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Denim, Hoodies and Boho Still Ruling the Roost at US Fashion Expos

While denim in all its manifestations, together with hoodies and the Boho/Bohemian style, are still hardy perennials in US women's fashion, embroidery and off-the-shoulder looks also proved hugely popular at the recent WWDMagic event.

Photo: A casual approach to season styles courtesy of Los Angeles-based Symphony.
A casual approach to season styles courtesy of Los Angeles-based Symphony.
Photo: A casual approach to season styles courtesy of Los Angeles-based Symphony.
A casual approach to season styles courtesy of Los Angeles-based Symphony.

From jeans to tops, from LA to the Big Apple, embroidered detailing was the must-have trend for women's clothing at this year's summer edition of the WWDMagic fashion expo. Overall, off-the-shoulder and exposed shoulder tops were also still very much in demand at the show, one of North America's largest womenswear and accessories trade events, while the boho look continued to prove popular with buyers and consumers alike.

Among the 800-plus fashion brands exhibiting at the event, embroidered detailing was a feature of many of the latest collections on offer. Clearly in tune with this particular zeitgeist was Makers, a Quebec-based jeans brand.

Outlining the sheer ubiquity of this particular embellishment, Cathy David, a Senior Account Executive with the company, said: "There is a lot of embroidery about at the moment. In fact, embroidery is huge, particularly with regard to flower motifs, well flower and bird motifs to be more specific. If you go into any of the major retailers, every garment – whether it's a jacket, a blouse or a piece of denim – features embroidery."

Even from his 10,500km distant viewpoint, Li Wei, a Department Manager with Sainty, a Nanjing-based clothing and textiles manufacturer, had cottoned on to the embroidery trend. Acknowledging its popularity, he said: "In the US, embroidery and handmade details are what everyone seems to want."

Li's view found plenty of support closer to home, with a representative of H&A Couture, an upmarket New York-based women's clothing brand, saying: "There's plenty of embroidery in our current collection. Embroidered denim is just so on trend for us right now."

For Natalie Asselstine, however, Sales and Brand Manager with Glam LA Apparel, a Los Angeles-based women's designer brand, it was more than just embroidery that was proving enduringly popular. Taking note of several rival trends, she said: "In addition to embroidery, layers with ruffles are also very much in demand, as are colour combinations. Yellow with orange, in a single piece, is a very big thing for us right now."

Taking such striking colour combinations to next level is pretty much the raison d'être of the Ontario-based La Pensee brand. This year, the company had on offer its unique collection of vertically split garments, all zip-joined at the front and back. By unzipping one half from the other, the two halves of a garment can be swapped, creating any number of possible different colour combinations.

Explaining the concept behind the range, Sales Representative Mia MacFarlane said: "As you can mix and match the individual pieces, this means if you own two complete outfits, you can actually put together four different looks.

"At present, the most popular colour choices are orange, black and white. For the coming fall and winter, red is looking to be very popular. We have also brought blue along to this show, as people tend to like wearing darker colours in the winter."

Though somewhat unusual, the concept has been readily grasped by customers and retailers, while also attracting considerable media attention. Clearly delighted with the buzz surrounding the product, Macfarlane said: "It's very easy. The retailers just pick which colours they want to take, then show their customers how to mix and match. In New York it has gone down very well.

"In fact, it's attracting a lot of attention pretty much everywhere. We've even been selected – out of all the exhibitors at this show – to go on the Home Shopping Network TV channel to promote the product."

Of course, it wouldn't be a North American fashion expo if 'boho' – the bohemian look – didn't get cast in, at the very least, a fairly major supporting role. Thankfully, WWDMagic didn't disappoint, with many exhibitors only too keen to attest to its continuing influence.

Acknowledging this, Karen Buffo, a Sales Representative with Los Angeles-based Wanderlux, said: "Boho still works very well. If you walk around this show, you will see more and more people incorporating it into their own designs. It's something that people are still gravitating towards.

Photo: Wanderlux’s take on the contemporary boho look.
Wanderlux's take on the contemporary boho look.
Photo: Wanderlux’s take on the contemporary boho look.
Wanderlux's take on the contemporary boho look.
Photo: Mix and match casuals from Glam LA Apparel.
Mix and match casuals from Glam LA Apparel.
Photo: Mix and match casuals from Glam LA Apparel.
Mix and match casuals from Glam LA Apparel.

"For us, a lot of our tee-shirts are selling very well. Many of our longer gauzy, patchwork things also seem to be attracting attention."

Something else that was attracting attention was the array of 'cold shoulder' tops – shirts and blouses either worn off the shoulder or with small cut outs at the top of the sleeve – that were available at the show.

One particular proponent of this style was Lyvian Dao, a Sales Representative for Los Angeles-based Symphony. Highlighting its appeal, she said: "We're seeing a lot of off-the-shoulder at the moment. We are also seeing a move towards looser-fitting clothes and away from tighter-fitting items."

Dao was also keen to point out that her company was enjoying success in a somewhat under-supplied niche – providing on-trend clothing in larger sizes. With obesity levels seen as likely to only rise across the US, this is a sector that many are now said to be considering entering.

Explaining Symphony's approach, she said: "We mostly do casual and going-out clothes, but we have also developed a very popular plus-size line. While a lot of plus-size items tend to veer towards the cutesie, we offer a range of more contemporary styles."

In addition to boho, one of the other two staples at US fashion expos is, of course, denim. Among the many flying the flag for this particular material was the aforementioned Makers. Providing an update on this particular sub-sector, David said: "Right now, 100% cotton is on trend. Although, previously, everybody had wanted a jogging base with stretch in it – with Spandex – right now people want 100% cotton in the mom jean. A wider leg is also getting more popular, while demand is noticeably up for coloured denim."

Together with denim and boho, the third of the holy trinity of items ever-present at US fashion expos is the sweatshirt hoodie. Championing this particular category, Shalini Joon, a Sales Representative with Gogo Sports, a California-based specialist in hoodies and sweatshirts, said: "Basically, anything with a sporty theme goes down well across the whole country. This kind of item is even popular in the summer, largely because we have so much air conditioning and you can get really cold if you are sat watching a movie for two hours."

Similarly benefiting from year-round demand, slogan tee shirts are always a safe bet for any fashion retailer. Highlighting what's selling well in this particular sector, Kate Saville Hawkins, the Chief Executive of Feed The Artist, an Atlanta-based designer tee-shirt brand, said: "Pastel colours are working better than darker colours at the moment and, when it comes to choosing between neutrals and splashes of colour, it's the splashes that are currently coming out on top."

Another recurring theme at US-based apparel events of late has been an increased emphasis on ethical sourcing and environmental responsibility, a move that is very much in step with the sentiments of many consumers. In addition to its novel mix-and-match approach, La Pensee was just one of many companies keen to burnish its green credentials, with Macfarlane saying: "Our slogan is: 'Be kind to mother earth'. In line with this, our products are 100% cotton and guaranteed to be environmentally-friendly."

While few would complain about the industry's greater commitment to environmental responsibility, there were many who were keen to take issue with another clear trend emerging in the sector – a marked reluctance on the part of buyers to place substantial orders.

Commenting on this particular development, Li said: "This is the first time Sainty has taken part in this particular event and we are finding that many of the attendees have their own stores. As a result, they are looking for things they can sell themselves and maybe only want 10 or 20 items in any particular style. As a large-scale manufacturer, though, we really need higher quantity orders.

"Despite that, I still believe there is quite a substantial customer base out there. At the end of the day, people are buying and business is good."

Photo: The summer WWDMagic 2017 event: Where style meets environmental responsibility.
The summer WWDMagic 2017 event: Where style meets environmental responsibility.
Photo: The summer WWDMagic 2017 event: Where style meets environmental responsibility.
The summer WWDMagic 2017 event: Where style meets environmental responsibility.

The summer edition of WWDMagic 2017 took place from 14-16 August at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The event featured more than 800 exhibiting brands and attracted some 80,000 visitors.

James O'Donnell, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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