LOS ANGELES — Waiting until the last minute to place orders for spring collections, retail buyers came to the Los Angeles contemporary fashion market to stock versatile pieces that mixed trends and innovation at the right price.
At the showrooms housed in the California Market Center, Cooper Design Space and New Mart, and also in the trade shows Designers & Agents, Select, Focus and Coeur, retailers including Kitson, LF Stores, Fred Segal, House of Denim, Zappos.com, Tribute and Future:Standard selected key items to fill their stores for spring, while still keeping holiday in mind by scouting merchandise for gifts.
“I was very piece-driven in what I was buying,” said Leylie Aghili, creative director of women’s clothing boutique Tribute in Santa Monica, Calif. “I was buying that fabulous dress or that jacket that you are willing to splurge on.”
At Directives West’s First L.A. runway show, buyers got a peek of spring trends such as silk separates, vivid colors, Peter Pan collars, colorblocking, maxidresses, sheer panels and crochet.
Jessica Althoff, founder of San Diego-based online ethical clothing and accessories retailer Future:Standard, was dazzled by the colors. “I saw a lot of coral and different shades of coral from bright to a more traditional [version],” she said, adding that mint green and orange were prominent in designers’ spring palettes as well. “Colors do well on our site because they look nice, and people automatically click on them.”
Designers and manufacturers who mixed trends with competitive prices appeared to do well at the market.
Catering to buyers who are looking for less expensive options, L.A.-based Meghan offered two versions of its reversible floor-grazing wrap dress in a peacock feather print: a polyester style wholesaling for $98 and a silk one for $159. L.A.’s Heather also used polyester for a pleated tea-length dress wholesaling for $98. Jessie Yoon, based in New York, worked the novelty angle with a $95 wool-viscose striped cardigan that featured contrasting panels and two heart-shaped appliqués sewn on the chest.
“Two years ago, [retailers] wanted something inexpensive,” said Laurie Hasson, owner of a showroom that represents Heather, among other brands. “Now, it’s not just inexpensive. It has to be right [on trend].”
The plethora of blouses attested to the demand for eye-catching tops to pair with fashion denim. Sweet Blossom, an eco-friendly line from Paris, combined the trends for boxy crop tops and handcrafted texture with organic cotton blouses trimmed with pintucks, ruffles, crochet and lace; wholesale prices are between $60 and $145. Brazil’s Coven featured a $157 cropped cotton-Lurex knit top incorporating different weaves and neon stripes. Lauren Moffatt offered a $94 cropped top mixing ivory lace and chambray. KAS New York appliquéd flowers on a $68 silk voile and metallic mesh top.
Nary Manivong, creative director of New York’s Nahm, found a good reception for his $238 silk shirt dresses printed with colorful Laotian-inspired patterns that could be worn by women of any age.
“This is something you can see a mother and daughter shop and wear at the same time,” he said.
The Focus Apparel and Accessories show on the CMC’s penthouse was an opportunity for several new labels, brands launching on the West Coast and secondary lines to show their wares. However, tucked behind the much larger Transit Shoe Show, vendors worried that apparel buyers couldn’t find them at Focus.
“Most of the buyers are footwear buyers, not apparel buyers,” said Christine Faler, who handles West Coast sales for TunicLove, a New York-based socially-conscious brand that matches customers’ purchases with clothing for needy children. TunicLove’s tunics wholesale mostly for between $60 and $70.
Downstairs at the CMC, the Select Contemporary Tradeshow featured many brands, including Azaara, Whiting & Davis, Royal Plush and Gillian Julius. Like elsewhere at market, the trick for brands was to simultaneously keep prices reasonable and offer differentiated styles.
Double Happiness Jewelry introduced a collection of brass jewelry that wholesaled for $25 to $75 compared to $60 to $110 for its gold-fill pieces. “Our price points are current with the economic climate, which our buyers are definitely responding to,” said Gretchen Simon, who handles sales for the San Diego-based brand. In contrast, the bags by Bravo Handbags by Foxy Goods Inc., out of Newport Beach, Calif., were a bit too expensive for the audience at Select, according to sales representative Julia Shevchenko. The brand’s bestselling enamel-coated calfskin leather bag wholesaled at $125.
Complementing the existing showrooms and expos, a new accessories and home decor show called Coeur made its debut at Cooper Design Space. The 54 exhibiting brands included New York’s Bijules and L.A.-based Heidi Merrick, which showed its surf-inspired apparel for the first time with its plush pillows.
At Coeur, jewelry designers faced the same challenge as clothing makers did in combining value and fashion. Gabriela Artigas, based in L.A., said retailers shopped for “easy sells,” such as her rings made of 14 karat gold alloys, sterling silver or bronze that wholesale for $90 apiece. Bliss Lau offered a $245 sterling silver ring made of four removable, interlocking pieces that can be worn in multiple ways.
“The added value is always appreciated but I think the innovation is what sells the product,” Lau said.