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Posted Date: 10/1/2003

The MAGIC of Spring

By  Bonnie McCarthy, Special to Apparel

Escaping the steamy heat of Las Vegas in August, tens of thousands attended the spring/summer 2004 MAGIC at the Las Vegas Sands Convention Center. Flirty femininity and decades worth of style were distilled into directional junior and contemporary clothing that proved a departure from the overt military styling of previous seasons. Men's wear offered dueling trend perspectives pitting stylish dandies against blue-collar heroes. Children's design culled the best from both markets, creating suitable style both petite and precocious.

In the Pink

"Think pink" was the indisputable edict of the Spring 2004 show. Cutting across trend directions and market categories, pink in every shade and hue colored designers' mod moments, Studio 54 sets, '80s revivals, punk princesses, fashion fatigues and 1950s fab.

Nicole Petersen, of Orange, CA-based Harveys, said her pink colorway of the Lily of the Valley print was garnering more attention than the blue/green combination. "We have been very busy," says Petersen, whose playful collection consisted of sweet, girly silhouettes with a retro nod to the 1950s (wrap skirts layered over tulle, ruffled pink capes, an "I Love Lucy"-style dress with fitted bodice and drop circle skirt).

Costa Mesa, CA-based Royal Pink continued the tribute to 1950s and '60s glam with a witty line of structured handbags and totes. Red or blue sparkling vinyl clutches are adorned with classic car chrome, while tube-shaped styles feature vintage magazine pages, movie posters, chinoserie and subway maps. Buyer Amy Wheeler says her boutique, Tragically Chic, in Andover, KS, has experienced a "phenomenal reaction" to the Royal Pink collection. "We've been open for six months and we've already been written up three times by the [Wichita Eagle's] fashion editor [because of these handbags]." Royal Pink's co-owner/designer Mia Manyer says the line chose to show within The Edge area because they like the vibe. "It's like a love fest here. Everybody helps support one another . and there's an edginess here that we definitely fit into, even if our price points ($50-$250 wholesale) don't," says Manyer.

It wasn't the fifties, but heydays of the 1960s, '70s and '80s that inspired young contemporary manufacturer Fornarina's directional line. The Italy-based company boldly reinterpreted the celebrated style of Joan Jet, Blondie and Studio 54. Denim was key, including a candy-pink jean and a best-selling silhouette designed with a low-waisted front and slightly higher rise in the back. Fornarina's large collection exemplified all things directional for spring including: color blocking, mod silhouettes a la '60s flight attendants, white terry cloth jumpsuits, micro miniskirts, distressed tanks and T-shirts detailed with neon and strapless blouson bodices.

Enthusiasm for embellishment and all things '80s was a distinguishing theme for many designers, including New York-based Vicars & Tarts, which conjured up images of Diana-the-Early-Years, such as puff-sleeved blazers, dolman sleeves, satin fabrics and an off-the-shoulder bomber jacket.

MAGIC Men

At MAGIC's men's wear show designers rolled up their shirtsleeves.literally. Revealing renewed passion for the classic, woven men's shirt, manufacturers placed their bets on smart new versions of an old standby. The best versions feature crisp, lightweight woven fabrics, extensive attention to detail, fresh color palettes, prints, stripes and embroidery. Chris Cantrell, West Coast sales representative for the Robert Graham Collection, believes these shirts fill a void in the market for men who buy premium denim. "There wasn't anything to wear with jeans that were retailing for $150-$170," says Cantrell.

Deborah Novick, key account executive for London-based Ben Sherman, says wovens continue to be the strength of their collection as well. Spring shirts are detailed with contrasting red, white and blue button hole threads, perma-crinkled cotton fabrics, pin tucks, contrasting prints, stripes and colors on cuffs and inside front plackets, and small decorative nailhead designs featuring images of the company's bull's eye logo and the Union Jack.

Stand-out woven shirts were also notable at Miami-based Venissac. The collection consisted of ultra lightweight cotton voiles, cotton shirting, and seersucker awash in bold tropical colors, exclusive prints, stripes and embroidery. Wallpaper prints, randomly placed screens, graphics and embroidery, thin stripes and thicker bands of color enliven men's wear with a new attitude and style of dress. Shirts shown by Tommy Hilfiger, Custo, Sean John, Joseph Abboud, and Kenneth Cole also exemplified the trend.

Hometown Heroes

Contrasting the casual, uptown cool of the new shirts, a decidedly downtown-and-across-the-tracks kind of style also presented a directional force for spring. From grease monkeys and truck drivers to hog-riding hipsters and modern-day cowboys, designers paid homage to the simple life with short sleeve plaid shirts, 1x1 rib tanks, distressed denim and rugged, fraying edges. Los Angeles, CA-based Lucky Brand aced the trend with vintage-slub jersey T-shirts, a gray mechanic's shirt with "Burt" stitched above the front flap pocket, stone-blasted plaid shirts, 14-ounce "old school" heavy denim, and distressed twill pants featuring "drummeled" edges.

Los Angeles-based Von Dutch also topped the must see list for this trend and boasted an even longer listing of celebrities and retailers clamoring for the label. Vintage-look distressed leather motorcycle jackets, logo-heavy T-shirts, tanks, denim mechanic jumpsuits, paint splattered jeans and micro miniskirts embellished with patches and screen prints seduced buyers into the narrow, busy booth.

Vietnam-inspired, Los Angeles-based Da Nang also boasted industry buzz for its second showing at MAGIC, presented by owner and industry veteran Albert Dahan. Da Nang continued to capitalize on the still strong cargo pant and vintage-look fatigue trend featuring colored camouflage, vertical drawstring pulls, multiple pockets, zips, tabs, screen prints, patches and ultra soft washes. The masculine utility look was softened for the women's wear line with a pastel palette for 2004.

Photo-realism prints were hot, showing up on everything from dress shirts and T-shirts to surf trunks and hooded sweatshirts. Santa Barbara, CA-based collection, Solitude, featured some of the best prints as well as new, environmentally sound, digital, ink-jet technology to produce them. Owner and former professional surfer, Shaun Tomson reports a "fantastic" reaction from buyers. "It's been the best MAGIC we've ever had," he says. "I think retailers are looking for brands that haven't been over-distributed . that will allow them to differentiate themselves. I think small brands are in a great position right now."

Children Should Be Seen.

Children's wear mimicked many of the new grown-up trends while maintaining a strong show of favoritism for proven bodies, silhouettes, and licensed characters. Zip front, sporty tracksuits from Sean John Kids, Dickies, P.Miller, Avirex, Puma, Izod and Riley exemplified the ongoing affair for all things active while OP '72, Proof, Lucky Brand, Da Nang, Macgear and Lil' Jellybean continued the case for cargo pocket pants and shorts.

Little girls also look pretty in pink and the color's rosy reign ruled for spring in the children's wear category. French Toast, Govango, Tip Top, Dockers Girls, S.H.E. and Harley Davidson were among many who used the hue to enhance important silhouettes. Notable accessory lines included multi-tasking diaper bags by Fairfax, CA-based Fleurville and backpacks, totes and carryalls from Groton, MA-based, Little Packrats.

For boys, the licensed Radio Flyer line by New York-based Weeplay showed a strong collection of schoolyard basics with a key retro flair. Gray mechanics' jackets with red and navy accents, ring spun denim pieces, graphic logo-screened T-shirts featuring the classic red wagon, micro-sanded canvas cargo pants, bicycle T-shirts with back-pocket detailing and value-added touches such as novelty zipper pulls, embroidery, patches and screen printed logo belts (sizes 4-7) defined the 1-year-old line. "It's been a good show for us," says Joshua Wechsler, key account manager. "Our goal has been to have key management meetings and we've done that."

In contrast to the immediate brand identity of Radio Flyer, many companies attended the MAGIC kid's show for their first time. Israel-based children's wear manufacturer Shilav has enjoyed international success for more than 30 years, but was a first-timer at MAGIC Kids. The Shilav apparel collection was launched in the United States for the first time in February. "We want to bring chic, affordable children's wear to the United States," says Gil Oren, owner. The moderately priced collection offers European-style fashion and detail for infants and toddlers.

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