SPRING BLOOMS IN THE WEST
FASHION DENIM IS EXPECTED TO BE AMONG THE STYLE LEADERS THIS SEASON.

LOS ANGELES — West Coast manufacturers are banking on a strong spring after coming off 10 to 20 percent increases in fall bookings. Many are focused on expanding existing divisions and broadening their product base with licensing agreements.
Denim, particularly fashion denim in darker washes, will make a strong showing here for spring, as some companies expand their divisions and others capitalize on existing lines. Feminine/masculine contrasts will also carry forward in softer fabrics and lighter prints, including some ethnic twists.
Halters and tanks will still make a mark, but tube tops are expected to capture more of the tops business.
“Fashion denim in our worker-wear category, which is more rugged and darker, is one of our strengths for spring,” said Ken Duane, president of worldwide sales for Guess Inc. The company’s annual domestic volume is in excess of $585 million. Worldwide volume is $1.2 billion.
Duane said that fashion denim, rinse denim and stretch denim, sateens and twills are the three top-selling areas for the season.
Denim bottoms, shorts and skirts are driving the business, according to Duane, who singled out carpenter pants.
“The five-pocket business is still a loyalty, but customers are asking for more fashion denim with embroideries or trim details,” Duane said.
He noted that there is a comeback in logo T-shirts, adding that stretch tops are also selling well.
The other strong area in young/contemporary is related separates, Duane said.
“Certain areas, like tops, are expanding, and we have added related separates while there has been a tremendous shift in the five-pocket business to fashion denim,”Duane said.
At Esprit de Corp., spring bookings are up by 25 percent over last year, according to Jay Margolis, chairman and chief executive officer.
Margolis said that 60 percent of the company’s overall $250 million volume is spring/summer, while the remaining 40 percent of the business is fall.
He said that the company will focus on new stores, a new spring catalog and licensing possibilities.
Esprit announced in July that it planned to open 14 stores that will be of varying size, from 1,500 to 3,500 square feet, across the country by December.
The catalog had an initial shipping of 1.5 million copies.
Margolis said if the company generates $2 million in business from the catalogs, it will break even.
On the licensing front, Esprit is close to signing a licensing deal for swimwear, Margolis said, adding that there are also discussions on licenses for socks/hosiery and belts.
Marcus Brown, design director of Esprit, said miniskirts will be one of the strongest statements for spring. The newest silhouette in pants is a softer and slouchier wide leg in all fabrics, ranging from more masculine to softer, feminine looks with drawstrings.
“These days, it seems that fashion is a refabrication and reproportioning of garments with historical references,”said Brown. “Now, it’s almost the revival of the Eighties.”
As for tops, Brown noted that halters will be replaced by tubes.
“It’s a confusing time for fashion,”Brown said. “It is either on the tough, rocker-chick side, with leather and cutoff muscle T-shirts, or on the feminine side, with softer, more relaxed looks.”
Brown added that there is also a hippie element and ethnic twists.
He said Esprit has broadened its fashion basics for spring. The company also has career and casual divisions.
This spring, BCBG Max Azria is focusing on a broader denim division. Wholesale prices range from $24 to $50 and as high as $150 for leathers.
Max Azria, president, said volume has increased to $160 million this year from $72 million last year.
Azria said that he expects denim to be strong for spring.
Paula Schneider, president of sales for BCBG Max Azria, said fall business is up 23 percent and the company expects spring to post an even higher increase.
Schneider said the company plans to open more in-store denim shops in Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.
She said the company is offering 15 different denim groups this spring, including rigid denim, fashion denim and stretch denim.
BCBG has also tripled the size of its dress division and plans to launch an evening dress division. Contemporary dress prices range from $52 to $120 while evening dresses run from $100 to $250.
Schneider said dresses are more feminine for spring, incorporating silks, sheers and embroideries. Water prints will also be strong.
Mossimo Giannulli, chairman and ceo of Mossimo Inc., said he expects a “nice spring selling season” based on recent sell-throughs.
The company reported net income of $45,000 on sales of $18 million in the second quarter ended June 30, although year-to-date it posted a $453,000 loss on sales of $42.6 million.
On the women’s side, Giannulli said denim bottoms have been the strongest category, with darker denim in shorts, and jeans and basics have been driving that segment.
Hot sportswear items include capri pants, halters, tanks, dresses and belted dresses.
Giannulli said he has also had “tremendous success” with his licensed swimwear line, which is produced by Lunada Bay.
Susan Crank, president and ceo of Lunada Bay, said Mossimo’s swim separates have been strong, with early spring shipments up by approximately 35 percent over last year.
The two key Mossimo swim groups are a Tactel, textured fabric group and satin fabrics with doubled-up bras. Among the style influences are a dancer theme, which incorporates wraps and an athletic theme.

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