WWDMAGIC: A BOOM IN BOTTOMS

Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio / Kristi Ellis

LAS VEGAS — Bottoms were the tops.
After a year and a half of fashion newness coming from above the waist, from bateau necklines to shirts with three-quarter sleeves, buyers at WWDMAGIC were focusing on all the pants silhouettes, as well as varying treatments.
That means faded jeans are back in and dark denim is over. Floods are the new fashion silhouette; capris have become basic. And the news in embellishments is border trims, from fringes to beaded looks.
Other main attractions at WWDMAGIC, held here at the Sands Expo, were the continued popularity of utilitarian styles, such as pants and jackets with Velcro closures, cargo treatments and toggles. Abercrombie & Fitch-inspired cotton and nylon blend pants and shorts were also evident in many of the lines.
The show, which ended its four-day run on Sept. 2, was held concurrently with three other trade events, the MAGIC men’s wear show, MAGIC Kids, and The Edge, women’s and men’s streetwear.
WWDMAGIC offered approximately 1,000 exhibitors, taking up a total of 188,500 square feet. As reported, although the total number of exhibitors was down compared with last year, existing vendors expanded into more space and the overall square footage rose, according to Laura McConnell, sales manager of MAGIC International. She said the ratio of booths per exhibitor increased from 1.6 to 2.1 booths.
The offerings were diverse. Fashions ranged from the traditional, such as soft career suitings from Harve Benard and collared knit shirts from Gillman Knitwear, to funkier designs, such as Miss Sixty’s jeans, which turn pink in natural sunlight. Christina USA Swimwear pitched its trademarked push-up Aqua Bra.
The streetwear. fashions were reserved for The Edge, which housed 225 exhibitors and presented urban skater, rockabilia — or Fifties-inspired trends — and Gothic styles. The last edition, which was held in February, had 150 resources.
Clearly, youth continued to rule the show, with junior and contemporary resources the fastest-growing areas, according to McConnell. And the attitude infiltrated the moderate and better areas, reflecting an overall industry trend.
“In general, it continues to be an exciting time for women’s and juniors. There is so much freshness going on, so much excitement,” said Conrad Szymanski, president of Bealls Department Stores, a Bradenton, Fla.-based 66-store chain.
“Certainly, we had been kind of stuck in a rut; now, we have a lot of things capturing our female,” he said.
That’s why Bealls has devoted more corporate resources to trend analysis over the past year. “Our product development used to just focus on sourcing; now we are focusing on sourcing, design and trends,” Szymanski added.
Major changes are occurring in women’s wardrobes, he said. For one, women are wearing capris to work.
Tom Burns, executive vice president of the Doneger Group, which conducted trend seminars for retailers at both WWDMAGIC and MAGIC, also cited the abundance of fashion styles, adding, “There is definitely a junior influence on the moderate area.”
He said embroidery, nylon and stretch fabrics are all over the market.
Many exhibitors used the show to break new lines, including fast-growing Fubu Women’s, which is expanding beyond urban streetwear. into clubwear, athleticwear and licensed footwear for fall-holiday deliveries; Mudd Jeans, which unveiled its new clubwear line, to be in stores for holiday, and Sigrid Olsen, the better resource, which introduced a new collection called Pink Label, eveningwear separates that will be in stores for March selling.
Meanwhile, Mental Ink, the design studio that recently acquired the license to MGM Studio’s Pink Panther, created a buzz at the show with its logo-driven junior sportswear, including print tops with poodle-knit or sheer sleeves, fur jeans and 3-D screen-print tops. The collection makes its debut in October.
For the most part, regional chains and specialty stores were the ones placing the orders, concentrating on fill-ins for fall and getting a jump on spring. Executives from major stores, such as Dillards Department Stores, J.C. Penney and Kmart, said they were using the show to network with existing resources, as well as to get a read on the fashion barometer.
There was a sizable contingent of international retailers, including Dublin-based Dunnes Stores Ireland, a 126-store family department store chain, which was on the hunt for new labels, and Mexico’s Liverpool, which was seeking new junior and contemporary resources.
“America is the most innovative when it comes to fashion,” said Maria McGovern, U.S. research manager at Dunnes Stores, who was looking at high tech fashions from young new resources to complement the store’s Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren offerings. Creating a new layer of customers was a slew of Internet companies, including Boo.com, Fashionclick.com, Shoppingmall.com and Shoppingtheworld.com, which will launch later this month.
“We went basically to look at new vendors and to strengthen our relationships with existing vendors,” said Manoj Murjani, executive vice president of fashion at Hipo.com, a destination site for teens.
The five-member team met with 40 to 50 vendors, including existing resources such as Dollhouse, Tag Rag and Phat Farm.
Steve Madden and surf sportswear resource Body Code were among exhibitors to display their cyber technology at the show. Steve Madden showcased its web site, which currently sells 75 styles of shoes, while Body Code pitched its business-to-business e-commerce program, launched officially at the event. Lee Alpern, Body Code’s vice president of sales, said the site should enable the Santa Fe Springs, Calif., firm to pick up another layer of business from specialty stores that don’t have big travel budgets.
A number of retail and apparel executives said the show offered a good opportunity to network with their suppliers. Paul R. Charron, chairman of Liz Claiborne Inc., made the rounds at WWDMAGIC and MAGIC, visiting his new stable of brands, such as Lucky Jeans, Sigrid Olsen, DKNY Jeans and Kenneth Cole, for which the company will be doing its licensed junior and contemporary collections next fall. The Claiborne executive also said he was on the hunt for potential acquisitions.
“I’m looking to see where the buzz is,” said Charron.
“Our new thrust is the junior business. So we wanted to see what was happening,” said Cindy Sapienza, vice president of women’s at Kmart Corp., which sent a denim buyer and a junior buyer to the trade show.
Sapienza added that she was meeting with several junior resources to develop private label programs. The chain plans to test flood pants — where the hemline is about two inches above the ankle — this fall in juniors as well as in misses’. She added that the misses’ area has been strong, particularly in plus sizes.
“We pretty much have our resource base. We were there mostly to look and see whether we were on trend, and it reinforced what we had seen,” said Chuck Foughty, president of women’s at J.C. Penney, who visited such resources as Fubu, LEI and Mudd. “There are a lot of fast fabric innovations going on. There’s a lot of techno, stretch, cotton nylon,” said Foughty.
Other trends he expects will be important are Hippie Chic, such as the embroidery on linens and details on bottoms, and pants with drawstrings and Velcro closures.
“We see a lot more brighter colors, embroidery, embellishments on white in misses’ sizes,” Foughty said. “The misses’ area is getting younger.”
He added that he is showing all pant lengths, including shorts, capris and floods, in both misses’ and juniors.
Meanwhile, regional department stores and specialty chains were placing orders at the show.
“For me, in my position, it is a way of getting an overview of a lot of things,” said Bealls’ Szymanski. “But we do send some people there to buy, for resort season.”
The show helped solidify Bealls’ position on cotton and nylon blend pants as well as jeans with embroidered ribbon trims, he said. He added that a big growth potential is junior career looks.
“I am interested in mostly logowear,” said Nicky Peterson, buyer at Chinook Winds, Lincoln City, Ore., who had placed orders for resortwear from By Taylor, cotton sweaters from Painted Pony and logowear from Times Square.
Jeanine Suna Smith, owner of Three Moons, in Concord, Calif., was on the hunt for swimwear brands that appealed to women over 40. She said she was looking at Carol Wior and Jantzen.
Naomi Alper and Gator McKinley, owners of 8 Ball, based in Burbank, Calif., catering to trendy customers in their 20s to mid-30s, said they were looking at Lucky 13, Steady, Red Hot Dixie and Filter, which were housed in The Edge.
“Rockabilia is only getting bigger; it’s getting more mainstream,” said Alper.
Pamela Jochims, co-owner of Gregory’s on Jefferson, a better specialty store based in Burlington, Iowa, was placing orders at Sigrid Olsen and said she also planned to buy other better labels.
Seeking spring merchandise, Jochims said three-quarter sleeves and cropped pants should be strong in the Midwest. “There will also be a big change in color, and sherbets will be important,” she said.
Jochims was staying away from all the embroidered denim, adding that her customer, who is between 30 and 35, is conservative.
Better resource Sigrid Olsen, which showed its Sigrid Collection, Sigrid Sport and So Blue, as well as Pink Label Collection, said it picked up 25 new accounts.
“We are attracting a younger, more contemporary customer,” said designer Sigrid Olsen, who showed pants lengths ranging from ankle length to midcalf to just below the knee.
Her Pink Label collection, with 16 styles, featured sheer silk dresses, beaded tanks, beaded skirts, spaghetti-strap dresses, and long duster coats in georgette. Olsen added that the new line could add another 10 percent in volume.
Last year, Sigrid Olsen generated a wholesale volume of $60 million; this year, volume is projected at $81 million, she said.
Brigett Foster, an owner of Oklahoma City’s Foster Classics, a moderate-to-better resource, estimated orders of $50,000 from the show. Her soft dressing line showed fall and holiday merchandise.
“It’s been a tougher year,” she said. “Buyers were buying closer to season. They were playing it more conservative.”
Gregg Fiene, chief executive officer of Lola Inc., which produces XOXO, said the brand rang up orders of $1.8 million at the show, making it the best MAGIC edition ever.
He added that XOXO denim alone generated $750,000 to $1 million in orders.
“I plan to add 10 more booths at the next WWDMAGIC, which will bring my total to 38,” Fiene said.