The inaugural Class[AT]ASR show favored tailored pants instead of boardshorts and distressed denim over flip-flops.

This story first appeared in the September 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The smaller offshoot of the biannual stand-alone Class trade show in Santa Monica, Calif., was an attempt by ASR to retain more than 100 brands that are more upmarket than the sport-driven companies on the ASR floor, and a way to lure retailers looking for fashion-driven lifestyle labels.

“We pulled out of ASR a year ago because we wanted to be surrounded with our contemporaries,” said Jesse Faen, president of Los Angeles-based Insight. “I think we’ve finally found the right place, a place conducive to fashion, rather than a place you see different logos slapped on all the same product. That was just bad for our brand.”

Buyers said they were pleased with the smaller setup and toned-down nature of the show relative to the sport-focused ASR Trade Expo next door.

“Many stores are now hybrids between sport-street and contemporary fashion; you have to be to survive,” said Lane Saunders, co-owner of Orange County-based retail chain The Closet. “Over the past two to three years I’ve done more category-specific buying, and made a decided shift in price point. We all have to work harder for less. Nowadays people are really doing business. Those that were just along for the ride, well, this has sorted them all out.”

The show drew fashion-forward labels more upscale than typical of the action sports market, including Rvca, Modern Amusement, Operations, Original Penguin, Lifetime, Lspace, Kill City, Converse by John Varvatos and Tiger Lily.

Class founder Jason Bates flew about 200 retail buyers to the show in hopes they would write orders and generate repeat business.

“I’m happy if I can generate two or three new brand leads at a show and I definitely have that here,” said Victor Dahan, president of “There’s a good variety of men’s, women’s and accessories brands, and some really edgy new things. It’s a slower, smaller show, but it’s easier to navigate.”

Value was a universal theme among retailers seeking to lure budget-conscious consumers.

Cost-cutting was evident on both sides of the buying and selling equation. Class[at]ASR exhibitor We Are The Superlative Conspiracy reduced wholesale prices on T-shirts to $11 from $15. Still, average price points for the Class exhibitors were 15 to 20 percent higher than most brands at ASR.

“In such a down economy, it’s nice to see people really stepping up to the place with good product, and pretty consistently,” said Julie King, a buyer for Hansen’s Surf Shop in Encinitas, Calif. “There’s a sophisticated influence that’s evident in a lot of the designs.”

One-piece suits with cutouts were big in women’s swimwear, while softer pastel shades and crocheted weaves showed up in dresses and tops for women. Men’s wear favored clean, tailored fits like blazers and cotton twill pants with fashion detailing. Collegiate and midcentury styles nostalgic remained popular, and denim remained strong category for men and women.

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