For eight independent apparel and handbag designers, WWDMAGIC represents a big leap of faith.
The group — consisting of SHOC, Toast, Valentine Gallery, Gypsy Loic, Erin Mahoney, Kahlila, Bahay Bags and Suna — will make its first appearance at the trade event under the name San Francisco Designers Collective.
What’s different about their presentation is that they will not be showing in their own separate booths, but sharing four booths in the contemporary section in an effort to deflate costs.
Some of the brands — SHOC, Erin Mahoney, Valentine Gallery, Bahay Bags and Kahlila — showed as a collective during market week in Los Angeles last fall, but for the other companies, WWDMAGIC represents a new — and significant — investment. Yearly sales for many of them range from $50,000 to $300,000. The booths combined cost $20,000.
“You always get nervous spending that much money, but we think it’s a good way to create a bigger presence and reach those boutiques who are looking for new lines and not big names,” said Helen Olds, co-owner of SHOC with Sandy Choe, a former financial analyst.
Olds turned into a ringleader for the group when she initiated its first exhibition at the California Market Center.
Ernae Mothershed, public relations manager for MAGIC, said she is welcoming the group because she believes it will create a more edgy spirit at the show.
“The SFDC brings great regional talent to an international fashion event,” she explained. “And retailers have the opportunity to preview great collections from emerging designers.”
The lines’ owners do share a love of fashion and most manufacture in Northern California. However, their backgrounds and taste levels are diverse.
For instance, Oakland, Calif.-based Bahay Bags focuses on natural looks with chic totes and shoulder bags handwoven from raffia, bamboo and pandan and accented with suede, leather, wood and shells. Kahlila, on the other hand, goes out on the edge with looks that include circular leather bags with colorful contrasting panels. Prices at Bahay Bags range from $30 to $67 wholesale, while Kahlila wholesales for $17 for coin purses and up to $160 for computer bags.
Olds, who used to design custom corsets and bridal gowns, said for fall SHOC will feature men’s wear-inspired clothing with feminine touches, such as lace, ruffles and bows. Examples include a plaid pantsuit with a jacket that has three-quarter-length ruffled sleeves.
The line, with wholesale prices ranging from $50 to $85, ships its first spring collection in February to about a dozen stores, including Femme in St. Louis, Jaxx and Residents Apparel Gallery in San Francisco and Bellissima in
St. Helena, Calif. First-year sales are projected to reach $300,000.
Jessie Jaeger launched Toast four years ago after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley and studying fashion at the Academy of Art University and West Valley College in San Francisco.
Her collection focuses on drape-y jersey creations, usually done in solids. At WWDMAGIC, however, she’ll launch a new group of screen-printed dresses, skirts and pants in stretch denim and stretch corduroy. The designs, borrowing from Asian and Art Nouveau influences, will be strategically placed. Jaeger said prices wholesale from $30 to $50. Sales for the company have hovered around $200,000.
Jill and Jan Dudensing launched the Valentine Gallery line two years ago, borrowing the name from an early 20th-century exhibition space in New York that was owned by relatives and introduced Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” to the United States.
The avant-garde clothing collection for fall was inspired by the film “Purple Rain” and highlights velvet jackets with pleated shoulders, baggy plaid pants and kilt dresses with high slits and rhinestone pins. There’s also a gangsta-themed collection with trenchcoats and tight pinstriped pants.
Wholesale price points for the line range from $70 to $200. Jill Dudensing said company sales average $250,000, but she hopes to generate more Los Angeles accounts at WWDMAGIC.
“We walked the show before and thought it was a perfect fit,” she said. “We appreciate the fact that they put people together who are similar to each other. At other shows, we’ve been between two misses’ booths and it’s frustrating for us and the buyer.”
Another line in the collective focuses on new twists in cocktail attire. Erin Mahoney for its first season offered pleated pants made of satin-faced crepe and coordinating metallic blouses with plunging necklines. At WWDMAGIC, the line’s fall looks, with an average wholesale price of $105, include a long trenchcoat lined in silk, a backless gown and a halter-styled dress in a butterfly print fabric.
Gypsy Loic strives for an urban streetwear look with its motocross-styled corduroy jacket pintucked on the front, fleece-lined denim jacket detailed with V-shaped pockets and stretch denim tuxedo pants. Wholesale prices range from $50 to $100.
For founders Gypsy Rader, 25, and Loic Massiaf, 26, partners in the business and in life, the line is their first baby. Their second one, Yasko, was born two years ago.
“We’re really busy right now, but thought it was worth the trip to Las Vegas to take our company to the next level,” Massiaf said.
Another designer striving to break through at WWDMAGIC is Suna Salim. Her line, Suna, which features form-fitting leather pieces, began one year ago and is already generating media interest not only for its clothes but also for the designer’s unique talent. Salim is blind as a result of a childhood accident and she works on her own for much of the process, consulting with a patternmaker and an assistant when selecting colors.
The fall collection comprises 15 pieces, like a pantsuit featuring an open-work jacket and bottoms with a leather stripe going down from the knee. Also included are sculptural jackets, some resembling boleros. She uses lambskin and cowhide as well as pig suede in the vivid collection.
“I tend to stay away from dark colors and prefer bright, happy colors such as lime green, orange, burgundy and gold,” Salim said.
Salim, with wholesale prices running from $320 to $850, hopes to connect at the trade show with select accounts who will appreciate the original looks in the line.
“I can’t look at the runways for ideas,” she said. “My ideas come from within. And it’s amazing what you can see with your hands.”