CHICAGO — Although skinny jeans are the latest look in denim, Midwestern retailers approached the trend with caution, seeking more forgiving styles while shopping the women’s and children’s apparel market at Chicago’s Apparel Center.

“I’m curious to see whether it will fly here in Iowa,” said Pamela Ontiveros, who plans to open her specialty store, Charm, in Bettendorf, Iowa, in September. “I’m not sure if [skinny jeans] will ever go over with my customer.”

Noting that her boutique will target women 30 and older, Ontiveros dabbled. She ordered a few styles of skinny denim from A.B.S. at the resort market that ended its four-day run June 5. But the bulk of her buy consisted of styles more flattering to the masses.

“Some of the trends I see our area embracing are the military look, cropped pants with boots for fall and belts cinching the waistline,” said Ontiveros, who ordered blouses from Nara Camicie and Kay Celine, dresses from Karanina, denim from J & Co., Red Engine and Pure Color, and tops from Linda Segal.

“I wanted to bring some of the big-city style to our area,” Ontiveros said. “I feel the women in my area have great style, just not the resources readily available.”

Mark Schneider of Schneider & Ettinger Associates showroom, said retailers reacted well to reasonably priced, easy-fit separates from Nic + Zoe. He cited styles such as aqua and light coffee novelty sweaters with beading or organza trim wholesaling for $42 to $58.

“The fit is good,” Schneider said. “It’s for the…[suburban] mom who’s had a couple kids. Anybody can wear it.”

The line, designed by Dorian Lightbown, also features novelty skirts and stretch polyester trousers. Nordstrom placed a $55,000 Nic + Zoe order for four of its stores and Mark Shale bought about $25,000 worth of merchandise from the line for three of its stores, Schneider said.

Chicago designer and retailer Jane Hamill, who operates a boutique along Chicago’s Armitage Avenue in Lincoln Park, also kept figure enhancement in mind while visiting the market. She’s not sure whether the skinny denim trend will catch on with her clients.

This story first appeared in the June 22, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“I don’t know,” Hamill said. “My customer is so used to a boot-cut that balances out the hips. I did order a couple of styles from Billy Blues. It’s a nod toward the skinny pants without really doing it. I think that’s for a younger customer.”

Hamill ordered full, knee-length, Fifties-style skirts with pleats from Chaudry and novelty print knit sweaters from Anac.

“They’re loud and weird, but in the best way,” she said. The sweaters incorporate mesh, polkadots, stripes and knit strips of fabrics, and the wild styles complement the clean, simple lines of the separates Hamill designs, she said.

Overall, the showroom market, though not bustling, proved fruitful for those there doing business.

Schneider estimated he met with 22 retailers, up a few from last year’s June market, which attracts fewer buyers than the Mart’s larger StyleMax shows.

“The people who are here are dropping orders,” he said. “People are digging under rocks for a new line.”

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