DRESSES AND SWEATERS TOP BUYERS’ LISTS AT L.A. MART
Byline: Kim-Van Dang
LOS ANGELES — Nature keeps playing havoc with the January markets at the California Mart here.
Last year it was the Northridge earthquake. This year it was the floods.
Although good weather actually prevailed during the market here Jan. 13-17, the traffic slowed to a trickle during first few days, with the heavy press coverage of the flooding getting the blame. Many sales representatives, however, reported a jump in activity as the show came to a close.
Ruth McKeown, the Mart’s director of markets and trade shows, said buyer registration was even with last year’s abbreviated market.
“Everyone thought we were under water,” she said, although noting that two weekend events — a Saturday evening fashion show called “Directions” and a Sunday evening carnival-style party dubbed “Summer In the City” — drew crowds of 400 and 800, respectively.
To serve the buyers who stayed away fearing rain, the Mart announced last week that it will host a mini-market Feb. 13-15 dubbed “Endless Summer.” Coinciding with the International Swimwear and Activewear Market (ISAM) at the Mart, it will feature a jazz party and fashion show. The Mart staged a similar event after the devastating Northridge earthquake interrupted market week a year ago.
Despite the fear of flooding, some showrooms were pleased with the business booked.
“Certainly, traffic was patchy,” said Peter Jacobsen, an owner of the multiple-line showroom Creative Concepts. “But, overall, the market was pretty good. I was surprised.”
Dresses, dresses and more dresses were on every buyer’s list, followed closely by sweaters and items such as T-shirts and corsets.
Many retailers reported a modestly improved fourth quarter but cited lack of newness for their conservative budgets.
Barbara Weiser, president of the women’s division at Charivari, New York, shopped for fast fashion with a flat open-to-buy.
“I’ve never seen more T-shirts,” she said. “They look quite wonderful. I couldn’t resist them. My one disappointment was that there was very little to wear them with. Hopefully, we won’t have a scene like the end of “Pret-A-Porter” [Robert Altman’s film, which climaxed with a nude runway show] on our hands this summer.”
The buyer stocked up on T-shirts in various cuts, colors, natural and man-made fiber fabrics, with everything on them from baby talk to feminist phrases. Her favorite T-shirt resources were Michael Stars, Tease Tees and C.C. Outlaw. Sportswear and dresses by Mykell, Hidden Heart, Elisabetta Rogiani, Urban Outfitters, Product and By-Product also made her cut, as did bra-style corsets by Janine Milne.
“What looks newest to me are tiny, shiny, young clothes, but not everyone has the shape to wear them,” Weiser continued. “There is not enough newness for that other woman who’s a little older, a little wider. I don’t want to give her another washed linen jacket or another bag dress.”
Robin Bairstow, owner of Rebel — women’s boutiques in Brentwood, Encino and Newport Beach, Calif. — looked primarily for dresses.
“It’s the item for summer — long and short ones, solid and printed ones,” she said. “For six months last year, dresses were my hottest category. I’m seeing more Thirties bias-cut styles in the market now rather than loose smocks. But because I don’t have a young customer, I can’t buy anything tight-fitting. Baggy, floral dresses are still selling, unfortunately.”
Bairstow left paper for loose and jumper-style dresses from various resources, which she paired with cropped chenille sweaters by Lianne Barnes and Fred Hasson. Casual sportswear by Gravel, Democracy, Freewear by Jonathon Hoenscheidt and For Joseph — in cotton denim, Tencel and novelty knits — were her other buys.
“Innovation today is in fabrics, not in silhouettes,” she said.Citing a budget up between 3 and 5 percent, she added, “Based on last year, I don’t think 1995 will be gangbusters, but it will be consistent. I don’t see a boom coming, but I don’t see things getting any worse.”
Jana Whelan, owner of two Jana women’s boutiques — on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica and in Studio City, Calif., — was another retailer hard-pressed to find newness at market.
“I’m still seeing a lot of natural fabrics,” she said, specifying basic cotton jersey and chenille.Whelan said she was tired of “billowy” clothes, too. “I’m looking for cleaner, simpler sportswear,” she said. “Nothing boxy.”
Shopping price points up to $400 wholesale, the retailer did find some “exciting” jacquard corsets by Baggy T’s. Noting a 5 percent cut in her budget, Whelan said, “Business is still very tenuous.”