Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — They’re pulling out all the stops to attract retailers to the Los Angeles market, and it seems to be paying off.
The recent market week here was crammed with niche shows, in addition to the traditional market activity at the CaliforniaMart and at the New Mart across the street.
To top it all off, a group of young designers, including Estevan Ramos, Michelle Mason, Grey Ant and the Coalition of Los Angeles Designers, generated a buzz among buyers with fashion shows at hip clubs and studios downtown and in Hollywood.
As Sheri Drobnick, merchandise manager of contemporary and better sportswear for the Directives West buying office, said, “This was the biggest April market we have ever had.”
Drobnick said leather and suede — distressed, lacquered and embellished — is the biggest trend for fall. The suit and blouse, particularly the Prada influenced tie-neck, are back, and chunkier sweaters are strong, particularly those with neck treatments such as funnels, cowls or turtles, Drobnick said. Cleaned-up denim is also a key area of business.
In the junior market, reptile prints continued solidly, along with glam rock looks of studs, pleather and coated fabrics, according to Sandy Potter, co-owner of Directives West.
The five-day fall I market ended April 18, and manufacturers and sales reps reported steady activity, while buyers said they were on the prowl for immediates and fall merchandise.
The CaliforniaMart also incorporated the Look Fast Forward Fashion show, which is a contemporary women’s and young men’s show, and housed Pacific Champions, an independently run show produced by ENK International.
The International Swimwear & Activewear Market also kicked off its two-day pre-Cruise show at the CaliforniaMart on April 17.
“We were up double digits [in attendance] through market,” said a CaliforniaMart spokeswoman.
At the New Mart, a spokeswoman said that buyer attendance had increased from 756 last year to 1,076 this year. The New Mart featured a separate niche show of 95 contemporary and young designer companies and sales reps, called Designers & Agents.
The fashion bonanza piqued the interest of buyers from even the most cutting-edge stores.
John Eshaya, vice president of the legendary Ron Herman Fred Segal on Melrose Avenue, gave his vote to the young designers who held their own runway shows over the weekend.
Armed with a bigger budget and buying for three stores, Eshaya focused on the young designers at their individual shows.
“They are the ones with the most direction now,” he said. “They are proving that they can do a big business, ship and still keep their young thing going.”
Eshaya also shopped the CaliforniaMart and the New Mart. He picked up items from 2 by Katayone Adeli, Earl Jeans and Henry Duarte.
“I am looking for a lot more feminine, sexier looks — not young sexy, but grown-up sexy,” said Eshaya. “I want feminine, as opposed to the tech look.”
He liked Melissa M. for its “young and funky” feel, as well as St. Vincent. For fall, Eshaya was buying skirts, blazers and suits. The standout piece is the tie-neck top, he said.
“Chic suits and blazers will be strong,” he added.
Lisa Davis, a buyer for Theodore, which has four upscale women’s boutiques and two men’s stores, was taking notes in the New Mart at the Designers & Agents show.
“I already did 90 percent of my fall buying in Europe, and I’m here to find something new, like an item that stands out,” said Davis, who noted she is keying into tie-dye, shearlings and leather and furs. “Any way they do tie-dye is big,” such as tie-dye shearlings.
Among the standouts were Kristensen Du Nord and Great China Wall, Davis noted.
Showroom owners and reps noted that traffic and business was up over last year.
“It was actually extraordinary in all ways,” said Gregg Pellegrini, owner of an eponymous showroom, who said it was one of the best markets he has had in five years. “Traffic was up dramatically and we had stores from all over the country.”
Pelligrini said that anything novel, printed, embroidered, luxe and embellished drove sales.
“The sensibility, compared to last year, is a little more sophisticated,” he said, noting luxury fabrics, leather, suede, silk, and python were important.
“The business is really novelty-driven right now,” said Judy Kurgan, owner of Judy Kurgan Sales in the CaliforniaMart.
Kurgan did well with Glima’s marble-dyed, graphic T-shirt line, Ann Ferriday’s sexy tops with polkadots and georgette skirts with salsa ruffles and baby lace hem. Her new line, Flaunt, is also strong with camisoles in animal print and solids, which are packaged with two extra pairs of detachable, contrasting color straps.
Another standout was Bella Dahl’s line of leather jackets with suede sleeves and trim. Kurgan said that leather is the predominant fabric for fall.
On the novelty side, Flora Nikrooz’s zebra corsets with beaded trim sold well and Monah Li’s stretch suede group was strong.
“In this kind of economy, price is not an object,” said Kurgan. “People have money and they want to give themselves a perk, and if it’s different enough and novel enough, they’ll buy it.”
Kurgan said she opened a lot of new accounts, adding that buyers are placing good reorders.
“The average order has doubled,” she said.
At the New Mart, buyers were placing orders for immediates, and fall business was brisk.
Diana Guzman, a sales rep for the new Barbara James & Co. showroom, said the market produced a lot of walk-in traffic.
One of her best-selling lines was Geisha, a young designer collection featuring sheers, embellishments and treated fabrics. Another strong line was Sisters Sweaters, which did well with full-length, hooded dusters and suede, angora wool and mohair sweaters in black, gray, red and periwinkle blue.
Deep red, orange and purple are the key colors for fall, according to Miriana Ojeda, owner of the showroom by the same name. Her young, fashion-forward lines, including Kos-tum and Anna Sui, are driving business.
For fall, Kos-tum did well with wool skirts with sequin embellishment, wool double-breasted coats that tie at the chest, in beige and coral, and leather pants in pink and gray.
Stacy Walters, a designer rep for Anna Sui in the Ojeda showroom, said Sui’s fall line is being heavily ordered. Sui has brought back her stretch denim line, and jeans and denim jackets are strong. Corduroy studded jacket and pants also drove Sui’s business.
The other strong element was feminine. Sheer blouses and peasant tops were popular in long-sleeved and sleeveless styles.
Three niche shows layered onto the market gave buyers some new resources and items.
Here is a wrap-up:

Pacific Champions
ENK International, the New York producer of such upscale trade shows as Fashion Coterie, Accessorie Circuit and Intermezzo Collections, featured an expanded show at the CaliforniaMart.
The four-day event, which ran concurrently with the mart’s fall fashion week, showcased accessories, contemporary sportswear, sweater resources and bridge lines.
Among the 50 exhibitors, up from last year’s 40, were Craig Taylor, Kazuyo Nakano in Showroom Seven, M. Kalan, and newcomers Anni Kuan, Rebecca Danenberg and Jill McGowan.
Showroom Seven International, which featured 11 designers, including Whistles, Nell, Coup de Pied, Kazuyo Nakano and Alice Roi, brought more designers for this show.
Rene Cardosa, account executive at Showroom Seven, projected that the designers would collectively ring up $500,000 in business.
He noted that Whistles is his number one selling collection. Beaded sweaters and cardigans with a Forties and Fifties glam influence and wool skirts sold well.
Alice Roi did well with its fitted, low-rise, vintage denim pants and Eighties-inspired vintage jackets.

Designers & Agents
The second niche show, Designers & Agents, was held across the street at the New Mart. Buyer attendance was up 50 percent over last year.
Founders Barbara Kramer and Ed Mandelbaum set up the show in the third floor’s 15,000-square-foot space and featured 97 designers, compared with 85 last year.
The show offered better contemporary and young designer apparel and accessories lines, including Great China Wall, Spooner-Prague, Annabel Ingall and J.P. & Mattie, and many sales firms.
Alan Gallacher, owner of his signature line, said he used the show to bring his line to the U.S. Based in Scotland, Gallacher, who is known for his scarves, launched a knitwear collection. Top sellers included merino wool and cashmere tunics with multicolored belts and merino wool and cashmere cardigans.
Jennifer Spooner, a partner in Spooner-Prague, said three-quarter-length cotton and viscose coats wholesaling for $325 and UltraSuede knee-length coats priced at $250 were among her bestsellers. In tops, sleeveless stretch silks with ruching in the middle and stretch silk georgette three-quarter-sleeved tops with Swarovski buttons were the most popular. Silk polkadot skirts and giraffe prints were also standouts.

Running concurrently in another section of the building — the Market Mezzanine — the CaliforniaMart incorporated the Look show, a contemporary women’s and young men’s showcase of rave, tech, club and streetwear clothes.
Robert Keirstead, owner of Dungarees in Brentwood, said he found “excellent items” at the Look show, as well as at the Mart and the New Mart.
He said he keyed into deeper reds and turquoise, and more technical looks.
“My store’s essence is offering something cool, but not so far out like Melrose Ave.,” he said. “It has to be funky enough that when someone walks into a party, people ask where they bought the item.”
Keirstead placed an order for Petro Petra’s funky, technical items with classy cuts and Bouncywear’s beach-inspired stretch knitwear. He also bought white leather skirts and jackets and mandarin dresses and slip dresses from E.C. Star.
He also cited Chaiken at the New Mart as one vendor from whom he ordered.
“They have pants in turquoise,” said Keirstead. “Color is so important, now.”
He also ordered backless halter tops and skirts from Deviations, noting, “They are classier with a Cher twist.”
Carol Dean, owner of Carol Dean Body & Sole in Palm Desert, Calif., also bought a lot of color in immediates and fall.
“I am looking for textures, color and cutout leather with beads or feathers,” she said.
She placed orders with Betty Paige for sweaters and leather. Dean said she has had the best year ever in terms of sales.
“There is a surge of youth here,” she said.