L.A. JANUARY MARKET COMES BACK STRONG
LOS ANGELES — After suffering two years of natural disasters, the January market at the California Mart here rebounded smartly last week.
Last year, the market was seriously dampened by torrential rains and flash flooding, and in 1994 the disastrous Northridge earthquake cut short the action. This time around, nature was benevolent. Summer-like temperatures prevailed, buyers showed up, fashion shows and seminars pulled well and ordering appeared to be active.
Moreover, despite the generally rotten Christmas at retail, many independent retailers at the market claimed gains in last year’s business and said they were ready to make spring and summer commitments. They reported budgets that at least matched those of a year ago, and the fact that there was a tendency to hold off on spring orders earlier seemed to give the bookings an extra edge. According to a Mart spokeswoman, attendance at the five-day show, which ran through Jan. 16, was up 24 percent from the turnout of a year ago.
Among those hitting the showrooms was Robert Rosenfeld, a buyer for the Santa Monica unit of Fred Segal, who said that during the 1 1/2 days he attended he placed a “fair amount of orders,” writing for March through May deliveries.
The standouts included Lilly Pulitzer, featuring strong prints in colors such as chartreuse and pink with a Sixties twist, said Rosenfeld, who added that he was also interested in Lianne Barnes for sweaters and other “incredible knits.”
“We don’t go head over heels into the Sixties; we just touch on it,” Rosenfeld said. “We also saw nice blouses and great pants with lower waists,” he said.
Rosenfeld further noted he was interested in jackets and bottoms in cotton in various types of crepe, plus cotton and Lycra spandex tops.
“We are shopping for cool and comfortable stuff,” said Canadian retailer Gayle L. Budnick, who owns La Maison de Blanche Boutique, in Tsawwassen, a suburb of Vancouver. Budnick noted her open-to-buy was up 20 percent, matching the gain in her sales last year that brought her store to a volume of around $350,000.
“We took notes at the last market, but we like this market because it is closer to the [season],” she said. It’s also more convenient than buying in Canada, where “you have to buy six months in advance,” Budnick said.
“At this market, we are buying one to two months in advance,” she said.
Budnick, who placed 15 orders in three days, said two highlights were Blue Cactus and Julie Mango, two new resources for her store.
“I like Blue Cactus because it is not shown in Canada, and Julie Mango had really fresh, bright colors on cotton fleece with motifs,” Budnick said. She added that she also was going for crinkle rayon and Tencel and shopped primarily for clothes that were comfortable rather than body-conscious.
Bob Levin, owner of Billy Lewis, an updated women’s boutique in Tempe, Ariz., said he was looking for dresses and skirts in natural fabrics as well as novelty tops and accessories for spring and summer. Crepe was a look in which he was particularly interested, he said.
Levin said business was strong last year, with a 15 percent increase in volume. Coordinates and dresses, including the Star of India label, sold well, he noted, adding that he also did well with Joseph Ribkoff during the holidays.
As for his buying strategy at the market, Levin said, “We don’t make appointments. We try to look in on as many vendors as we can, but more often than not, we usually end up writing with old vendors.” He noted that he was looking specifically for a new dress vendor.
Shopping for wholesale price points ranging from $35 to $105, Levin said he placed 20 orders in two days and planned to write still more. Among the vendors with whom he left orders were Nina Piccalino, Carol Anderson and Joseph Ribkoff.
“Classic, beautifully made garments in neutrals, taupe, sage and Armani and Calvin Klein colors” were the quest of Tom Teifer, owner of Tom Teifer California boutique, Santa Cruz, Calif.
Teifer said he placed orders with such resources as Due per Due, Isda & Co., Hino & Malee and Joan Vass, at wholesale price points ranging up to $600 for special-looking handmade coats.
“I love unstructured easywear that can be dressed up and dressed down,” added Teifer. “We try to use garments in fabrics like canvas, and accessories change the look from day to eveningwear.”