By WWD Staff
WOMEN’S RETAILERS and brands can breathe a collective sigh of relief now that the West Coast ports dispute is over.
The agreement reached between the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union late Friday ended a protracted drama that seeped its way into the sea of fluffy faux fur vests and svelte spandex silhouettes showing at last week’s Vegas trade shows.
The ongoing labor dispute reverberated throughout the women’s brands exhibiting as buyers and vendors descended on the Las Vegas strip for WWDMAGIC, Project, Pool, Capsule, WomensWear in Nevada and other shows.
The backlog of product can’t be cleared soon enough for companies such as Los Angeles-based Emme Inc.’s Rain Teez Clothing, whose owner Simon Adot complained from the MAGIC floor that congestion at the ports was “affecting our business to the extent that everything is late. So our customers are getting things late and it’s hurting their business.”
The effects were particularly acute among juniors brands, where delays in moving cargo through the ports hit manufacturers’ finances hard.
Rehab Clothing lost $200,000 after canceling all the orders it received last month for its lingerie-inspired sportswear to be shipped in February. “The make-up for that is this show,” said Stanley O, brand manager for the Los Angeles-based company. “We have to do well and be nice to customers.”
Pain at the ports proved a nuisance for some retailers but was not enough of a blow to motivate overhauls in buying strategies.
Cori French, women’s buyer at Cerritos, Calif.-based Revolve Clothing, noted late shipments and extended shipping dates.
“We are taking the port issue into consideration when placing all orders and have been asking to air freight items whenever possible,” said Lulus.com cofounder Colleen Winter.
Winter shopped the trade shows to fill out her first- and second-quarter inventory after recently adding to the current open to buy. The year for Lulu’s has started off strong, she said, with the Chico, Calif.-based company having “exceeded our sales expectations, and we are very happy with the start of the year.”
Buyers in Vegas generally stuck to items under $100 at retail, with a few splurges here and there.
“It’s pretty much the same as it’s always been,” said Jena Green, co-owner of Apricot Lane in Peoria, Ill., and an operating partner in the Vacaville, Calif.-based chain’s e-commerce business. “Our customer typically wants to spend on the lower side for clothing because it’s real trendy and they just wear it for a few months and then they want to buy something else. But we tend to sell — when it comes to the higher price-point items, which are still under the $100 mark — we tend to sell better with shoes, purses [and] jewelry. That’s the stuff I feel like customers are still spending a lot of money on.”
Buyers were generally mixed on their business so far this year.
Beverly Breaux, owner of La Femme Boutique in Cuero, Tex., said sales are up from a year ago and she’s remained largely untouched by macroeconomic pressures. “Women are women,” she said. “A lot of women that shop boutiques want something different.”
Deborah Bliley, owner of the women’s clothing and gift boutique Impromptu in Erie, Pa., noted a rockier start to the year.
“This year has been tough,” Bliley said. “We’re from Pennsylvania and it’s been 28 degrees, so there are not a lot of people out walking.”
Still, Bliley bought into the colorblocking and liquid leather trends she saw at WWIN and browsed the OffPrice show.
Activewear and yoga continues to be a segment of the market where buyers and manufacturers see growth potential. WWDMAGIC expanded show space allotted to activewear vendors, with companies such as Canada-based Karma Athletics making their show debuts.
The 12-year-old company, which manufactures in Canada, is sold in retailers such as Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew, but the category’s popularity has been a boon for business. “We realized with this whole category exploding, boutiques are looking,” said Karma director of sales Perry Sharma. “We’re definitely seeing a whole new level of distribution with more boutiques.”
Synergy Organic Clothing from Santa Cruz, Calif., said it’s building a network of retailers among health food chains like Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Market. Combined with yoga studios, the health food stores account for as much as 18 percent of Synergy’s total sales, according to owner Henry Schwab.
Overall trends varied although there were several that stood out across vendors and shows, including black and white, faux fur, Seventies denim, ponchos and chunky sweaters.
“Black and white is probably the most comfortable trend that people aren’t going to let go of anytime soon,” said Jackie Wong, sales representative for Glamorous, a young contemporary vendor from Manchester, England.
Ponchos made a comeback, as seen in Spanish-based Desigual’s array of more than 20 ponchos at WWDMAGIC. Puffer jackets that carried a slimming silhouette also fared well, as did light jackets that layered over thick sweaters.
“Now, people are looking to build their coat wardrobe,” said Kelly Dowd, director of outerwear sales for Canada’s Mackage, which exhibited in Project’s Tents. “They want to have four to six pieces to satisfy the weather that we have.”
Buyers from San Francisco-based e-tailer ModCloth noted bohemian looks were still going strong, along with kimonos, maxi vests, chambray and handkerchief prints.
“The standout trend would be the Seventies, which includes suede, fringe — whether it’s on skirts or booties or jackets. Lots of earth tones, like camel and military green,” noted Revolve’s French.
Revolve added Australian label Auguste to its fold for its appeal to the retailer’s boho customer with vibrant prints and jewel tones, French said. New York-based Nightwalker, a relatively new line in the Revolve stable, was also on point with fur coats, she added.
Lindsey Trees, owner of the six-month-old Denver Street Boutique — a mobile retailer catering to thirtysomethings with apparel priced at retail between $40 and $80 — noted similar trends. Los Angeles-based J.O.A. is a brand Trees said she’d dabbled with in the past, but she placed a larger order last week in hopes of adding more fashion-forward items to her lineup.
Here, a recap of last week’s shows:
Mood: At Project and in its ancillary Tents, premium denim brands enacted their version of “Waiting for Godot,” patiently anticipating the next big trend to revitalize sales. Until that happens, several are expanding their sportswear and adding pricey materials like silk, cashmere and leather. For fall, Paige Denim introduced sweaters and cloth coats, like gray merino wool sweaters dipped in copper paint. Diesel increased the number of jackets to encompass wool, leather, shearling and parkas. At J Brand, leather styles comprise 5 percent of the fall collection, and Lucky Brand stepped out of its moderate price zone with leather vests and miniskirts retailing for more than $225. AG hired Shayla Guy, formerly of Equipment Femme, to revamp its women’s tops with silk button-ups printed with golden flowers, Dalmatian dots and plaid patterns. Guy also helped double the number of pieces for Alexa Chung’s sophomore design collaboration, which includes polka dot silk blouses and collarless suede jackets embroidered with white leaves.
Despite activewear’s encroachment, Seven For All Mankind president Barry Miguel said he was “optimistic” since the VF Corp.-owned brand showed its strength in denim via Seventies-style shirts, jeans and skirts trimmed with braids. Jeff Shafer, founder of Agave Denim, said a purging of brands in the market contributes to a sense that “the second half is stronger than the first half.”
As bankers from Sage Group and Wells Fargo Capital Finance roamed the booths, the travails at Joe’s Jeans served as proof of the industry’s volatility. After resigning from the board of parent company Joe’s, Hudson Clothing chief executive officer Peter Kim said buying back the brand he founded is “the obvious option,” adding that “we’re looking at all options to make sure we have the best option.” Hudson still has momentum; sales from the first day of Project increased at least 15 percent from a year ago. But Joe’s financial problems dampened its enthusiasm. “We have a black cloud raining on our parade,” Kim said.
Key Trends: Denim designers jumped between the Seventies and the military for inspiration with prints and silhouettes. The cuts of jeans varied from bell-bottoms to skinny legs. Distressed washes were de rigueur, with patches and tears. The importance of comfort translated to woven fabric that resembled a soft knit on the inside. Activewear also infiltrated the coat market, as seen in Mackage’s two-way stretch nylon down coats.
Show Buzz: A model showdown took place in the endorsements among AG’s Daria Werbowy, Seven For All Mankind’s Miranda Kerr, Paige Denim’s Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and True Religion’s Joan Smalls. Huntington-Whiteley and Smalls went beyond modeling. While Huntington-Whiteley chose the photographer and location and styled her own looks for the spring ads and plans to do the same for the fall follow-up, Smalls is bolstering True Religion’s rebranding with a 16-piece design collaboration hitting stores March 12. She’ll expand beyond the leggings, jeans and sweatshirts in her second collection for fall. “We wanted to tell women to come back and see the brand again,” said Mary Alderete, True Religion’s chief marketing officer.
Best in Show: J Brand’s forest green suede moto pants and AG’s boyfriend jeans cut from crackled leather show how well they can adapt their denim designs. Seven For All Mankind elevated denim with a coated aviator jacket lined with shearling.
— Khanh T.L. Tran
Mood: Given the absence of notable labels such as Genetic Los Angeles and MiH Jeans, the energy around the premium denim brands exhibiting at this women’s-only expo felt more subdued than in previous editions. Contemporary brands that specialized in easy separates — for instance, Tart Collection, Splendid, Michael Stars, Black Swan and Wildfox — stayed busy with buyers in their booths. While some brands said retailers weren’t as price-resistant as they were a year ago, they placed orders later so they can chase trends. John Eshaya, a retailer-turned-designer who started Los Angeles-based Jet, is countering the domestic retail market’s slow pace by opening his third store in Tokyo in April. His critique of U.S. buyers was: “They need to stop being so damn cautious and have fun.”
Key Trends: Designers continued their love affair with easy dressing and vibrant prints. Ponte de roma, flannel and other alternatives to denim also took priority at brands such as James Jeans. Acknowledging the growth of outerwear sales, firms highlighted jackets and coats and revived ponchos.
Show Buzz: In a challenging market dominated by savvy consumers, celebrity designers understood that more is expected of them than lending their names or faces to a product. Nicky Hilton plugged her new collaboration with Linea Pelle, while seven years after launching Whitney Eve, Whitney Port was still game to show quilted fake leather car coats and oversize bombers to retailers. “They’re such easy buys — jackets,” Port said. “That’s what does really well for me.”
Best in Show: Portugal’s Alphamoment took a fresh approach to outfitting gypsets with ethnic but urbane ponchos and fake fur jackets that wholesaled for less than $110. Launching for fall, New York’s Echtego lived up to its name that combined the German word for original and the English one for self by integrating digital prints, laser cutting and fabric bonding in youthful sportswear wholesaling from $90 to $450. “I don’t want to buy just basic things,” said Echtego ceo and creative director Sungmin Shim. “I want to look different.”
Mood: Open one day prior to WWDMAGIC, the show had a busy start with boutique buyers hailing primarily from the Midwest, West Coast and Canada.
Key Trends: Top sellers included loose-fitting asymmetrical tunics, mixed media tops and jackets with textured fabrics in dark hues such as black, gray, hunter green and cranberry. In dresses, bright colors and vivid prints resonated with buyers. Laundry by Shelli Segal said “everything printed” was selling in its fall lineup of day dresses. Nally & Millie’s domestically made knit tops appealed to buyers, who liked their loose fit, colorful prints and sub-$100 retail prices. Luxury fur customers sought coats with a “wow” factor, such as Hidesociety’s metallic shearling coat that was lined with genuine fox fur and retailed for more than $2,000.
Show Buzz: Veteran exhibitors said the new contemporary section called Stitch Together added a fresh, cool factor to the overall vibe. Brands within the section included Kensie Jeans, Love + Grace, Language, Subtle Luxury and Charlotte Tarantola, which were set apart from the general show area by a special aisle decorated with a shiny black floor and chandeliers. First-time exhibitor Amour Vert showcased striped jersey tops and dresses, silk separates and novelty jackets that were all made in San Francisco.
Best in Show: Spain’s Isabel de Pedro stood out with coats and jackets in textured jacquard fabrics. European brand Ronen Chen introduced a small capsule called Ronen Chen Limited. One best-selling item was a black textured dress that, for $118 wholesale, cost a bit higher than the standard line. Segal’s Laundry displayed intricately beaded dresses and bias-cut gowns inspired by old Hollywood as part of a new grouping, called Platinum, that retails from $795 to $995.
— Rhea Cortado
Mood: Traffic was steady as buyers walked over from Stitch next door.
Key Trends: Shiny gold and natural brass dominated materials for jewelry, whether it was an open cuff bracelet, accompanying a natural stone pendant or in bold chains. New York-based Rebel Designs noted solid sales for its antique brass and leather bracelets retailing from $95 to $140. Bucket bags, backpacks, totes and clutches were the leading silhouettes for handbags. For $70, Hang Accessories’ faux leather belt bag with exposed zippers and a lining that blocked radio-frequency identification waves appealed to the privacy minded.
Show Buzz: The show highlighted emerging designers in a new section dubbed The Nest. One notable exhibitor there was Nashville-based Red Earth, which uses recycled brass for geometric pendants that are handmade in Kenya. A photograph of TV actress Angie Harmon wearing a necklace from her collaboration with the brand caught the attention of many buyers who stopped to inquire.
Best in Show: Glamhouse Group’s stable of jewelry brands — including CC Skye, House of Harlow by Nicole Richie and Karen Kane — elevated the contemporary fashion factor. CC Skye’s bold bracelets, spiky bangles, geometric necklaces and ear jackets that hug the length of the earlobe were popular. House of Harlow’s signature geometric-shape necklaces and stackable rings, retailing for between $35 and $78, continued to check for retailers. Hong Kong-based Mischa made its debut at the show with printed canvas bucket bags and totes trimmed with colored leather; they wholesale for $64 and $76.
Mood: Buyers from lingerie specialty shops across the country contributed to steady foot traffic as they perused the aisles for the fall lingerie collections and new sleepwear and loungewear intended for holiday gifting.
Key Trends: There was a sizable display of loungewear and ath-leisure sweaters, cardigans, jersey knit leggings, lounge pants and joggers meant to be worn from the bed to the gym and any errands in between. Yummi By Heather Thompson’s new loungewear comprising of fashion basics retails for $68 to $168. In addition to the mainstay palette of black and blush lingerie, saturated jewel tones such as deep aubergine and ruby were the top fashion colors of the season for both molded and structured bras and a growing category of soft bralettes. The younger customer doesn’t shy away from neon hues year-round and brands showed bra and panty sets either in full neon lace or with a bright neon trim. Bodysuits and so-called long-line bras that featured a longer line under the bust were standout silhouettes.
Show Buzz: Returning to CurveNV after a hiatus that lasted a few seasons, Bendon’s booth buzzed with interest for Stella McCartney Lingerie, Evollove, Fayreform, Pleasure State and the new Heidi Klum Intimates collection that made its retail debut last month.
Best in Show: The British luxury lingerie brand Bordelle, known for its strappy bondage bodices, miniskirts and girdle dresses that have been worn by Katy Perry and Rihanna, met with select buyers. Silent Assembly by Kay Cohen, a former designer at Elle Macpherson Intimates, showed some new shapes that employ the brand’s proprietary 3-D bra technology called Curvessence. The 3-D sculpted memory nylon polymers in the bra cup claim to be lighter, more comfortable and offer better shape than traditional underwire bras.
Mood: The mood of the independent and artist-driven show is akin to attending a craft fair. Independent boutiques from across the country shopped handmade accessories, scarves, jewelry and graphic T-shirts by young designers.
Key Trends: In a crowded marketplace, designers offered cut-and-sew knits in fashion bodies to stand out from the crowd. “People know that you’re printing on an American Apparel body. You gotta step it up,” said Oliver Maruna, the owner of Gardena, Calif.-based U.S. Rags, who showed domestically made knit tops and dresses wholesaling from $9 to $30. The majority of handmade gold and brass jewelry on display employed natural geode stones and geometric triangles, bars and circle shapes.
Show Buzz: Ultracolorful socks in novelty patterns constituted a growing category on the show floor. Ryan Cohen, director of Yo Sox, said knee-highs, unicorns and “anything around food,” like burgers, fries and doughnuts, proved popular among the styles that were designed in Toronto and manufactured in Turkey. There was a section of clubwear apparel by Rojas, Tripp NYC by Daang Goodman and Killstar.
Best in Show: For more than 20 years, Tripp NYC has earned a cult following among the gothic crowd, but once in a while its zippered and dominatrix-style lace-up pants wholesaling from $32 to $72 go mainstream, as seen in a photograph of Beyoncé sporting a pair of its pants. Buyers loved the whimsical art on San Francisco-based Nooworks’ retro, Fifties-era dresses, including abstract brushstrokes and kitten drawings. “Oh my God, do they want kittens,” said designer Jennifer D’Angelo.
Mood: At what’s billed as a one-stop shop for the modern man, dual gender brands showed a fraction of their women’s ranges but reported business was busier than expected with women’s boutique buyers.
Key Trends: Denim and sportswear brands that displayed women’s offerings embodied a tomboy style. The array of women’s military parkas, moto jackets, aviator bomber jackets and rigid boyfriend jeans resembled shrunken versions of the male counterparts. G-Star Raw’s ripped and repaired boyfriend jeans that retail for $200 stood as its most well-liked style. New York-based 3×1 channeled the Seventies with high-waisted, wide-legged jeans in a bright blue tint. In outerwear, the contemporary division of Woolrich, John Rich & Bros, said that, despite retail prices running from $695 to $995, its top sellers were oversize military-inspired down parkas with detachable fur hoods.
Show Buzz: Ultrastretchy denim isn’t going away anytime soon, but customers are demanding rigid options, too. This fall marks the first season that Levi’s Made & Crafted was designed in the brand’s San Francisco headquarters, after moving operations from Amsterdam. Levi’s Vintage introduced a new unisex style called 501 CT that modernized the original 501 pattern into a cut and tailored version that is fitted through the leg. “We see more women wanting nonstretch,” said Sean Naughton, who handles Levi’s sales for the eastern region.
Best in Show: WeSC touted that its roomy pullover sweaters and long cardigans are warm enough to withstand snow without a coat on top. Known for high-waisted skinny jeans, Australia’s Neuw Denim switched gears this season to add mid-rise, wide-leg jeans in rigid denim and a slim flare, both with extra-long inseams and vintagelike washes. As for inspiration, designer Par Lundqvist said, “I have 4,000 pairs of vintage jeans.”
Mood: As a hub for independent and directional brands, Capsule saw its typical clientele of Japanese buyers and contemporary boutiques.
Key Trends: The trend was to be antitrend at Capsule, as many brands emphasized casual clothes well made in the U.S. with long shelf lives. Pale cotton denim dresses by Objects Without Meaning caught the attention of buyers who were accustomed to a dark denim palette for fall. “Pieces are very trans-seasonal. It’s more ‘buy-now-wear-now,’” said Los Angeles-based Objects Without Meaning designer Alexandra Michelle. “Everyday wearable” served as the mantra for Make It Good’s textured sweaters and whimsically screen-printed tops and dresses that are manufactured in Oregon, according to partner and designer Leah Stovel.
Show Buzz: Greg Armas brought back his minimalist label Assembly New York after skipping Capsule for a few years. Though some of Assembly’s voluminous items required a model-like frame to pull it off, a clean long coat, ribbed knit turtleneck and leggings that zip at the ankle were accessible for first-time buyers.
Best in Show: New York-based Samantha Pleet stretched the trend for custom-printed matching tops and skirts to another level by introducing matching printed hosiery. “The twinset is huge for us. It becomes a dress or you can wear them separately,” Pleet said. An artistic hand was apparent in Seattle’s Silvae, in which designer Deborah Roberts collaborated with local artist Olivia Knapp for a colorful red and blue fan print on a silk wrap dress, kimono collar jacket and wide leg pants.
Mood: Heavy on men’s streetwear, Agenda had only a sliver of women’s brands yet a few women’s buyers of regional chains and active sports lifestyle shops visited between appointments at adjoining shows in the Venetian hotel.
Key Trends: Popular men’s streetwear trends such as jogger pants and bomber jackets topped the list for the women’s side, too. Natasha Tomek, women’s designer for Lira, showed a few rock ’n’ roll-tinged pieces, such as jersey knit bell-bottoms wholesaling for $38.
Show Buzz: Once based in Australia, Insight returned after a brief hiatus with a new women’s collection designed out of Los Angeles. Diego Dominguez, Insight’s national sales manager, said one oversize quilted fleece pullover that wholesales for $30 was purchased by four different buyers who had already placed their fall orders at previous trade fairs.
Best in Show: Tavik followed up its second season of women’s apparel with more rompers and matching shirt-and-short sets that tie back to its swimwear. “We noticed girls were wearing our [swim] cover-ups into the night,” said Lauren Ching, sales support employee for Tavik, “so we focused on pieces you could wear during the day and into the night.”
Mood: WWIN prides itself on being the place for specialty stores, with a more laid-back, homey atmosphere.
Key Trends: This is a show that caters to contemporary, missy, petite, plus and tall, and the trends were just as diverse. The assortment ranged from maxidresses in chevron and floral prints to skirt suits.
Show Buzz: “I usually find what I need here,” said Beverly Breaux of La Femme Boutique in Cuero, Tex. “We try to make sure we get the best price and we’re very different because we’re not the lowest in town and we’re not the highest. People would rather come to us for a $49, $59 top.”
Best in Show: There was no shortage of accessories at WWIN. Buyers scoured the floor on the hunt for unique pieces that ranged from chunky bracelets, rings and necklaces from vendors such as Designs by OC to couture hats from Arturo Rios.
— Kari Hamanaka
Mood: The lineup of vendors may change from show to show, but buyers come looking for deals. The Cash & Carry section added 12 vendors from the previous February show and was big on jewelry, scarves and other accessories.
Key Trends: Boho dresses in billowy silhouettes and drop waists.
Show Buzz: Vendors reported steady traffic over the course of the show and sales representative Joy Gabi of Los Angeles-based SOB Clothing reported strong traffic the first day. Still, she said “business is about the same as last year,” with the company recently switching juniors production to Los Angeles. Gabi noted juniors buyers generally sticking to wholesale pricing at $5.50 or $6.50.
Best in Show: Printed leggings. No one’s saying denim is dead, but spandex is becoming a fierce competitor. Leggings in every shade and print — from tribal to leopard — were at multiple vendors.