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Action Sports Clothing Conference: Don’t Chase Fast Fashion

Makers of surf-inspired and other action sports should stick to what they do best as they go after the large, yet fickle market of teen girls and young women.

That was the theme at an event hosted by the Also Viejo-based Surf Industry Manufacturers Association at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point earlier this week.

A panel looked at the pressing issue of fast fashion and the ever-changing junior’s market.

Fast fashion retailers and clothing makers have proven a hit during the downturn by quickly churning out inexpensive clothes inspired by pricier designs.

They’ve exacerbated a slump for makers of clothes inspired by surfing.

Action sports companies shouldn’t chase the trend, panelists said.

“Girls are up on trends and they want fashion,” said Tamara Chamberlain, director of juniors fashion at Anaheim-based Pacific Sunwear of California Inc., the largest seller of surf-inspired clothes. “We offer price in certain categories and we understand the categories she’ll pay a premium for. Our job is to get new customers and maintain our current customers and product.”

“It’s a hard thing to cater to everyone,” said Candy Harris, brand director for Irvine clothing maker Billabong USA. “As an industry, we have to do a better job with our athletes, unify as an industry and make a bigger splash that way.”

Action sports clothing makers have evolved, said Kristina Dechter, editor of Foam magazine.

“It used to be about the blonde, bikini clad girl next to the surfboard,” she said. “That was such a one-dimensional representation of the surf girl. Now with all the brands, there is great fashion. It’s not just bikinis; it’s much more three-dimensional and that gives brands a way to create more of a lifestyle.”

Teen girls these days have a variety of interests, PacSun’s Chamberlain said.

“They’re very diverse. They play lacrosse, they surf, they mountain climb. As an industry, we can get a whole new group of kids into surf’s game,” she said.

Laura McEwen, vice president and publisher of Teen Vogue, did a presentation on the “millennials”—girls and women 14 to 29 who make up about 75 million consumers. Millennials spent $467 billion in 2009, she said.

The biggest thing about them: They make the up the largest spending group in every area, she said.

The event also included a panel that took a look at women’s professional surfing today and how to propel that into mainstream culture.

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