LAS VEGAS — If there ever was an appropriate time to cry for newness in market, the recently ended Las Vegas trade shows would have been it.
Foot traffic was light, vendors on the West Coast had concerns about the business environment and, despite orders being written, there wasn’t a clear winner in the way of emerging trends. Boho chic was still going strong as was fringe, Seventies themes and floral for spring. Nothing earth-shattering but buyers were still generally pleased with what they stumbled upon.
“[Trends were] probably not new, just different takes on it,” said Melinda Liming, the chief operating officer of Apricot Lane Boutique. “[For example], last year we saw ponchos and now we’re seeing it more like a cape.”
Apricot Lane franchisees, responsible for buying their own merchandise, still made out with plaid jackets, scarves and sweaters, according to Liming. They stuck to retail price points in the range of $30 to $60 for tops, $40 to $70 for dresses and jackets generally around $100.
“We’re doing well,” Liming said of the overall business. “We’re up for the year and we expect a strong fourth quarter.”
Barry Shapiro, owner of three Apricot Lanes in Florida, also reported strong business for his stores.
“Business has been good,” Shapiro said. “Every year’s been positive comps since starting seven years ago.”
Shapiro is the former president of retail for Perry Ellis International Inc., senior vice president of operations for Chico’s FAS Inc. and has also served in operations positions at Saks Fifth Avenue and Ann Taylor.
Suede and fringe stood out for Shapiro along with Seventies-inspired looks.
“[There was nothing] jump-off-the-page new,” said Shapiro’s son Matthew Shapiro, general merchandise manager for their stores. “The colors are essentially what you would expect. There were a lot of interesting prints.”
Palazzo pants and rompers continue to be strong categories for the Shapiros stores along with graphic T-shirts, which have been re-ordered about four times in the past two months and the category’s “definitely picking up steam,” Matthew said.
Chico, Calif.-based online retailer LuLu’s had a buying team of six that walked most of the Vegas shows, scouring the booths for items retailing less than $100 for a customer co-owner Colleen Winter said wants affordable luxury.
“It was a continuation of trends, but there were still really cute things,” Winter said.
She noted lace-up details on shoes and apparel and ethereal fabrics in dusty, muted colors when recounting what the team purchased for spring. They stocked up on capes in lighter colors, tulle, Seventies-inspired pieces and kimono-sleeved items.
LuLu’s also picked up a few Australian brands and a new vendor from India that does a lot of work with beading and chiffon, Winter said.
“One of the things I really like about [Australian labels] is they’re six months ahead [in terms of weather] so they get an early read on things that have done well,” she said. “It’s on trend and perfect for the LuLu’s girl. For us we feel that bringing on those brands, it’s super on point.”
It was Australian contemporary brand Nana Judy’s first time showing spring at a U.S. trade show at Liberty. The rompers, high-waisted shorts and denim joggers wholesale for around $28 to $35.
“The brand lowered its prices for the U.S. market, and it’s been picked up by Kitson, Fred Segal, Nasty Gal and Planet Blue,” said sales rep Orin Malatskey.
There were no complaints from Lizzie Parker, senior business development manager at e-commerce company Zulily Inc., which is set to be acquired by QVC for $2.4 billion.
“I’m always looking for what’s next,” she said.
Parker, a former Microsoft executive and clothing designer who appeared on NBC’s “Fashion Star,” called out flared crop pants as a show standout and said she took to a sequined top from Free People.
Parker came to Vegas with more than a dozen Zulily buyers who descended upon the trade shows looking for emerging brands and to reconnect with their larger vendor partners.
“Our woman wants accessible fashion for any size,” Parker said. “She’s a mom. She’s on the go. It’s about making sure it works for anybody. And she’s value conscious. That is the promise we make to her.”
Even though foot traffic at the various shows seemed sluggish, forecasts that the domestic economy in the second half of the year will outshine the first part appeared to come true for several brands.
“We’re getting a lot of reorders, more than last year,” said Carol Christopherson, president of Costa Mesa, Calif.-based BB Dakota, which exhibited in the young contemporary section at WWDMAGIC. “It’s way up in specialty stores.”
Andy Lim, a representative for Los Angeles’ Doe & Rae, said the juniors brand benefited from the revived economy. “We weren’t expecting that much but it’s been good,” he said. “We’re doing much better than February.”
The tight budgets managed by Millennials manifested in their demands for outfits that can be worn on multiple occasions, for instance, to work during the week and at a wedding on the weekend. One such style was Dear Creatures’ fit-and-flare polyester dress that was printed with peacock feathers and accented by a white, Peter Pan collar. “Those dresses that cross over do really well for us,” said Shada Theus, a sales representative for the Los Angeles-based young contemporary line.
In the juniors section at WWDMAGIC, many vendors couldn’t see past the holiday season. The majority of booths displayed clothing for fall and winter. Whatever spring styles they packed with them often took up less than 25 percent of space on their racks. See You Monday piled on the fixings such as embroidery and tassels for its spring collection that enabled layering. A popular item was a polyester crepe chiffon kimono-style jacket, which wholesaled for $42 with orange tassels swinging along the hem and a Chinoiserie-inspired embroidery.
Exchange rates have changed what buyers want to spend with him, noted Oliver Maruna, owner of the vintage-inspired brand U.S. Rags, based out of Gardena, Calif. His company, which was showing at the Pool trade show, also specializes in cut-and-sew pieces using military pieces and counts Urban Renewal, Fred Segal and Ralph Lauren along with a number of international boutiques among its customers.
“There’s been a huge shift for the last three years because of exchange rates,” Maruna said. “Japan was ordering really clean prints and then what happened was exchange rates have completely changed and they’ve been very price-sensitive. Meanwhile, the American business, they want styles to look old and beat up. Military grunge.”
Los Angeles-based knitwear company Knorts, which also showed at Pool, landed its first retail account with H Lorenzo in West Hollywood, while showing at the Pool trade show.
“We are catering to boutiques that house specialty items,” said creative director James Lord.
The company manufactures in Los Angeles and, like many, faces potential shifts in the apparel landscape with new policy signed into law this year that will boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 in the city as well as unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County.
Knorts used a knitting house in the city to develop its line and the owner will “probably have to downsize or he’s going to have to invest in some high technology,” said founder Eleanore Guthrie, noting that, “If he goes out of business, that’s not a good situation.”
Jack Whitehouse, chief executive officer of Torrance, Calif.-based LBH Group Ltd. said his company, which makes women’s basic tops, is contemplating a move to Arizona. Three of the company’s sewers will close, including one LBH has worked with for 26 years.
“I don’t know how we’ll compete, candidly,” Whitehouse said. “We’re very frustrated and we’re not alone….It’s killing us to think we’re going to have to move.”
But there were other considerations that loomed over the heads of other vendors, with some opting to skip the recent show. Weighing costs against a return on investment, Dollhouse didn’t exhibit at WWDMAGIC for the first time.
“It has become easier for buyers locally and globally to see and order the collections without having to travel to the trade shows, which many of our retailers have cut budgets for as well,” said Aretha Amma Sarfo, who handles PR for Dollhouse at Global Fusion Productions. “Dollhouse is taking this time to evaluate the input and output from trade shows and experimenting with an expansion toward branding itself through digital means for a greater reach, that is less costly with a greater ROI [return on investment].”
ACCESSORIES THE SHOW
Mood: First-time exhibitor Kelly Anne Sansom, owner/designer of Kelly Annie jewelry from Salt Lake City, UT, was upbeat. “I used to show at WWIN, but I think this show is where my customer is,” she said of her vintage coin necklaces and earrings.
Key Trends: Y necklaces and lariats; large gemstone beads; agate, lapis lazuli and morganite; hammered gold.
Show Buzz: The show was a launching pad for new products like Meggie Sichy’s Jewelry Snug, clear plastic “pages” that roll up for space-saving and tangle-free jewelry storage.
Best in Show: Long geometric necklaces from Charlene K ($30-$80) highlighted the negative space and layering trends; concha belts from Lovestrength ($20-$40) that complimented the Southwestern looks at the apparel shows.
Mood: The show had a quieter, lounge-y vibe compared to its rowdier Modern Assembly siblings Agenda and Liberty. The steadily growing women’s offerings this season included more jewelry and accessories as well as activewear from The Odells and Daylea Rhythm.
Key Trends: Palazzo and gaucho pants, midi skirts, two-tone and frayed denim.
Show Buzz: Krewe du Optic, a directional eyewear brand from New Orleans, showed colorful acetate frames with 24-karat gold-plated temples ($245) in an aluminum suitcase-turned-lightbox. The brand is opening its first retail store in the French Quarter next week.
Best in Show: Prairie Underground Denim’s ruched-sleeve jacket ($100); Samantha Pleet’s knotted one-piece bathing suit ($65); Vivian Chan’s white pleated Maggie dress ($298).
CURVENV @ MAGIC
Mood: A new venue in the Las Vegas Convention Center provided a more open layout, wider aisles and encouraged buyers to explore new brands. “We laid out the show like a star so there is crossover. I’m happy to see buyers getting a little lost, like in a French town,” said Curvexpo ceo Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel.
Key Trends: In swimwear, high-necked bikini tops, macramé and crochet detail; in lingerie, fuller-cut panties in sheer fabrics, embroidered mesh underwire bras, emerald and blush tones.
Show Buzz: A well-attended 70-plus brand presentation featuring models on pedestals allowed buyers to get more than a fleeting glance at the latest styles. Hurstel estimated double-digit increases in show attendance over last season.
Best in Show: Ayra’s macramé bikini ($80-$100 for a set); Dear Bowie’s silk charmeuse floral Blake kimono ($139); Luli Fama’s lace-up high-neck bikini ($86 for a set); Heidi Klum Intimates blush satin and lace underwire bra ($45).
Mood: Quiet. The verdict from vendors in the remaining hour of the OffPrice Show was traffic and orders were a little lighter than they had hoped this time around. This is despite the expanded show floor space and addition of 10 footwear exhibitors. A salesperson at Los Angeles-based Clothing Island lamented that his numbers were off as much as 50 percent, an anomaly considering the company usually hits its sales goals. Josh Bernstein of Covington, La.-based West By Southwest also reported slower than usual traffic, but said he still managed to hit his numbers and noted strong plus-size sales. “It was not as good as we expected, but it was not a bad show. We were expecting higher numbers.” The company sells to mostly higher- and better-end boutiques, priced at wholesale from $5 to $60, with a range of items, from faux-fur vests to chunky cardigans.
Key Trends: Many of the same trends seen on the floors of other shows throughout Las Vegas could be found at OffPrice interpreted for both the juniors and missy buyers. Jogger sets were big and there was no fatigue when it came to leggings in an assortment of prints and cutout detailing along with jeggings. Crochet skirts, shorts and tops were also big and buyers had their choice of any number of flowing maxidresses in floral prints.
Show Buzz: Buyers gravitated toward tried-and-true trends, already tested in previous seasons. Capes and ponchos did well among the mostly boutique stores New York-based Spring Import works with, according to owner Remi Hu. “It was the usual business for us,” he said. “For us, our spring show is bigger.”
Best In Show: The star of OffPrice is the deals to be had, as the name of the show implies. Buyers shop the show floor looking for good pricing on trends they can bring back to their stores.
Mood: Wading through Pool is a lot like shopping a craft fair. Many vendors are young companies looking for their break at retail and they were aided this time around by the show’s adjacency to Project at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
Key Trends: The handcrafted movement was a common theme among many vendors at the show. Take Pomona, Calif.-based 3rd Season Designs, which showed its hand-dyed dresses, scarves and pillows for the first time after stints participating in the Renegade Craft Fair. Natalie Yaru, owner and head designer of Los Angeles-based Manam showed her leatherwork and what she calls “loungerie,” which she said are meant to be pairing pieces, for the first time ever since starting up in 2014.
Show Buzz: Unisex knitwear company Knorts scored its first retail account in West Hollywood’s H Lorenzo on the first day of the show. The company makes knitwear dyed indigo for an “alternative to the denim classic,” according to creative director James Lord.
Best In Show: U.S. Rags’ vintage-based take on men’s and women’s clothing turned up 1960s Vietnam-era pants remade into skirts, American flags dating back to World War II reinvented into capes and T-shirts distressed with oil paints and a pair of scissors.
Mood: Denim sales are picking up again. To show support for the slumping category, Project partnered with Isko to create an area dubbed Blue, where attendees checked out jeans that were spray-painted by street artist Mr. Brainwash. A Blue-sponsored panel on the first day of the show at Shanghai Lilly drew a standing room-only crowd that sought the opinions of denim experts like Nordstrom’s Tina Aniversario, Levi’s Jonathan Cheung and designer François Girbaud. A decade of dominance by skinny jeans finally ended, permitting the revival of boot cuts and the debut of palazzo pants. “It came to a point where people had too many skinnies in their wardrobe,” said Arkun Durmaz, president of sales for Mavi. Added Barry Miguel, president of Seven For All Mankind, pointing to various examples of flare styles in the VF Corp.-owned brand’s booth: “Two years ago, this culotte would not have been here. The palazzo would not have been there. We wouldn’t have thought a boot cut is cool. To me, the silhouette change, starting with the boyfriend, fired up the industry and fired up women to wear denim again.”
Key Trends: Denim designers didn’t heed the adage that a stitch in time saves nine. They left many hems undone. True Religion not only frayed the edges of skinny jeans and denim jackets but also cut a high-low hem in them. Hudson Jeans snipped off the top of waistbands. Joe’s Jeans turned to technology, but not for finishing a seam. In addition to introducing black denim coated with UV-protector that it claimed bounces off the sun’s rays, Joe’s expanded its line of bottoms designed with two back pockets that can hold an iPhone and a battery charger that it sells separately for $49. Building a brand still entails retail expansion, as is the case with Paige, which opened its sixth store, at The Grove in Los Angeles, on Aug. 21. Diesel is readying the November launch of its new retail concept on New York’s Madison Avenue, where it is building a so-called denim temple dreamed up by artistic director Nicola Formichetti. Big Star is refraining from rolling out retail for at least five years, however. “We still believe in the wholesale model,” said Big Star president Billy Ku.
Show Buzz: Aside from the resurgence of the denim market, the strong dollar is opening the U.S. market to foreign brands. Moussy, which operates 40 stores in Japan and 60 in China, displayed its Japanese-made denim for the first time at Project. Using the same factory that produces jeans for PRPS, Moussy aims to sell its $250 jeans that are ripped and repaired with corduroy patches and indigo tie-dye swatches at such retailers as Barneys New York, Intermix and Madison.
Best in Show: Seven For All Mankind showed that denim can be sophisticated by using the fabric for its first-ever palazzo pants and belted maxiskirts split down the middle with a high slit. AG updated white jeans as cropped flares and progressed its sportswear line with drapey suede jackets.
Mood: With the retirement of the ENKVegas moniker, Project Womens assumed the position as the central spot for women’s contemporary fashion at the MAGIC-run shows. Still, a number of brands, including Grey State and KAS New York, saved their new spring styles for the forthcoming edition of Coterie in New York. For the first time, the show included eveningwear by designers such as Sue Wong. The models donning the beaded gowns didn’t fail at being friendly to attendees who strolled down the aisle squeezed between Project Womens and Pooltradeshow, but they appeared out of place. Even the premium denim and contemporary sportswear brands located in prime spots at Project Womens noted how the flow of people down the aisles was slow. That didn’t stop buzz-worthy labels like Chaser from beating last year’s orders at the show on the way toward increasing its total sales by 25 percent this year.
Key Trends: Reflecting the evolution of the denim market, women’s denim brands moved past five-pocket bottoms. Henry & Belle offered gauchos for the first time. Jimmy Taverniti, a denim veteran who unveiled his first collection as Siwy Denim’s creative director for the spring season, channeled Jane Birkin circa the Seventies for his cropped vests, Western shirts and tunics that mixed Japanese lace with twill denim. “It’s not one jean and we do it in every wash,” he said. Denim treatments veered away from tradition. James Jeans used laser technology to etch ditsy flowers onto jeans. In sportswear, fringes and tassels adorned everything from Alphamoment’s cream-cotton jacquard jacket with a colorfully woven shoulder yoke to Nimo With Love’s festive bags that are block-printed and embroidered in India. Matching sets from Asilio and Show Me Your Mumu allowed for versatility so that customers could mix and match tops, skirts or shorts with other pieces in their wardrobes. Demand for maxidresses gave a boost to emerging brands such as Betro Simone and Priem.
Show Buzz: The debut of Flex marked the rise of feminine activewear as well as the involvement of low-key but devoted celebrity designers. Occupying one of 30 booths, Rousso Apparel Group premiered Nanette Lepore Play, which it is launching for spring under license. Following a feminine aesthetic set by the New York-based contemporary designer, Nanette Lepore Play relied on a coral-based floral print for a water-resistant polyester Windbreaker, tennis dress and cropped tank. Actor Eric Balfour manned the booth for his yoga line called Electric & Rose. Olympic figure-skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi used her experience training as a top-level athlete to design her activewear brand, Tsu.ya by Kristi Yamaguchi, with Pima cotton, Modal, ruching and colorblocking. She sells tiered tulip skirts, zip-up jackets and other pieces retailing for between $39 and $120 at shops such as Elisa Wen in Danville, Calif., and those managed by The Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton. “There were two choices when I grew up — Capezio and Danskin. Even back then Nike didn’t make much for women,” Yamaguchi said. “The market has become more sensitive to that — the feminine figure and flattering silhouettes.”
Best in Show: For her first appearance at Project Womens, Marta Cucciniello combined inspiration from Casablanca and Miami with Italian expertise in manufacturing. Wholesaling from $150 to $400, the classy collection modernized ladylike silhouettes in orange, gold and royal blue. A gold jacquard midi-length circle skirt popped with orange panels on the slanted pockets. On the other end of the style spectrum, Sky Lim evoked Nineties-era punks with tops riddled with grommets and a cropped biker jacket that stands out thanks to silver lambskin leather, spray paint and dangling fringe trim. Wholesale prices start at $50 and run up to $500 for the leather jacket, which is made in L.A.
SOURCING AT MAGIC
Mood: Starting a day before all the other fairs that are part of the MAGIC group, Sourcing gathered a crowd half an hour before the doors to the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North Hall were flung open. Once inside, attendees witnessed efforts to integrate the nitty-gritty aspects of global manufacturing into big trends buoying fashion and popular culture. Comic-book superheroes made an appearance via a panel with costume designers from “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Daredevil.” Visitors also got up close and personal with wearable technology in a display sponsored by North Carolina State University, DuPont, Heisel, MisFit and Sensoria. Despite challenges such as a rising minimum wage and drought-induced water restrictions, domestic manufacturing maintained momentum with a Made in L.A. pavilion organized by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, which negotiated a reduced rate for L.A. companies. Made Here, which operates a 50,000-square-foot factory in Carson, Calif., said it expects business to grow 20 percent this year from last year. Sourcing continued to support handcrafting through the sophomore edition of Global Artisans.
Key Trends: Whether made in China or in Hollywood, speed-to-market drove many conversations between potential clients and more than 1,100 factories at the expo. One method of self-reliance was using a 3-D printer, as Heisel did to squirt plasticized buttons and appliqués like emojis for its streetwear.
Show Buzz: Despite the hoopla surrounding the Apple Watch and now-passé Google Glass, wearable technology won’t hit mainstream status for another five to 10 years, according to Tom Snyder, director of Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies at North Carolina State University. Before tech-enhanced clothing and accessories can become a part of everyday life, designers need to address the challenges of charging batteries and add multiple functions so that the gear can handle more than one or two tasks, he said. A collaboration of six universities funded by the National Science Foundation, Snyder’s program does research with companies such as Samsung, Nike, Merck and start-ups that are in stealth mode. He expected the first product, which combines electrode technology that is dry and comfortable to wear, to hit the market within two years. As long as the ath-leisure trend continues and consumers strive to meld fashion with function, wearable technology moves closer to becoming a social norm. “I think it’s going to help,” he said.
Best in Show: Tixxi Handbags Manufacturing from the Philippines made its debut in the Global Artisans section with purses that were woven, carved and painted by hand on the Southeast-Asian archipelago. The bags woven out of palm leaves and banana fibers cost $6 to $35 each, whereas the wood purses carved from acacia cost $55 to $85 apiece. Standouts included a $195 circular clutch covered with abalone shell, a boxy bag painted with a Seventies-inspired silhouette of a woman with verdant green hair, and a square-shaped ivory purse that was intricately chiseled with a floral motif.
Mood: Cathy O’Malley, buyer for Missouri Bluffs Boutique in Weston, MO., said she did most of her buying here twice a year. “It’s a one-stop shop for my core brands like Johnny Was and Tasha Polizzi,” she said.
Key Trends: Fringed suede bags, shawls, cardigans and skirts; Navajo print apparel.
Show Buzz: First-time exhibitor John Paul Ataker was seeking a broader audience for its three-year-old eveningwear line from Istanbul. Priced from $250-$800 for gowns and $100-$400 for separates and cocktail dresses, the line offered sculptural looks from fabrics made in-house.
Best in Show: Muche et Muchette’s large, laser-cut fringed shawl for $200; Ost’s knit and suede combo cardigan for $68; Rare Trends’ windowpane checked dress with laser-cut leather trim for $110.
Mood: Traffic was steady, even in the morning hours of the show’s first day as buyers made their way to see familiar faces or slowly walked the aisles of the show floors. Booths attracting crowds spanned from Alisa D with its chunky, bold statement necklaces to the matching separates abounding at I.C. Collection.
Key Trends: Suede fringe detailing was everywhere, just as much as it was on many of the other show floors in Vegas. The detailing could be found on maxiskirts, vests, dresses and purses.
Show Buzz: WWIN is like a treasure hunt. There are aisles upon aisles of clothing, accessories and knickknacks to sift through with buyers ultimately looking for a few things they can bring back to their stores. Case in point: Klare’s Original Designs from Spring, Tex. The company specializes in handmade magnetized brooches, selling to regional boutiques. Klare Naeher runs a lean staff of about three workers and said she expects sales to start picking up after a relatively quiet summer. “Jewelry always takes a licking in the hot summer,” she said. “People aren’t thinking about adding [to outfits]; they’re thinking about taking off.”
Best In Show: Basics stood out in a sea of stripes, florals and tribal print dresses and matching top-and-bottom sets. Nafisa Bawa, owner of Lewiston, N.Y.-based Fashion Village USA Inc., said sales of bamboo-fiber legging and T-shirts were popular among buyers looking for eco-friendly items to sell.