LOS ANGELES — The spring contemporary market here kicked off with model Niki Taylor walking the runway at the California Market Center in an Arch Indigo top and cargo pants and singer Macy Gray taking a turn in a pink bouclé jacket and pants from her own line, Natalie Hinds.
Staged by the Directives West buying office last Thursday, the showcase also had designers Cynthia Vincent, Trina Turk and Allen Schwartz, among others, taking bows after the run of their looks.
The packed house and high energy of last Thursday’s show notwithstanding, buyers and vendors had mixed reactions to the market, which ended Tuesday. Their take ran the gamut from “great” to “lackluster.”
“It’s been an underattended market by some of the better retailers we usually see,” said Jackie Hayman from Cassin, which showed fur shrugs for holiday and silk raincoats for spring.
Comments on the spring offerings were just as sharply divided: Ultrafeminine, ladylike dresses and skirts to casual shorts and gauchos — and more denim.
“It’s really a very young and trendy market,” said Evelyn Aidala, who represents the Pono accessories line at the Brighte show at the market center. The three-year-old line, based in New York sells its colorful, laser-cut, resin bangles and oversized, hand-sculpted link necklaces to stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus and Delia’s in Los Angeles. Wholesale prices range from $10 for simple bangles to $200 for necklaces.
“For me, [spring] is about either tough or tender, from all-white, lace eyelet dresses to military chic,” Schwartz said.
While the news was shorts, several showrooms reported brisk orders for dresses, and retailers said they continue to sell skirts. “All anyone wants to throw on is a skirt and a cute T-shirt,” said Virginia Leffler, co-owner of the Houston boutique Merrill & Watson.
In fact, for some, there weren’t enough. Susan Pitcher, the owner of the Dressed boutique in Santa Barbara, Calif., said she was disappointed that she didn’t find more skirts and sweaters, top items on her list.
Virginia Pereira, a partner in the Satine showroom, pointed out that consumers are embracing dresses that are easy to wear. “When you have to go from day to night, [the dress] has fuller range.”
One top seller in the Satine showroom, which is associated with the Los Angeles boutique of the same name, is Corey Lynn Calter’s cotton voile shirtdress printed with tiny prairie flowers.
“After all this denim, [women] want to be feminine again,” said Sarah Stephens, manager of 10 Eleven Showroom. In addition to Diane von Furstenberg’s signature wrap dresses in white eyelet and Seventies prints, Stephens said buyers ordered peasant dresses and other frocks from Theory, a classic pants-focused line that will ship at least six dress styles in each of its three deliveries.
New denim labels continued to sprout at market. Cynthia Vincent’s Cyn Jeans and Madamimadam displayed their spring debut collections at Designers & Agents. Theresa Matthew Studio Inc. added to its showroom Italy’s Gia Ventola, which is entering the market next spring with clean, sophisticated finishes.
The five-pocket jean design was interpreted in linen by Raison d’Etre, a new line bowing next spring, and can be paired with a Bohemian top, said Sheena Landrum, manager of the showroom JMS.
Denim was also on the mind of Niki Taylor, who was not only in town to walk the runway, but to shop for her store, Abbie and Jesse’s, which opened four months ago in Nashville, Tenn. “Denim is big there, so we have every kind of denim, from True Religion to 575 and Joe’s,” she said.
Lauren Berdell, women’s buyer for the Ab Fits boutiques in the Union Square and North Beach districts of San Francisco, also can’t get enough of denim, but her consumers’ demands are specific. “I’m honestly here to find denim,” she said “Straight-leg, skinny and clean styles are popular for us. We’re really overembellished.”
Many retailers are, indeed, ready for a change. Although, with the popularity of gauchos, full skirts and tunics, the bohemian trend appears set to continue next year — with a cleaned-up look.
“I think we all want it to go out,” said Elizabeth Dye, co-owner of The English Dept. in Portland, Ore., who was shopping for dresses and “statement-y” tops that can be worn with jeans or basic bottoms. Cacharel and Vena Cava were two new lines the contemporary boutique bought.
To be sure, bohemian style is evolving. The long-tiered skirt has been updated in new fabrics such as eyelet and replaced by the palazzo pant.
Chris Myers said 60 percent of the orders in his eponymous showroom were for gauchos and palazzo pants.
And crochet has replaced ornate embellishment.
“It’s all about crochet for the updated missy customer,” said Douglas Plamondon, U.S. sales manager for Mac & Jac, whose top-selling item was a crochet cardigan.
In the missy category, novelty was a selling point. “It gives the customer a reason to buy,” said Loretta Kendrick, regional sales manager for Montreal’s FDJ French Dressing. She said retail buyers liked gauchos with cargo pockets, jeans with cuffed hems, cotton camisoles trimmed in lace and shorts. In her five-year history with the company, she said she has never sold a short until now. And orders for Bermuda shorts have been “crazy,” she added.
The buzz-factor was high at Designers & Agents, held at the Cooper and New Mart buildings. Gwen Stefani’s new casual line, Harajuku Lovers, sold out of its watercolor T-shirts decorated with an anime character on the back.
“We already carry the L.A.M.B. line,” Ab Fits Berdell said. “So we’re considering carrying this one, too.”
- Nautical touches, from sailor buttons on jeans to blue and white seersucker dresses.
- Floral prints galore, from ditsy flowers on a cotton blouse to an oversized bloom on a jersey tube dress.
- Vintage lace details and embroidery on blouses, antique high necks, flutter sleeves and old-fashioned kimono styles.
- Soft, dusty colors like sage and mauve, classic Seventies sweet styles, long tube and halter dresses, button-front blouses, lean soft trouser jeans, layering of skirts and dresses.
- Bright tropical prints in green, aqua and orange on swimwear, polo shirts and canvas bags.
- Bermudas to slouchy paper bag waist shorts, worn hem rolled and low-slung in washed linen to faded denim.