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Posted Date: 5/1/2003

MAGIC Fashions Feel Influences from Military to Music

In Vegas, the show always goes on. The fall/winter '03/04 MAGIC show at the Las Vegas Convention Center this past February was no exception, despite winter weather that caused travel delays and cancellations by some exhibitors and attendees.

Segmented into four primary categories (men's, women's, children's and progressive trend/lifestyle apparel), the show featured a new global sourcing area, plus three sub-sections for alternative and directional merchandise: The Edge, Enclave and In-Dex.

The number of attendees on hand to visit the new sections and explore the show was up for debate as of press time. Show organizer MAGIC International, a division of Advanstar, had not released attendance figures as of late March because of a problem with its registration database, said Ernae Mothershed of MAGIC International media relations. Citing the blizzards on the East Coast as the cause, exhibitor Al Bender, director of licensing for Chicago, IL-based Wilson Sporting Goods Co., estimated traffic was off by 30 percent during the earliest days of the event. Pablo De Echevarria, senior vice president of marketing for Perry Ellis International, said: "The first day [of the show] was pretty much a disaster."

The threat of U.S. military action against Iraq, which became a reality about a month after MAGIC, also may have influenced buying levels in general at the event. As Caroline Wun of Pasadena, CA-based Usindo noted during the show: "We hear [buyers] are playing it safe, waiting to hear whether or not there is going to be a war."

On the second day of MAGIC, Perry Ellis' booth looked busy, as did the crowded Playboy booth at the young men's show, among others. Tommy Bahama's men's wear booth, an elaborately designed two-story pink stucco villa, also was hopping.

At 6:00 p.m. the second day of the show, buyers Dana Williams and Erin Williams of Atlanta, GA, were just arriving to register at MAGIC's women's section. "We've been traveling since 7:00 a.m. [because of weather]," said Williams. "We had one cancelled flight, and a three-hour layover."

Both buyers said they wanted to see Project E, Hot Sauce, To The Max and French Concept. "We want to find things that no one else in Atlanta will have," said Williams, who described the look they would be shopping for as a military/cargo style juxtaposed with contrasting romantic pieces.

In fact, the military influence was a dominant trend for contemporary and directional collections in the men's, women's and children's categories. One example of the trend was the newly licensed men's wear collection, Riley, shown by industry veteran Carl Jones. In his line, vintage embroidered military jackets from the Vietnam War, complete with patches and imperfections, were paired with newly cut pants detailed with vintage military fabrics, cargo pockets, mesh and hardware.

Gold satin pants with cargo pockets and drawstring hems were paired with a mesh T-shirt and distressed leather jacket at XOXO. Jessie USA showed a T-shirt appliqud with suede letters spelling "Army."

For those choosing to march with protest signs instead, John Christian offered T-shirts with glittering screenprints that asked for "peace in the Middle East" against a field of daisies. At Project E, peace signs and "peace without war" were the messages of the day.

Canadian retailer Tony Raimondo, president of Montreal-based Freedom, said he would be reluctantly buying into the military trend. "We've gotten burned so many times," said Raimondo. "Every time we've done camouflage, it's been a disaster, but it looks like we have no choice."

Raimondo also expressed frustration with the void of new trends in young, urban apparel. "We're looking for newness, for that hybrid [type of collection] . for someone to be where Ecko was seven years ago." Raimondo named Guerilla Union as one of the best lines he had seen at MAGIC.

Housed in a large, dramatic booth swathed in Indian fabrics, Los Angeles, CA-based Lucky Brand embraced a different fashion direction that also prevailed at MAGIC. "Rock and roll is such a part of our vernacular," said head designer Kenny Thomas. Showing a fitted Western-styled shirt, for example, he noted: "That's a shirt Mick Jagger might have worn."

Lucky Brand's collection featured dobby textures copied directly from vintage '60s and '70s shirts, printed all-over color techniques, novelty washes, pinwale corduroy, pigment dyeing and novelty details. "Our Western shirts are on fire," said Thomas.

The bohemian-rocker sensibility (think Sheryl Crow) also held true for women's collections showcased at MAGIC, sharing the spotlight with military silhouettes, an ultra-feminine focus and dependable basics.

"It's funny," said Michael Silvestri, sales executive for the Dollhouse and JouJou Outerwear lines. "Everyone says they want something new, and then the thing that sells best is [a corduroy jacket in a fitted jean-jacket-style body]."

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