SPRING: RETAILERS CALL FOR COMFORT

Byline: Teena Hammond

LOS ANGELES — Spring will be all about comfort, according to plenty of local retailers planning to snag key items at the CaliforniaMart’s Look show.
The fashion week, which begins on Oct. 4 with The Fashion Industries Guild’s “Man of the Year” awards gala honoring Maurice Marciano, chairman and chief executive officer of Guess Inc., will feature the California Collections Preview Spring (CCPS) and the Designer of the Year Awards on Oct. 5, plus a full week of markets and shows, including The Look-Fast Forward Fashion Show, Los Angeles’s spring market and the International Swimwear Activewear Market (ISAM), running concurrently Oct. 6-9. ISAM will also stage a fashion show and party on Oct. 7.
Among retailers attending Look, Tracey Ross, owner of the West Hollywood boutique, said a laid-back style will prevail.
“I think drawstrings will be a real key piece. I think people are into low maintenance, easy. I’m looking for really great clothing, but comfortable. It’s all about skirts, being able to throw on a skirt and a T-shirt,” said Ross.
Another big look will be the hooded windbreaker, Ross said.
American Rag also expects hooded jackets, such as parkas, to be popular.
“It’ll be a mixture of images, like an elegant skirt with the hooded parka,” said Leonard Benton, assistant buyer.
The La Brea Avenue store, which is so hip the storefront can be seen during the opening credits for the current season of Melrose Place, depends on the Mart for basics, Benton said. “It’s where we always find something we need.”
John Eshaya, buyer for Ron Herman/Fred Segal on Melrose Avenue, said, “You just want easier stuff for spring. After all that heavy fall stuff, you want comfortable clothes that you don’t have to layer.”
Items he’ll be interested in buying are “really great skirts and easy stuff. Nothing with too much going on.”
At Elisa B. in Pasadena, owner Elisa Bruley expects to snap up plenty of camisoles and tank tops for spring.
“It’s such a strong look. I can’t keep it in stock,” Bruley said.
An hour’s drive up the coast, at Santa Barbara’s Citti boutique, owner Lori Berman plans to buy “soft, comfortable separates in light colors that combine comfort with stylish appeal.”
The comfortable look will be big this spring, because “there’s so much body consciousness lately, and people want to keep that but with comfortable fabrics,” Berman said.
Animal prints will still be in demand, she said. And, she’ll also be looking for “more dresses.”
“Everybody loves dresses,” Berman said.
Dresses will also be key on Santa Monica’s Montana Avenue. At the Jill Roberts boutique, owner Jill Roberts said she plans to follow her usual trend — preppy — for spring.
“Warm weather brings great sundresses and short skirts and tank tops. It’s just really feminine and kinda young,” Roberts said.
For daytime, Roberts is looking for whimsical prints in gingham and eyelets with hats and bags to match. For evening, Kateyone Adeli is a key resource, Roberts said.
“[Adeli’s] got a really great eye, her fit is great, her price is great. I don’t know what she’s going to do for spring, but it’ll be great.”
Roberts also predicts that slipskirts and slipdresses will stay strong for spring.
Another Montana Avenue retailer, Annie Rose, will include simple floral dresses and straw hats in the spring lineup. The main silhouette will be fit-and-flare, said owner Annie Steinborn.
“Not too many women can wear the real tight dresses across the booty,” Steinborn said, explaining why the fit-and-flare style is so popular at her store.
Meanwhile, back in West Hollywood, H. Lorenzo’s manager/buyer Rona Stevenson will be looking for items from Lianne Barnes, Workers For Freedom, Nude and English Streetwear.
“I think the plunging V-necks and micro-minis are still going to be very prominent going into spring,” Stevenson said.
She also expects a strong Japanese influence in clothing for spring, as well as sheer textures and fluid fabrics.
“One of the biggest things I’m looking for for spring is versatility. I think there’s something for everyone,” Stevenson said.
At Traffic, which operates boutiques in West Hollywood and in Los Angeles, buyer Carl Dias will seek “great basic minis, good stretch fabrics and lots of wonderful prints and skirts. Everybody’s into skirts at the moment.”
Dias will also be buying “a lot of knits.”
“If it’s got stretch, they love it,” he said.
Novelty items will catch the attention of Barbara Keller, buyer and owner of Harari’s, a chain of three Los Angeles-area boutiques.
“I’m looking for interesting scarves, jackets — dressy, knockout things. Anything special, especially hand-painted, artistic things,” Keller said.
But what it all comes down to is sales. As Fred Segal’s, Eshaya sums it up, “I want stuff that’s cute that will sell well.”
As for the logistics of the show, the Mart in February moved its Look show, with its young contemporary orientation for women and men, in-house. It was previously held in the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Officials made the decision to bring the show home despite a 40 percent increase in square footage at the October show. That event included 245 companies representing 408 lines and accommodated 470 booths.
Maurice (Corky) Newman, president and chief executive officer of the Mart, said that it did not make economic sense to hold the twice-yearly show so close to the Mart because the Mart’s tenants had to pay extra for the booths.
“There was some confusion about whether Look would remain a viable show,” Newman said. “It has not only remained viable, but picked up steam as well.”
Vendors and retailers will attend a Look fashion show on Oct. 6 and a newly added show featuring cross-cultural and inner-city fashions, called “Urban Vibes.”
Celebrity deejay Bruno Guez of Quango Music Group will spin techno music during a cocktail reception. The fashion show will take place on the escalators in the lobby. Finally, a live musical performance by London’s The Big 6 will feature big band, swing and ska music.

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