Byline: Kristi Ellis / With contribution from Katherine Bowers

LOS ANGELES — Despite the first signs of an economic slowdown, retailers and manufacturers predicted a slight uptick in summer business during the Los Angeles market last week.
Specialty stores, who were coming off of a lackluster holiday season, were taking fewer risks but still placing sizable orders at the five-day market, which ran from Jan. 12 to16.
Buyers chose to touch on key trends and shied away from jumping into trends that hadn’t already been tested.
In the junior market, retailers were snapping up denim hipsters and dresses, skirts with uneven hem lines, white denim, floral and wrap dresses and a variety of screen print T-shirts including western and vintage inspired rock, paint splatter and one shoulder silhouettes, according to Sandy Potter, a principal in the Directives West buying office, whose clients include Macy’s East and West, Saks Fifth Ave., Bloomingdale’s, J.C. Penny Co., Sears, Roebuck & Co., Carson Pirie Scott and Liberty House.
“In the last weeks of December, business opened up in the junior market,” said Potter. “With their new receipts checking once it opened up, it became a very positive climate and retailers were positive at this market.”
The newest direction in screen printed T’s, which continues to fuel business, is vintage rock T-shirts.
“The junior customer has really embraced the feeling of the Seventies,” said Potter. “The whole rock vintage T-shirts that (Ron Herman Fred Segal Melrose) has is now filtering into the junior market.” In that group, faded rock band T-shirts in muscle and raglan silhouettes that list the cities and tour dates on the back, are key.
Prints of Paris and London as well as graffiti, paint splatter, combinations of foil and flocking and cut-out letters were all top summer hits. Bare looks continued to vie for retailers’ attention in the form of tanks, tubes and halters.
Denim continues to drive business across the board.
“The lower the rise, the better,” said Potter. “Everything is getting belted too.” Frayed edges, slits, tie-dye and dirty washes are also strong treatments for summer.
Buying action in the contemporary market rivaled that of the junior market.
Top summer hits included color, prints and retro dresses, according to Sandy Richman, a principal in Directives West.
Low-rise denim bottom in different washes, graphic T-shirts, Forties-inspired dresses and military looks carried the day. Stripes, dots, plaids, geometrics, abstracts and pop florals were among the key prints.
Optimism prevailed among many of the retailers who attended market and placed orders on immediates and summer.
“We’re expecting huge numbers,” said Stephen Pringle, co-owner of Behind the Post Office, which is based in San Francisco. “Early on in 2000 were were up 30 to 40 percent but then all of a sudden the momentum stopped in December. We still pulled out even for the year though.”
Pringle’s biggest strategy change this year is the elimination of men’s wear. He plans to focus solely on women’s and shoes.
In Los Angeles, he and partner Kim Pringle, were looking for summer items, particularly stylish tops and bottoms.
The duo placed an order for soft spun cotton jersey corsage tops and blousons with bat wings and slit sleeves from Plum by Cristina Ramirez, which exhibited at the D & A Annex at The New Mart. They also took notes on 3 Dots’ line of military T-shirts, which features a variety of military prints from countries around the world.
Although camouflage is expected to be a strong trend for summer, Kim Pringle said that she will only touch on it. She said that she was very interested in grommets and belted bottoms as well as vintage inspired tops with removable roses.
“This year it’s about quality for the price,” said Ann Rubin, owner of three SpecialTees stores and one Erin Paige store in San Francisco. “Last year, I could have sold anything for $300. Just because retail is tough doesn’t mean I will be looking for cheaper item. I think its about value now. People were self-conscious [about the economy],” she added. “I used to have dot comers come in and spend $500-$1000 at a time but now they’re losing their jobs and the rents are high.”
Rubin took a cautious approach to buying at the Los Angeles market week.
“I was feeling a little bit wary of buying too many prints because prints are such a personal thing,” said Rubin.
Moshe Tsabag, owner of Hot Kiss, expects his company to “come out ahead” in summer bookings this year.
In his newly opened/expanded showroom in the CaliforniaMart, Tsabag did well with tropical prints, high waisted pants and skirts, frayed denim, low-rise silhouettes, miniskirts, logo T-shirts and studded tops with mesh overlay.
Hot Kiss’s biggest growth area is denim. Tsabag said that frayed halter dresses and skirts, skorts, patchwork bottoms and white denim were strong summer sellers.
“The one shoulder top is extremely strong in both patterns and solids,” he said. “And dresses are reemerging as a strong category.”
Tropical printed tube dresses, foil printed halter dresses, asymmetric dresses and key hole dresses drove the category.

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