SAN DIEGO — It seemed like endless summer at the ASR Trade Expo here, where board sports companies showed bikinis as well as flannel shirts.
Intended to highlight fall collections, ASR’s three-day run, which ended Saturday at the San Diego Convention Center, also showed a mix of spring and summer looks. Whatever the season, vendors continued to up the fashion ante as distinctions between the young contemporary sector and board sports market blurred and retailers searched for trendy sportswear.
Kenji Ochi, a buyer for the 60-door chain ESports in Japan, said he was shopping for skinny jeans and T-shirts from Volcom and Element. As in the U.S., he said skinny jeans are hot in Japan.
From the other side of the world, Alfredo Porteles, a buyer for Xcess, a 10-store active retail chain in Venezuela, said he sought “complete looks that are surf style” from brands such as Etnies Girl and Burton.
And dresses maintained their upward trend line. Rip Curl alone increased the number of dress styles for fall by 80 percent compared with a year ago. Still, other vendors heralded the return of the tomboy, showing grunge-inspired pieces, including flannel button-front shirts and overalls.
Volcom welcomed the return to a more androgynous aesthetic. “We’ve had to go softer with the recent trends, but now I feel like we can go back to our [less girly] roots,” said spokeswoman Amy Lee, noting that top sellers included skinny- and wide-leg jeans and military-inspired coats. “Some of these styles are take-downs on men’s pieces.”
Plaid was the textile du jour, used on everything from bikinis to messenger bags at Hurley, for instance. Lumberjack-style plaid was interpreted by Rvca on a round-collared wool trenchcoat and by Fox on a bomber-style jacket in red and black.
“The hottest thing right now is the plaid pieces,” said Vans spokeswoman Maria Boschetti, noting that Zumiez, PacSun and Journeys were among the retailers that ordered the looks. “The colors — gray and black, black and red — are a lot more masculine than you would expect.”
Denim is a perennial key for fall, when teenagers head back to school. In addition to skinny jeans, there was a floor-length denim skirt from Rip Curl and a wide-leg denim trouser from Roxy. Plus, denim overalls were among the top sellers at L-R-G’s Luxirie and Split.
Tunic-length tops, jackets and dresses continued to sell well. Rvca proffered long V-neck sweaters in dark hues with epaulets in contrasting pink print. Ezekiel showed tunic-length knit tops and V-neck sweater dresses. “Long is definitely still trendy,” said Lindsay Henkels, Ezekiel’s national women’s sales manager.
In the swim market, reversible swimwear is becoming more common. Billabong offered several options of reversible bikini sets. Rip Curl is even making its basic swimsuits reversible, increasing the retail price by $4. “The economical girl gets two bathing suits in one,” said junior product manager Amy Olson.
ASR was the place for new women’s lines to launch. New York-based skate brand Zoo York ventured beyond basic T-shirts for women with a small fall collection wholesaling from $12 to $75. The brand said PacSun, Zumiez and Macy’s were among the retailers that ordered pieces such as form-fitting Ts with photo-real collage graphics, skinny black jeans, lavender corduroy Bermuda shorts and long bell-shaped black puff parkas.
Los Angeles’ Chica Boom came to ASR for the first time with playful scoopneck hoodies bearing allover prints of hearts and stars, Modal sundresses in jewel tones and jersey leisure suits. Wholesaling from $10 to $15, the year-old label said it received orders from Delia’s and Nordstrom.
The board sports market will welcome another new player in spring 2008, when sandal brand Reef launches its first women’s line of swimsuits, sportswear and closed-toe shoes. Targeting 17- to 24-year-old women, the VF-owned unit said it will begin delivering swimwear in October and sportswear a month later to specialty stores and finer boutique accounts.
Established labels are extending their reach beyond apparel. Roxy, the $647 million women’s business owned by Quiksilver, will unveil around June a retail concept designed by Los Angeles-based architect Barbara Bestor in La Jolla, Calif., and Orlando, Fla. The two units are part of five scheduled to open in the U.S. within the next year. Roxy, which operates 12 branded stores worldwide, plans to use the theme of beach hut-meets-modular mid-century design for all future shops. Roxy also is in talks to produce an eight-episode TV show about — what else? — surfing. A successor to “Surf Girls,” the 2003 collaboration between Roxy and MTV, the series could air as early as this summer.
Fox Sports Inc. acquired the license to produce and distribute men’s and women’s clothing and accessories designed and marketed by Hart & Huntington, the Las Vegas tattoo shop that is owned by pro motorbike rider Carey Hart, who is also a Fox-sponsored athlete. Rolling out the line this spring, Fox plans to sell Hart & Huntington’s products to motorbike and board sports specialty retailers as well as department stores. Separately, Morgan Hill, Calif.-based Fox launched a jewelry business with a layered chain necklace wholesaling for $12.
Beefing up its U.S. business, Australian-based Rip Curl appointed Kelly Gibson, the former chief executive officer of O’Neill, as president and ceo of its U.S. business in Costa Mesa, Calif. Rip Curl also revived its rainbow-themed graphics and logo from the early Eighties in its women’s apparel, which is half the size of the men’s division but is expected to match it in summer 2008.
— With contributions from R.B.