LAS VEGAS — The mind-set at WWDMAGIC was as frilly, fun and colorful as the Valentine’s Day holiday that kicked it off. Manufacturers and retailers can’t seem to get enough metallics, rhinestones and embroidery to go with, or on, their denim.

Hand-crafted looks were on wide display, such as the felt-trimmed angora sweaters, velvet-piped cardigans and crocheted zip-up hoodies at New London, a French juniors line debuting here.

“In addition to metallics, embroidery is really big,” said Los Angeles retail buying consultant Barbara Fields. “But the real thing to have is the denim jacket.”

A buyer from Forever 21, the Los Angeles-based juniors retailer, was in search of anything new and exciting.

“Last year, the show wasn’t very good,” said the buyer who asked not to be named. “But it’s looking a lot better this year.”

Heather Davis, owner of Geddy’s Down Under, a restaurant and contemporary store in Bar Harbor, Maine, said she’s tired of all the T-shirts and was considering carrying Seven For All Mankind denim in her store.

 “We’re looking for hot jeans and stylish tops,’’ she said. “But we want the ones that still look stylish next year.”

And if the item is carried, worn or peddled by a celebrity, than it’s even more of a must-have.

Buzz swirled around the new lines by  Jessica Simpson and Macy Gray. The Jessica Simpson Collection features thermal tie-dyed shirts, double-lapel and leather jackets and denim with novel hardware detailing. The Ghetto Line by Macy Gray offers fitted houndstooth coats, double-breasted jackets and tuxedo-striped slacks.

At Charm & Luck, a handbag company based in Long Beach, Calif., there was a heady mix of both celebrity endorsement and this spring’s must-have embellishment.

The bags, adorned with hundreds of rhinestones, are favorites of both Simpson and her sister Ashlee, said Charm & Luck reps. Wholesale prices are from $75 to $95, and the pieces were said to have sold out at Henri Bendel in two days during the Christmas season. Smaller retailers who sold out of them, too, have returned to order more.

This story first appeared in the February 15, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We bought about six to eight for the first time this past fall and sold out quickly,” said Christy Hawkins, owner of the D & D Farm & Ranch store in Seguin, Tex. “I want anything unique and different. People don’t want to see someone around the corner carrying the same bag.”

Molly Simsheuser, owner of Molly Jayne’s, a contemporary women’s and juniors clothing boutique outside of Kansas City, Mo., was also shopping for anything metallic as well as jeans and T-shirts. Celebrity also swayed Simsheuser who picked up distressed T-shirts from Ryan Seacrest’s new line, which also debuted here.

It was a musical dance, also, between apparel categories as lines sought to enter new spaces. Albert Dahan, the founder of hot contemporary lines Da-Nang and Stitch’s denim, launched a new juniors denim brand, Marlow, which will wholesale for $29. It features Japanese and American denim crafted with oversized rivets, thick stitching and embroidery. A four-hour wash process creates the ultrasoft feel of the corduroy pants and long skirts with a U-shaped front opening and curved seams.

“We think the upper market of denim is saturated as is the lower end, but this midtier range is the next frontier,” said Dahan, who expects first-year sales of $15 million. 

Even Fever, known as a contemporary label, has reemerged as a young contemporary line. Access Jeans. Corp bought the license from John Paul Richard Inc. and hired Chi Leung, formerly of BCBG Max Azria and Poleci, to design the line of denim and sportswear. It wholesales from $40 to $80, offering denim with a silk-screened “F” on a back pocket, cropped corduroy jackets with unusually shaped pockets and stretch cotton terry pieces with contrast stitching.

“We think there’s a great market to tap into the $100 retail business,” Leung said.

Outerwear’s prominence has also grown as a must-have wardrobe staple.

In its second season at juniors line Hot Kiss, the licensed outerwear category touched on key trends of the season with short trench coats, cropped and embroidered wool boleros and faux suede coats with hand-embroidery and toggle buttons for a boho-chic aesthetic. Wholesale prices are $14 to $52.

“This is a big category for juniors, which we think can be strong year-round,” said Moshe Tsabag, chief executive officer of Hot Kiss, who was expecting a strong market at WWDMAGIC. “Retailers are feeling very good coming off a strong January, on top of a good Christmas. So we’re optimistic.”

Silk outerwear was a new look for Lori, a French line distributed by Miami-based Beverly Rose. Demonstrations included the pouring of water on the zip-up looks.

Show traffic followed a scattershot pattern, as some booths bustled and others warmed up. The show’s new Window section, an atrium-styled selling space featuring six showrooms representing 20 lines of better and misses clothing, such as Nicole Berti’s metallic-looking leather trench coats, got busier by late morning.

Buyers packed the booths at Los Angeles’ Red Engine jeans and Seattle-based Tulle, a young contemporary line, featuring shrunken jackets, cropped tie sweaters and beaded caftans.

“The response has been great,’’ said Gina Gomez, sales manager for Red Engine. “We’re already faxing the orders in we got this morning to ship them. We’re having a good Valentine’s Day. Our hearts are happy.”