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Spirits High at Men’s Apparel Guild Show

That perennial favorite, Snoopy, didn’t get many votes. But he tried. And his Snoopy for President neckties provided what little hot news there was at the recent MAGIC (Men’s Apparel Guild in California) International show, where buyers ordered the newest looks in menswear for spring.

More than 45,000 buyers from 27 countries converged on the Los Angeles Convention Center to view the wares of 1,900 menswear exhibitors.

If the clothes were somewhat predictable, the buyers didn’t seem to mind. They were an optimistic bunch, obviously encouraged by the Commerce Department’s report that despite a 2% drop in total retail sales in August, U.S. apparel and accessories sales rose 4%, an increase of almost 4% over August, 1987, figures. And according to Thomas Julian of the Men’s Fashion Assn., menswear sales are up for the first time in 10 years.

Buyers Think Sportswear

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When buyers come to California to write orders, the majority are thinking sportswear, not tailored clothing. When they crowd the aisles of the Convention Center to watch fashion shows, it’s to see the latest offerings of Levi Strauss, Adidas, Hobie and youth-oriented firms such as Los Angeles-based Zeppelin. And when they talk about fashion, they don’t even mention the ponytails on the male models or the preppy sport shirts worn buttoned up to the neck. They’re mum about the gray flannel suits worn without ties. These buyers are talking about shorts and jeans.

When the tailored suit with short pants was introduced on fashion runways last spring, most observers thought designers were kidding. Obviously not. Several mass-market collections featured the look for spring, 1989.

“It’s a weekend look,” explains Chip Tolbert, fashion director of the Men’s Fashion Assn. “But I suspect if we have another summer like this year, we’ll see them on the street.”

Buyers may not have scooped up the shorts suit, but they did buy shorts without jackets. In fact, according to Julian, store buyers have invested 50% of this year’s pants dollars in walking shorts. And, adds Harvey Turell, president of Zeppelin, shorts are the single hottest-selling category in his company’s extensive spring collection.

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Preppy stripes, Australian influences, Caribbean prints, tight cyclist silhouettes, baggy surfer shapes and bold neon accents reflected a varied fashion statement, a mixed--if sometimes confusing--message that seemed to pervade the entire MAGIC show.

Jeans continue to be a mainstay of the men’s apparel business. The indigo denim that was bleached or stone-washed years ago and acid-washed more recently, is “sand-blasted” this year, to achieve a pale, aged-looking finish. “Perhaps ‘bulldozed’ denim will be next year’s approach,” one salesman joked.

The Busiest Booth

Although five-pocket, straight-leg jeans continue to be the mass-market favorite, styles with wild details were drawing buyers. One of the show’s busiest booths was Body Glove, makers of neoprene swimwear. But it was the firm’s dungarees that the standing room-only crowd was talking about. Traditional denim jeans inset with patches of neoprene sporting the Body Glove’s flat handprint logo are set to retail for $105.

Some of this city’s most talked-about designers and their signature menswear collections--Karl Logan, Glen Williams, Christian de Castelnau and Leon Max--were noticeably absent at MAGIC. But perhaps, there just wasn’t room. So crowded were the 1,900 exhibitors in the Convention Center, its permanent annexes and temporary “bubbles,” that the show will vacate the Southern California facility after its fall show in March. The next spring trade show will be held in Las Vegas in October, 1989.


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