NEW YORK — In the flooded contemporary market, some bright lights to watch are found in the downtown scene and multiline showrooms. These lines might not be household names, but they’re certainly plugged into the trends, from shrunken Ts with unique motifs, to stretch fleece miniskirts, vinyl dresses and shiny satin everything.
LIVING DOLL: Amanda Uprichard, designer of Living Doll, keeps up with the downtown crowd from her showroom loft on Broadway and 3rd Street.
“I started Living Doll in 1987, but wasn’t really committed to it until last year, when I decided to get focused, and the business has really grown,” said Uprichard.
“I make things that go against the grain and are a little ahead of the game.”
Uprichard describes her customer as a young, forward rebel, “someone who is bold and attention-getting.”
Attention won’t be hard to get in Living Doll’s designs, such as a vinyl silver Snakeskin slipdress or a T-shirt in shiny foil transfer with the phrase “Turbo Girl” across the chest.
No style retails for more than $100.
“Now that I’ve started selling to chains such as Burdines and Bloomingdale’s, I really have to worry about my prices. My competition is now Tapemeasure and ABS, and they can make things much cheaper, but I’m working on my production,” said Uprichard.
“I get my inspiration from the streets, young kids, my past lives and thrift stores, but I try really hard not to be retro.” There’s nothing retro about Living Doll’s satin wrap miniskirts, fluorescent quilted cropped vests, gold foil silkscreen wrap dresses and sheer tie-dye T-shirts.
Uprichard’s biggest challenge is “trying to figure out how to maintain my street credibility, but still make money.”
Although Living Doll is now carried in department stores, 75 percent of the business is still in specialty store accounts. Uprichard expects to do about $500,000 in volume this year. Overseas accounts comprise 30 percent of the company’s business.
METROMODES: At the Metromodes multiline showroom here, trends are important, but the showroom also carries romantic dress lines.
“We try to do cutting-edge sportswear, and our staple is romantic dresses,” said Wendy Wolther, owner of the two-year-old showroom.
“We’re willing to take a chance, and we will step up on price if we feel strongly about the look,” she added.
“We want to stay in the romantic dress business because we see a need for it. Our lines are contemporary because the dresses have a twist,” said Maria Klimas Morton, Metromodes account executive.
Metromodes’ top collections specializing in romantic dresses are:
Wednesday’s Child, focusing on novelty with a layered georgette group in green and black shades ranging from $49 to $79 wholesale, and black georgette with satin trim and burgundy satin dresses from $55 to $69.
Nordic Collection, specializing in dresses in prints and solids. Popular fabrications are velvet and crepe wholesaling from $39 to $89.
Top of the list for cutting-edge sportswear are three California companies:
Helios, featuring contemporary knits with wholesale prices ranging from $24 to $84. Styles include a Lycra fleece, long A-line jumper and bold colored two-toned cotton and Lycra dresses.
Lucie, which uses fabrics such as a chenille group in plum, metal, black, moss and natural. Prices range from $51 for a jacket to $27 wholesale for a short A-line skirt. A group in cotton sateen is designed to work back in with the chenille. Prices there are $39 for short dresses, $48 for long dresses and $34 for jackets.
Plain Heir, specializing in suiting in unusual gingham wools and shadow plaids. Wholesale prices range from $39 to $89.
Francis Lam, new to the Metromodes showroom, is a California line to keep an eye on. One hot group features gray stretch fleece paired with sheer silver organza.
TIMES TWO: Another multiline showroom here for the forward set is Times Two, owned by Angela Taylor George.
The showroom is almost five years old and currently carries seven California-based lines. The showroom does about $20 million in annual volume.
“I look for value and trends,” said George. “And I also focus on product development. If I see a void in the market, I will alert my manufacturers.”
“Our lines are known for their attitude. I don’t like the terms junior or contemporary. For me, it’s about lifestyle.”
Some of the showroom’s hottest lines include:
Joe’s, item knitwear and T-shirts, featuring shrunken Ts with printed bull’s eye and star motifs for $12.50 wholesale, nude mesh tattoo print shirts for $19.75 and baby triple mesh Ts with motifs such as a yawning baby for $17.
NC Love (formerly NC 17), urban lifestyle dresses and items, has a stretch corduroy group in either wide wale or pin wale. Colors include chocolate, bordeaux and black. A cardigan style wholesales for $36 and a long-sleeve, ankle-length dress is $54.
Michi Collection, soft contemporary dresses and items, includes burnout stretch panné velvet in white, brown and black. A long slipdress wholesales for $64, and a short fitted T-shirt is $25.
Spot Girl, casual modern clothing, showing a textured plaid group for holiday. Styles include a wrap dress for $26 wholesale and a A-line miniskirt for $21.
In August, George opened the 500-square-foot boutique, Unchained, at New York’s Amsterdam Avenue and 80th Street. The store will carry mostly Times Two lines.
“It’s a way to go right to the consumer and get feedback. You definitely see how the merchandise from the showroom is moving,” said George.