SAN DIEGO — With the slogan “A Tradition of Trend,” the latest installment of the action sports-oriented ASR Expo, ending Sunday here, seemed reborn in mining its heritage as a showcase for more than gear for generation extreme.
From a padded jousting court at backpack makers Ogio to a fashion-minded runway show to artists creating works on the spot at individual booths (see sidebar), ASR lent an atmosphere of recharged optimism and confidence among retailers and vendors. And the most popular sport of all was writing paper.
“We’ve been slammed every hour,” said Lucy Love designer Holly Sharp as she watched her 23-year-old daughter, Amber, show the line to a packed booth of buyers. “It’s been this way since MAGIC. It’s really encouraging.”
A host of skate companies are broadening their female appeal with expanded collections, and established surf players are strengthening their internal structures as they evolve into lifestyle lines.
Rip Curl’s new management team, hailing from Coach and Puma, relaunched the 35-year-old brand with a concerted effort into women’s wear. Girly, batik-print skirts with beads, linen miniskirts and white wetsuits with floral trim are among its spring offerings. “We’re adding an element of sophistication to the line,” said James Sowins, Rip Curl’s vice president of design, formerly head designer at Puma.
Hurley International said it recently promoted international general manager Seth Ellison to president, easing duties for founder and chairman Bob Hurley. At the end of July, the brand opened a 600-square-foot in-store shop at Huntington Surf and Sport in Huntington Beach, Calif., its first retail venture. “They own it and operate it, we just have a bigger presence at the store,” Hurley said.
At the same time, industry observers noted that consolidation and an influx of international brands continue to shape the sector. For example, Drunknmunky, a Los Angeles streetwear line, made its first ASR appearance since being acquired by the owners of Fubu.
The changes have begun to draw a broader retail audience to ASR.
“We’re seeing more unusual traffic — buyers who typically go to MAGIC — coming here to find new stuff,” said Frank Sinatra, co-founder of streetwear line Stüssy Inc.
As other arenas of the fashion world co-op the surf look, action sports industry designers are minding a more fashion-forward sensibility. Ocean Pacific Apparel Co. introduced the contemporary side of its edgier, year-old Seven2 line, in a separate booth, complete with DJ Alicia, whom the brand now sponsors as part of its marketing efforts.
Also new is the women’s line from Obey, a label based on Shepard Fairey’s guerrilla street art. The collection straddles a Japanese streetwear sensibility with sophisticated detailing for this market: burnished hardware imprinted with Fairey’s “Andre” image, lightening bolt-shaped insets running down the sides of jeans and neck flaps at sweater collars for a choker effect.
Throughout the show, top trends included micro-miniskirts, tube tops and dress silhouettes, polkadots and skinny stripes, longer board shorts — right above the knee, like the boys — and new takes on military chic.
Dickies Girl had strong sales with its “Nurse Betty” dress covered in tiny polkadots, and Puma offered baseball-inspired mesh tube tops.
Miniskirts caught the eye of Ross Stores’ buyers. “We’re seeing them everywhere,” said Jen Meli, juniors’ buyer for the discount chain. “We want to see how we can maximize trends for spring.”
Vendors continue to feed the itch for the rash guard with stained-glass mosaic prints at Gidget, silhouettes resembling shirts at Hurley and UVA protection at year-old Carve Designs.
There wasn’t a shortage of companies wooing the female dollar.
DC Shoes launched an expanded 150-piece collection of women’s clothing featuring denim, cargo and athletic sportswear groups with novelty yoke details and custom-embossed logos. Eyewear line Von Zipper expanded its women’s apparel with waffle thermal shirts with skull designs, fleece hoodies and headgear, among other offerings.
Retailer San Clemente Surf Co. planned to increase its buy 40 percent compared with last year, driven by its interest to boost women’s lines.
“We’re glad to see lines are more hardcore — not just about flowers and pink — but with better styles,” said buyer Tracey Engelking, who was picking up capris and cargoes from O’Neill.
On the bikini front, polkadots, mismatched solid and print separates, muted brights and sportswear-inspired details were among the top swim trends in Saturday’s SG Magazine and Rusty-hosted runway show — and keeping buyers busy. Top silhouettes included the tall triangle, a hybrid of the triangle top and halter; bandeau and tube tops, high-necked halter tops, banded and belted bottoms, and the monokini.
Backside messages are fast becoming a novel way of incorporating the statement-making effect of T-shirts into swimwear. Billabong scrolled “Baby I love your waves” across a rainbow-trimmed boy-cut bottom, while Roxy opted for the more succinct “Aloha” or “Sunshine” or even the brand name.
From designer lines Calvin Klein and DKNY to juniors’ resources Raisins and Dippers, prints remained strong, whether they were geometric florals or California surf standards like hibiscus or scenics. Diagonal stripes looked new, as did dots in all sizes and colors.
Several new lines bowed at the show, including San Diego-based Dizi and Ana Romano, both manufactured in Brazil, and Joe Joe, a San Diego line formerly based in Florida. “With the popularity of Brazilian-style suits in the market now, we thought this was the right time to enter the market,” said Dizi co-founder Tamara Talbot, who said she received orders from Australia, Japan and Puerto Rico on the first day.
Meanwhile, Hurley creative director LeAnn Murray revealed the brand expects to have a line ready before the end of the year.
At L Space, where sales manager Monica McNeel saw 100 appointments on the first day, the large dotted suits in offbeat color combinations, such as magenta and plum or brown and yellow, were drawing in buyers.
Julie McMackin, co-owner of Molly Brown’s in Newport Beach, Calif., shopped the show for boutique favorites by Vix, Salinas, L Space and Roxy. “Polkadots, halters, bandeaus, mix and match, placement prints and beading,” she said, ticking her checklist. “There’s a lot of newness at the show. I keep changing my strategy after each show, but I’m getting tired of browns and olives and I think it’s time for brights.”
A breakout market bowed at an offsite warehouse nearby called the Agenda Show, produced by streetwear veteran Aaron Levant and Louis Pulido. About 60 independent labels —including Nikao, Leche, Convoy and Amerikan — attended to buyers who braved the lack of air conditioning during the weekend’s heat wave.
In its second season, contemporary Montreal resource Betty Blush showcased striped skirts and blazers and polkadot bikinis. Co-owner Tina Mendoza said retail interest was leading to orders, including one from Xin in Los Angeles.
Jedidiah Industries bypassed ASR in favor of Agenda to present its expanded women’s line, Beloved. Hits included a quilted motorcycle jacket and hip raglans with ruffle-edged collars. “It was a financial decision,” he said. “We’re a growing company,” said Jedidiah owner Vince Flumiani. “We just opened distribution in Hong Kong, Canada and the U.K. and had to spend our dollars wisely.