag, as seen at Conscious Earthwear and Pepe Jeans.
Denim remained an important fabric at the show, which marked the second showing of the new Engineered Jeans line from Levi Strauss. The company, which launched Engineered Jeans at Inter-Jeans this month, was a new exhibitor at 40 Degrees.
Other key denim lines at the show included Pepe, which showed its Truesize line in a new ultradark denim; Dave & Joe, with its skirts, cropped pants and dresses in an acid-washed look, and Studio 20, where the denim came with vintage trimmings from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.
The exhibition, launched by Emap Fashion seven seasons ago, was the largest ever, with more than 500 brands, and large contingents of exhibitors and buyers from Continental Europe, the U.S. and Japan. Exhibitors said the first day of the show was extremely busy but that traffic trailed off over the next two days. Emap Fashion does not release attendance figures for 40 Degrees.
While they generally were pleased with the orders they received at the show, some exhibitors complained that 40 Degrees is becoming so large that it’s losing its initial focus on hot, young streetwear and clubwear brands that aren’t shown anywhere else. They claimed the event risked becoming too mainstream, pointing to the presence of such megabrands as Levi’s, Converse, French Connection and Virgin Clothing.
“The feeling is that 40 Degrees is in a bit of a lull,” said Wade Bayllis, owner and designer of Sun & Sand, the cotton jersey line of tops, skirts and swimwear that has shown at 40 Degrees for the last five seasons. “It’s all becoming watered down. There needs to be another influx of newer, edgier lines to give it another kick.”