Between cartoon characters, tutu skirts and eye-popping colors, spring 2006 is poised to be all about girlishness and whimsy.
Vendors in the junior and young contemporary categories are placing all their chips on the resurgence of certain trends — like animated characters stamped all over Ts — and the endurance of some existing ones, such as long, gauzy skirts. Embellishments will still abound, but will have to be updated, either with the use of Asian-inspired motifs or unusual color pairings.
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Hello Kitty is not the only cat on the block anymore. Chicago-based Evil Kitty, a rebellious feline who appears stamped on T-shirts, tops and skirts, is one of a number of funky animated characters on the market.
“It’s a little out of the mainstream,” said Lidia Wachowska, Evil Kitty’s designer and co-owner. “Because of that, it stands out more.”
Of course, that also could be due to the color combinations: black and pink, black and red, pink and green. The cotton-mesh separates are given latex appliqués for some added drama. The collection, with wholesale prices ranging from $14 for tops to $80 for dresses, also includes shrugs, see-through tops and a serious throwback to the Eighties: legwarmers.
Scott Brown, owner of Glendale, Calif.-based Spicy Brown, says the “Japanese cute look” will still be strong in spring. “There’s a lot of life left in that trend,” he said. “It’s evergreen and it’s always going to be there.”
A former employee at Hello Kitty, Brown has returned to Japanese culture for his take on animated characters in apparel.
He took the Kokeshi, a traditional Japanese wooden doll, and came up with what he describes as “a simplified and much cuter version” of it, imprinting it onto cotton and cotton-blend T-shirts in colors such as bright green, orange and blue. Another character, Sushi Neko, will provide the inspiration for “cute little cat faces” on shirts. A line of wallets and small purses made from PVC and vinyl, and in spring colors such as pale blue and pink, also will bow at WWDMAGIC. Wholesale prices start at $11.
It’s not just cats and Japanese motifs that will be stamped all over junior and young contemporary apparel next season. Curious George, Woody Woodpecker and The Little Engine That Could — all characters that generations of Americans have grown up with — are back in business next spring. According to Cynthia Modders of Universal Studios Consumer Products in Los Angeles, the market is primed for “seeing a lot of animated characters that have nostalgic properties that lend themselves to the contemporary and junior market.
“We’re taking a lot of characters that we grew up with and love and creating vintage or distressed pieces and very fashion-forward apparel,” she said.
Using various licensees, Universal will place the characters on almost everything from basic fashion T-shirts and sleepwear to cashmere sweaters. Wholesale prices start at $25.
“There is a craze toward nostalgic and vintage properties,” Modders said. “So far, it’s been a nice momentum and it continues to grow.”
The high-end special treatments given to cartoon-character apparel will include crystals and rhinestones. For instance, Curious George will appear with a sprinkling of rhinestones on an ultrasoft, butter yellow cashmere sweater.
That bohemian look — all sweeping skirts, sandals and floaty tops — isn’t going anywhere.
“Gauzy, long skirts will still be strong,” said Robin Bement, owner of Army Pink in Los Angeles. To update this new staple, Bement has given the drawstrings on the midcalf-length skirts their own personality, making them an accent instead of an afterthought. Prints include paisley and floral combinations, in colors that range from bright yellow to sky blue and bottle green. But, like other vendors, Bement also is showing short ruffled skirts, also called tutu skirts. Hers feature a jersey band and two layers. The line, which includes cute linen dresses, little tops and hoodies, all accented with dangling earrings and charm bracelets, has wholesale prices ranging from $18 to $80.
Evil Kitty of Chicago also is doing tutu skirts, featuring a lining and tightly crunched netting in dramatic shades of black and red, with the feline motif stamped on top in red latex. The skirt is made from polycrepe and the netting from tulle.
“I like to play with textures, fabrics and stitching,” said Wachowska.
For some vendors, creating an exciting spring 2006 collection meant reinterpreting the current gypsy look.
“Right now, it feels like that whole bohemian look — the long skirts and conch belts — is everywhere,” said Laura Willson, president of the U.S. division of Runway Global in New York. “It’s hitting the mass market. But the question is, what do you do to keep it fresh? How do you take it one step further instead of going the opposite way?”
The company’s offerings, produced under the labels Blanc Noir and Sugarfly, also include pieces that can be worn with the long skirts. “We have layering pieces that go with the long skirts, so there might be a lot of jackets and vests,” she said.
Fabrics include knits, iridescent metallics and nylons in colors such as purple, tangerine and green — the latter once again shaping up to be a key shade for spring.
Beading, threadwork and sequins look like they are here to stay. But vendors have taken on the task of creating new renderings of embroideries, with looks that are distinctive and hard to copy.
At Somme, a Los Angeles-based specialist in bottoms, sales manager Jennifer Shim says the trick is in getting the color combinations right.
“It’s a question of having really elaborate detail, where the contrast is simple yet dramatic,” said Shim. “There are zillions of combinations using trims, colors and beads that come out different every single time, so there’s no reason that embroideries will ever go away,” she said.
The label’s pants offerings for next season include plenty of Lurex and lace, in silhouettes that feature wide legs and low-riding waists.
“There has been a trend toward a higher waist, but I doubt it will come on strong,” she said. Colors for spring run to burnt orange, and embellishments include “heavy details” such as lush tone-on-tone embroideries. Prices are around $15 to $20 at wholesale.
For some designers, Asian-inspired embroideries still have a lot of mileage in them. Megan Malgapo, designer at Tulle in Los Angeles, is putting new Japanese patterns on plaid Western skirts, vintage sweaters with scalloped edges and on canvas, corduroy and poplin military-type jackets.
“I think blazers will carry on from fall into spring, and we’ll be doing some of those bodies in lighter fabrics,” she said. “We have a lot of basics, but the key is to make the embroideries different.” Items such as crocheted and pointelle sweaters come in cherry red and Kelly green, and accents include Asian-inspired mock collars covered in twirling embroideries. Malgapo also is doing thick knit embroideries on canvas coats. Wholesale prices run from $13 to $27.
The trend is popping up in the junior and young contemporary accessories sector, as well. At Sbicca of California, a shoemaker in South El Monte, Calif., spring’s offerings feature a profusion of rhinestones and beads on buckles and bands.
“It’s really just our interpretation of what’s going on in the marketplace,” said Bill Clark, the company’s vice president. “On the heels of the whole bohemian feeling, there is a rush to natural on the one hand, and toward lots of embellishments on the other.”
Wooden and glass beads on shoes will look new, as will tapestry and metallic combinations.
“They have an Asian flair,” he said of the shoes that average around $23 at wholesale. “And we’re combining that with current trends like metallic, bronze and gold.”
Runway Global’s Willson said new-look embroideries feature edgier themes, such as dragons, Gothic crosses and skull-and-crossbones combinations.
“We’re doing a lot of mixed media, with pieces that are screen-printed and embroidered and then with stonework, layered on top of each other,” she said. “We thought that embellishments might be slowing down, but it doesn’t look that way.”
- Embroideries featuring dragons, Asian florals and Gothic crosses.
- Brighter, bolder colors.
- Tutus and long, layered skirts, which have replaced minis.
- Sheer, loose tops, either embellished or plain.