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Three brands to check out at the upcoming show.

This story first appeared in the February 19, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.


On horseback much of her life, Heather Emch’s love of playing polo has extended off the field and into the design studio. Unable to resist a tack room filled with saddles and bridles, Emch has harnessed that inspiration into a line of leather cuffs called Bar H Brand, another option for the arm-candy craze.

The social worker-turned-designer is mixing earthy ruggedness with a little femininity and shine in her collection of cuffs, both thick and skinny, featuring skins found on land and in the sea, from bison to stingray.

“It’s about polo country-meets-rodeo chic,” said Emch, who grew up competing in the equestrian sport of three-day eventing. “It’s for the girl who can wear a couture dress with Frye boots.”

Based in Spokane, Wash., her collection of 40 styles can snap on or fasten with a buckle. Made by saddle craftsmen, the looks range from edgy — such as the Skinnies group loaded with studs — to earthy, like Firebrand, which features calfskin cuffs fire-branded with a cow skull image — to avant-garde, like the Stingray. Emch adorns them with stars, studs and rivets in sturdy metals like nickel, copper and brass.

Adding to her accessories collection, Emch plans to bring skinny and thick belts embellished with buckles along with round handbags with calf hide inlays and roan calf hide purses to WWDMAGIC (Booth AC 74245). Wholesale prices start at $30 for the skinny cuffs, at $30 for belts and at $150 for purses. First-year sales are expected to hit $100,000.

Bar H Brand currently sells online and at Cues boutique in Spokane, which carries brands such as Edun and Ulla Johnson.

“It’s a style my customers relate to,” said Trish Thoen, owner of Cues. “It’s a quality product they can wear with denim or dress up. It makes a great layering piece.”


NEXT: Chris & Carol Apparel >>


Like its customer, Chris & Carol Apparel is growing up.

The Los Angeles-based juniors line of casual basics is ratcheting up its image by returning to WWDMAGIC (Booth JR 70703) after a two-year absence with an improved show display, a boost in marketing with increased e-mail blasts, and more fashion-forward styles that appeal to a broader audience.

“We’ve been going to smaller shows like Dallas and Chicago and I guess it wasn’t our market,” said Christine Kim, account manager of the line. “We know some buyers only buy at shows, so we want to be [at WWDMAGIC] because a line always looks better in person and buyers can feel the quality of our materials, which is hard to do online.”

The extensive collection of about 250 styles includes tops, cardigans, skirts and blouses. Bright colors are a hallmark of the line, including pinks, royal blue, emerald, aqua, turquoise, orange and fuchsia.

High-low dresses, sheer chiffon tank tops, blouses with cutout backs, peplum skirts and sequined shorts are highlights of the spring and summer offering. Cardigans in more than 15 colors are a staple of the brand, while chevron prints are new for the season, in response to buyer requests, Kim said.

“Our styles are not that tight so we can appeal to older buyers and reach new markets,” she added.

With at least 500 stores carrying the brand, including Vis-à-Vis in Nantucket, Mass., and the Compass Trading Co. stores in Texas, Chris & Carol hopes to increase volume to $10 million. Wholesale prices average $10 to $12 for the separates, 95 percent of which are made in Los Angeles.

Buyers say they appreciate the fashion value of the brand. The resort store Vis-à-Vis recently picked up striped dresses, T-shirts and skirts.

“I was looking for a fresh nautical look at very competitive prices,” said Avis Skinner, owner of Vis-à-Vis.


NEXT: Kaii >>


The fashion bug bit early for Michael Kye.

He worked weekends and holidays at his parents’ five clothing stores throughout his childhood. After a detour in the corporate sector, Kye returned to his family’s business, Pretty Good, now a juniors manufacturing firm, and worked his way up from the shipping department to director of in-house sales.

Now he’s launching a young contemporary line, Kaii, created with nontraditional cuts and intricate details.

The category switch gives him flexibility with higher price points and design extras, said Kye, president of Kaii — which is a creative spelling of his last name.

“In juniors, you’re limited in what you can do,” he said. “You can’t go crazy with embellishments and you’re limited to lower-grade fabrics.”

His collection of about 100 pieces, all made in Los Angeles and China, include tops, dresses, blazers and skirts featuring novelty trims and textures, such as a faux leather miniskirt with a cross-weave pattern and a jacquard moto jacket with leather accents.

The line also delivers plenty of shine and sparkle, including a gathered-side minidress with a jeweled neckline and a tunic dress with metallic beading.

Kaii is showing in booth YC 75315.

Deliveries go out in early March and wholesale prices range from $20 for tops and separates to $70 for outerwear.

Kye plans to promote the line through social media and the company blog. Already, Kaii has booked an order with Gypsy Warrior in Ridgewood, N.J.

Nicla DiCosmo, co-owner of Gypsy Warrior, says the line’s ability to be dressed up or down was a good fit for the store.

“You can wear them multiple ways…like rock ’n’ roll [style]with boots and a leather jacket,” she said. “The quality of the garment is amazing and the detailing is superb.”

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