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January's Fashion Market Offers Hope Despite Economic Slow Down

By Sophia Kercher
Published: Monday, January 19, 2009, at 05:32PM
Mingling in the Lobby Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Buyers, models and designers linger in the lobby of the California Market Center after the opening night Australian Fashion Showcase.

Five times a year the Fashion District's expansive California Market Center, a hub for the industry, gets an added flurry of taffeta, silks and denim during market week. A time for buyers from around the country to figure out what will hit store shelves in the upcoming months, activity at the market provides a look at how retailers feel about the future.

The first market week of 2009, focused on summer wear, kicked off last Friday. Although the economy remains unstable, the new year still brought in interested buyers making their selections for spring and summer.

Diana Hangerman is a sales representative for the L.A.-based Seychelles Footwear.

"People are still excited about spring and new things," Hangerman said, standing in front of a colorful array of the latest gladiator sandals. She explained that buyers are being more conservative in their choices and only shopping in-season, but they are still making purchases.

Marty Rose, a representative for the chic company ALL BLACK, had a similar experience. "Buyers want to maintain their relationships [with the sales reps]," Rose said adding that the show seems busier than it was last year. 2008's October Market Week was unusually slow, a break from the Center's tradition of having its biggest Market Weeks in October and March.

California Market Center didn't seem to be abuzz with traffic even during the Fashion Market's mimosa-soaked happy hours but several sales representatives remarked that they were satisfied with the turnout.

"I think everyone's expectations were so low because of the economy that it seemed very successful," Deborah Levine, the Public Relations and Marketing Manager for California Market Week said.

The buyers certainly had numerous new styles from which to choose. This appeared most evident when taking a walk through Transit, the footwear-focused show at the Fashion Market, where all sellers of course were selling the same item: shoes. Vendors ranging from staid choices like Bass to upscale names like Steve Madden offered thousands and thousands of footwear choices.

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