Byline: Scott Malone

NEW YORK — It’s every fashion-conscious teen’s nightmare: No sooner has school started than she realizes that this fall’s must-have fashion item is something that she didn’t find during her late summer mall-crawls.
There’s only one solution for the follower of fashion: a quick run back to the store to rectify her shopping shortfalls.
That second wave of back-to-school shopping has become an increasingly important selling period, according to retailers and industry executives, as it offers trends a second chance to take off.
“What we find is that a lot of them will buy half of what they need, go to school and see what everybody else is wearing and then come back and follow up on that,” said Christian Toth, owner of the eight-store Off The Wall chain, based in Port Coquitlam, Canada.
During this year’s return wave of shoppers, jeans and denim jackets have remained as hot as they were through the early season, merchants said. In addition to the basics, industrially designed jeans — both Levi’s new Engineered style and other makers’ variations on the ergonomics idea — have caught on in a few areas. Also, novelty knits have done well, merchants said.
“They came back and bought a lot of denim,” said Toth. “Rinsed, dark denim continued to roll.”
Skirts also were a hot silhouette, he added.
“We’re doing 10 times the business in skirts we were this time a year ago,” he said. “It’s everything from long denim skirts to minis to knee-length styles with a frayed bottom.”
Joyce Gato-Scharfer, owner of two Miami Beach stores called Anika and Hughie, respectively, said that her customers started to snap up Levi’s Engineered looks over the past few weeks.
“It’s back-to-school boys and girls, which is interesting, because it’s a brand-new item,” she said.
In addition to the Engineered styles, Gato-Scharfer noted that studded denim, particularly from Miss Sixty, had been popular among the return-trip teen set.
“It’s a little different in Florida,” she said. “Maybe up North they’ve bought their cords already, but here they’re coming back for their cords now.
In Chicago, Leonard Rothschild, president of the eight-unit Lark Stores chain, said he’s noticed quite a bit of shopping that he attributes to “buyer’s re-remorse” since the city’s high schoolers have returned to their classrooms.
“The two areas they came back to buy heavily were Girbaud ladies’ and Ecko Red,” he said. “They saw the styles, they liked them and they came back. So that had a good resurgence.”
He added that industrially inspired jeans have done well.
“In Girbaud, any of the more engineered-looking or technical, architectural-looking styles have been moving,” he continued. “That’s starting to change the junior’s business — engineered jeans are definitely happening. The question is how big will it be when it blows up?”
For all his interest in the trend, Rothschild’s chain isn’t among the few dozen U.S. retail outlets carrying Levi’s Engineered styles just yet, though he said that “we are looking to carry them.”
Still, he said of ergonomic looks, “That’s going to be an important factor down the road.”
At San Francisco’s three Villains stores, students returned to beef up their denim wardrobes, according to manager Randy Brewer.
“The last month they’ve been all over denim jackets and jeans in a big way,” he said, with Mavi jeans — particularly low-waisted flared styles — the store’s top seller among the b-t-s crowd.
After that, they were looking for a new niche item that’s catching on in Northern California: novelty T-shirts bearing the image of a cartoon monkey named Julius.
“The number two thing is Paul Frank,” Brewer said. “He has a monkey on all his T-shirts, with the phrase ‘Paul Frank is your friend.’ It’s taking off in a really big way. After school started and they saw that, they came back again.”