Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — From lingerie looks to updated racing stripe motifs, buyers had plenty of trends to choose from as they actively previewed lines and started firming spring plans at the California Mart’s junior and contemporary market last week.
Other top ideas grabbing buyer attention were slit skirts shown in a variety of lengths, with the newest being at the knee; ethnic prints, and tube tops.
In addition to the mart’s permanent showrooms, the event incorporated temporary exhibitors under the banner of the Look show, a young contemporary expo that started in March 1996 at the Los Angeles Convention Center and moved into the California Mart last February. Also held at the same time within the mart was the ISAM swimwear show. While some temporary exhibitors complained about slow walk-in traffic, the market overall, which ran for four days through Oct. 9, had a busy look.
On the opening night, the Mart held a fashion show for Look and Urban Vibes — the group of young men’s exhibitors — which packed the lobby and highlighted celebrity DJ Bruno Guez of Quango Music Group. The show was followed by a live musical performance by London’s The Big 6.
On the opening morning, executives from such major stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Carson Pirie Scott, Macy’s West and other Federated Department Stores turned out for a fashion show staged by Directives West, a local buying office.
While working on spring plans with established resources, the retailers at the Directives West event also noted they were on the lookout for new vendors.
“This show sets the tempo of what is going on in the market and gives us a good idea,” said Bill Moll, general merchandise manager of Macy’s West. “It gives you a flavor of what L.A. has to offer.”
Moll said that two of Macy’s hottest pockets are contemporary dresses and junior sportswear, which is what his team of six junior buyers and five dress buyers were in the market to shop.
“ABS dresses looked good, as well as Benjamin A,” Moll said.
Jennifer Finkelstein, buyer of daytime dresses for Saks, said she was looking for “anything new and novel in contemporary dresses.”
She noted that she shops the Los Angeles market every three months for ideas to be found both at wholesale and retail. On this trip, she said, she eyed such local retailers as Fred Segal and Madison.
For spring, Finkelstein said she was going after key classics such as velvets, burn-outs (printed as opposed to solids) and novelty crochets in a wholesale range of $79 to $140.
She also saw a return to wraps and shift dresses, noting that Saks is checking knee-length skirts and sexy silk slipdresses, which should continue for spring.
Finkelstein planned to preview her existing resources, including Mica, BCBG and ABS, and “put the orders to bed back in New York.”
She said that although lingerie is an obvious trend across the board, it has not been an important look in dresses for Saks. Saks has had more success with stretch satins, lace and crochet.
Specialty store chains, as well as individual stores, also blanketed the junior and contemporary market, looking for fill-ins for holiday as well as early spring.
Nancy Morse, divisional merchandise manager of the 80-store Weathervane chain, based in New Britain, Conn., was shopping for spring with Katherine Lynch, a denim buyer.
“We are looking for shorts for spring, particularly the cargo and military influences,” said Lynch, who noted that tanks will also be strong for spring.
Shopping wholesale prices ranging from $13 to $18, Lynch said some standouts were LEI, for its denim bell-bottoms, and Blanc Noir, for its cargo pants and knits. “The whole lower-waisted looks will be strong, and twills will also be key for spring,” Lynch said.
Morse said that the back-to-school business was tough though August was strong.
Gail Satin, an owner of Magnolia, a one-unit operation in Calabasas, Calif., said, “Feminine looks seem to be selling again, and embroidered, ethnic Asian prints are going to be strong.”
Satin and Terry Mandel, the store’s other owner, were shopping for spring sportswear and dresses, lifted by significantly improved business. A 40 percent gain in volume this year increased the budget by the same amount. Satin said that her spring budget is about $25,000 a month.
The duo said that they planned to place orders for Vivienne Tam’s mesh pieces and Urchin’s softer looks, as well as Hidden Heart’s casual sportswear.
Among the exhibitors, XOXO, a junior/contemporary label, had a much better spring market than last year, according to Della Olsher, director of marketing.
“We aren’t going into summer until later,” Olsher said. Instead of showing “light summery items” as it did last year, the firm was focusing on pieces for cooler weather.
Showing in a temporary space, Sven Bastians, assistant sales manager of Porn Star and Starlette, both divisions of L&H Apparel Inc., said the Look show was disappointing in terms of walk-in traffic, although he had booked a lot of appointments.
For the Look show, Bastians noted he focused primarily on the Starlette line, which is junior oriented, with wholesale prices ranging from $9 for a T-shirt to $27 for denim bottoms. Among the bestsellers were stretch sateen looks, including a spaghetti strap A-line dress, a board-short dress using Supplex nylon and a cotton sleeveless dress with collar.

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