DECADE-SURFING IN L.A.
Byline: Deirdre Mendoza
LOS ANGELES — There’s a movement beyond dead-on Seventies styling for fall, as junior sportswear firms here offer substantial knit programs alongside understated and price-conscious tailored looks in corduroy, dark-wash denim, velveteen, faux fur and polyester.
Junior manufacturers continue to feel the crunch as retailers hunt for volume items, and many firms say the only way to win the price wars is by offering a collection of “very special” pieces.
“It can be the right thing, but if it’s not at the right price, they won’t buy it,” said Dana Dartez, co-owner and designer for 26 Redsugar, an Irvine, Calif., resource that projects $6 million in wholesale volume for 1997.
The company’s fall collection features “smart girl” looks, such as enzyme-wash corduroy pantsuits, fitted blazers, novelty T-shirts and printed corduroy. Longer-length A-line skirts will be offered in denim, polyester and vinyl in a rustic palette of cornflower blue, rust, olive green, khaki, chocolate brown and black.
Dartez is banking on unwashed denim to be strong for fall and is offering denim blazers, bootleg jeans and straight legs worn with the cuffs turned up for a rockabilly style.
Indigo and even darker washed denim will fill out 26 Redsugar’s bottom story.
Dartez said the company plans to go forward with its sweater program, which accounted for 35 percent of its overall business last fall. This time knits will be offered in muted grounds with pop contrasting colors such as orange or turquoise. Accessories will include floppy, faux fur hats, as well as coordinated wallets and minitotes.
“It’s kind of a ‘Charlie’s Angels’-goes-corporate look,” said Dartez, trying to convey how the direction has transcended its roots in Seventies styling. “It’s a ‘smart girl’ thing, complete with little glasses, maybe hair in a pony tail, but more classic than preppy.”
Designer Holly Sharp’s Girl Star line also takes a whimsical approach to fall by offering an extensive array of outerwear with a classic rock motif. Sharp reasons that after a season of great bottoms business, she likes the idea of coats taking center stage.
Offered in tactile fabrics such as moleskin, poodle shag and sherpa, and ranging in length from below-the-hip to knee-length, coats will cover austere sportswear looks, and will be driven by fashion details.
“It’s kind of a Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, French-hippie-in-the-early-Seventies vibe,” said Sharp about the outerwear. “The names of the coats are like ‘Istanbul’ and ‘Nomad,’ and they have that Gypsy-Eskimo thing going on.”
Bottoms will include hip-huggers, bootlegs, wider “skater legs” and clean capri-style, zip-back pants.
Girl Star will also offer a strong knit program including mohair, alpaca and fuzzy-textured yarns mixed with acrylics. In the knit top category,
Sharp said V-necks with thin arms, square necks and styles she described as “John Travolta”-collars — deep V-necks with collars attached — will be strong.
Ski-inspired knits, popular last fall, will be updated with details from exotic locales, according to Sharp. Some may feature Moroccan details or Nordic influences in a palette of icy blue, oatmeal and lavender.
As for accessories, Sharp will continue to offer beanies in a variety of shapes and styles, as well as “floppy satchels” in corduroy and blanket wools, which she predicted will finally eclipse the backpack.
At Girl’s Club, a division of Club Sportswear based in Irvine, and distributed primarily through specialty stores, surf shops and boutiques, brand manager Kelly Ellingson said the emphasis for fall will be on light-hearted novelty prints, printed velvets, “nostalgic looks” and directional outerwear.
Fifties western themes, mix-and-match plaids and baby corduroy will be important. Bottoms in boot-cut and cigarette-leg styles will work under cotton and chenille sweaters in cardigan, tunic and mock-neck versions.
“Sweaters were really hot last year, so we’re sticking with them, but we’re bringing in quilted and pearlized, matte nylon vests, peacoats and ski jackets,” said Ellingson.
X-Large’s new junior/contemporary division, Mini, now in its second season, and distributed only through X-Large stores in Los Angeles, Tokyo and New York, will offer a range of “nonconventional” fabrics such as nylon blends, Lycra spandex and synthetics, as well as colorblocked knits and imported wools, according to designer Andrew Hinkley.
“Subtlety is definitely the word here,” said Hinkley, describing the emphasis on pared-down, sophisticated styling.
Mini’s fall offerings will also include fitted trousers enhanced by pocket detailing and outerwear pieces such as windbreakers in coated cottons with hidden zippers.
Hinkley said, “I think the collection will be something fresh, something you can’t attach to any one specific era.”
To the Max, the recently launched junior division of BCBG Max Azria here, will also offer a strong knits program, according to Nicole Franchuk, director of marketing.
Highlights for fall include textured knits and wovens executed in tweeds and boucles, as well as layering items and tone-on-tone dressing that mixes shades of berry and burgundy. Twenty-four-inch skirts will be offered to juniors, along with fitted skirts in other lengths.
But the big news is still a powerful knits program.
“Eighty percent of our business is in knits, because we can always offer a cost-effective option there, but it’s also about offering pieces that are on-trend,” said Franchuk. “We know that they may be at the top end of the junior price point, but our customer appreciates that styling.”
Based on initial summer bookings, owner Max Azria predicted To the Max will do around $20 million in wholesale volume in its first year.