Though the house usually wins in the Las Vegas casinos, many of the roughly 480 first-time attendees at WWDMAGIC think the show stacks the deck in their favor, given its reputation for drawing buyers from far and wide. The companies surveyed had a number of reasons for giving the show a trial run, whether they are just starting out and are in need of maximum exposure or are more established names that want to penetrate the specialty store market.
“Basically, WWDMAGIC is the best way to open new accounts and gain exposure,” said Sophie Chea, designer and owner of Happy Six, a Los Angeles-based young contemporary T-shirt line. She’s been attending the show as a designer for other companies since “it was held in a tent in a parking lot,” but this time will bring her own three-year-old T-shirt line. After a recent overhaul, the line, which wholesales from $12 to $20, has moved from simple screen-printed Ts to much more embellished ones featuring sequins, jewelry, rhinestones, hand-crocheted flowers and artful rips and tears. Chea said Happy Six is looking to expand beyond its two accounts, Flair House in Fire Island, N.Y., and Le Lotus Bleu in Honolulu, but would not reveal any sales figures.
Rookie young contemporary business Spicy Brown is also attending WWDMAGIC in hopes of luring junior buyers from the U.S. and abroad with a tops-based line that riffs on the Japanese principle of kawaii — which, according to owner Scott Brown, “is when a girl sees something that’s really cute, it’s like, ‘Ohhhh, kawaii!’ Like that whole Hello Kitty thing.” In fact, the line is designed by ex-employees of Sanrio, maker of the countless products featuring the whimsical but weirdly mouthless feline.
Spicy Brown is split into several T-shirt groupings, with some totes and other small accessories to match: Kokeshi Ink, featuring a stylized take on a traditional Japanese wooden doll; Sushi Neko, centering on a cat-faced version of the raw-fish delicacy, and Moki, with different artists’ renderings of Japanese geishas. Wholesale prices run from $5 for a wallet to $20 for a cotton fleece hoodie.
“We’re finding that whole cute thing is an evergreen; girls are almost always going to want something cute in their closet,” said Brown, who estimates first-year sales at $15,000.
Two denim brands at WWDMAGIC are seeking to provide stylish denim for the twentysomething crowd that wants but can’t afford a $200 pair of jeans. First there’s Dish, which retails for $88 to $100. “In terms of finishing and production, we rival premium denim brands,” said Jennifer Shah, marketing manager for Pimlico Apparel, which owns the label. Dish jeans feature 27 different washes and graphics that Shah said are “not too girly, but more rock ’n’ roll,” like butterflies or flowers running up and down pants legs.
The Vancouver-based company aims to use WWDMAGIC as a springboard to expand its U.S. business, which accounts for 20 percent of its $10 million in annual sales. Dish currently lists 700 doors in Canada, as well as 150 in the U.S., including Ambiance in San Francisco and Raw in Los Angeles.
Another denim brand aimed at the style-conscious twentysomething on a budget is See Thru Soul, which retails for $68 to $128 at major department store chains such as Nordstrom.
“WWDMAGIC will give us the opportunity to see a few hundred different stores. We would really like to expand our specialty store business,” said Mitchell Quaranta, chief executive officer of See Thru Soul’s Los Angeles-based parent company, Swat Fame Inc. “We’re going after a different kind of customer than we typically have. We’ve been in business for 28 years and our other brands, including the Speechless sportswear and dress lines for kids’ and juniors, as well as a license for L.I.E. Kids, haven’t been right for the mom-and-pop boutique business, but we feel See Thru Soul is.”
The line features denim with lots of “destruction” in the form of patched and tinted finishes, as well as sateen cargo trousers and corduroy pants with matching jackets and vests. “We take all the trends in contemporary denim and make them affordable,” said Quaranta. He said See Thru Soul does $20 million in annual sales.
Among the accessories vendors, the Hilton, N.Y.-based handbag line Sondra Roberts will show at WWDMAGIC for the first time. Sondra Roberts is already carried by more than 5,000 U.S. accounts, including Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor, but would like to explore other opportunities.
“We’d like to broaden our customer base, and from what we hear, everyone goes to WWDMAGIC — from the smallest specialty store on up,” said Glenn Camache, president of Sondra Roberts. “We anticipate opening several specialty store accounts there, but on the other hand, there might be department store or specialty chains we’re not in yet, as well. And we do an extensive private label business, so we might come across stores that are interested in that.”
The company will showcase two lines. The Sondra Roberts collection, priced from $60 to $185 wholesale, features croc-patterned leather and jeweled and calf-trimmed handbags, as well as canvas and leather purses. The other line, SR Squared, includes slouchy hobos and satchels in fake napa and suede leathers, exotic prints and metallics, all embellished with studs, lacing or grommets, for $10 to $60 wholesale. “People are buying a wider range of looks,” Camache said. “There’s not just one ‘It’ bag these days.”
Another New York-based newcomer among WWDMAGIC accessories resources is Adrienne Landau, a 27-year-old company that produces opulent-looking shrugs, wraps and purses.
The collection is meant to provide women over 35 with pieces that are a finishing touch to a special outfit or merely dress up a pair of jeans. There are cropped three-quarter-length black lace jackets with a three-quarter-length sleeve and ribbon closures; long, rectangular stoles with lace patchwork insets or ruffled trim in exotic taffeta or chiffon prints, and silk shantung stoles.
The company is turning up at WWDMAGIC in an effort to bolster smaller specialty store accounts, particularly those on the West Coast. “We don’t have a road rep or do any trade shows on the West Coast so we want to tap into another market,” said Stacy James, sales director of Adrienne Landau. “We’re carried in Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks, but there’s a lot more business to be tapped into out there.” James said about two-thirds of the company’s business is with that trio, but she’d like to beef up on smaller accounts as a hedge against a slow department store season.
She predicted that Adrienne Landau will be a good match for the casual West Coast fashion aesthetic. “You could put on a nice T and a pair of black pants and accessorize yourself beautifully with one of our pieces and look like a million bucks,” she said.
Misses’ sportswear and dress line Go Silk recently updated its styling to reflect “something more modern, updated, contemporary,” said Sandy Sadaka, president of New York-based Sunon-Sunnex International, which owns Go Silk as well as Ella Gonen and Jem Designs. She projected Go Silk’s new look will increase sales of that $40 million label by 30 percent. At WWDMAGIC, her goals include adding 50 to 75 accounts to the 300 Go Silk has nationwide, including Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s and Nordstrom.
Go Silk’s six groupings include soft-washed denim, silk-Lurex blend separates and another based on floral, ethnic and exotic prints on silk georgette. Wholesale prices start at $50 for a silk-Lurex T-shirt and go to $120 for a soutache-trimmed lined silk jacket.
Jem Designs, a new resource created by Malibu, Calif.-based designer Jenifer Meissner, is a line described by its sales rep, Sandy Pesic of Salt and Pepper Sales in Los Angeles, as pretty, comfortable clothing for the older contemporary customer.
“The designer likes to say we’re kicking comfort up a notch” on the style scale, said Pesic of the kimono-style jackets for $87 wholesale, chiffon halter dress with ribbon trim for $85 and chiffon-trimmed gaucho pants for about $60.
The company is aiming for $1 million in sales in 2005 and has department store buyers squarely in its sights at WWDMAGIC. “We’re selling in cute little trendy boutiques in Malibu now, but we’d like to see the majors,” said Pesic.
Another Salt and Pepper resource is Ella Gonen, a “fun, sexy, edgy yet elegant line out of Israel,” said Pesic.
Spring 2006 features tiered peasant-style skirts with leather, corduroy or floral patchwork on each tier, for $95 to $110 wholesale. There are also rayon-blend dresses with formfitting tops, flowing skirts and jersey cotton wrap tops for $58.
Both resources will be showing in the Window pavilion within the Women’s Sportswear & Dresses category at WWDMAGIC.