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Soldiers of Fashion

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If it floats, rolls, skates or glides, you'll find it at the Action Sports trade show--where clothing manufacturers, retailers and trend watchers gather to pick the funkiest, flashiest and most functional gear for the freshest street mavens.

September 10, 1997|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA

"These are the pants kids want," said Gary Phillips, as he reached for a pair of wide-legged blue camouflage trousers teamed with a camouflage belt, toy soldiers inside the plastic-covered accessory. "They're perfect for raves."

The 40-year-old chemist is the owner of Seattle-based PigPen, a T-shirt and clubwear company he started last year to launch his bold new line of rave threads.

"They're dope [that is to say, way cool]," says Travis Koster, one of Phillips' designers, about the camouflage pants. Koster should know: He's a deejay promoter of hard-core jungle parties. He has designed a velvet pant of his own called the "fatso swirl" with a pocket for pagers instead of coins.

The urban guerrilla look--whether a subtle sleeve patch or a complete G.I. uniform--was in full force on the convention floor. The leafy look, in combinations of red and yellow, black and white, blue and black as well as traditional fatigue green, was splashed on record bags, hats, shoes, jackets, belts, shirts, wallets and bikinis.

Los Angeles-based Label Whore owner and designer, Peter Kaveh, premiered his camouflage mini dress--slit down the front with side cargo pockets for everything from compact weapons to silver compacts--on a showroom mannequin.

Why is the look, front and center?

"It's a whole utilitarian, military look," says Kaveh. "It's practicality over beauty, though the look can also be a great surf-urban hip-hop look."

Kaveh said he picked up on the look from New York rap artists several years ago. But it wasn't until this year that he started showing it. On the runway at several ASR fashion shows, Label Whore blue camouflage tops were paired with Army green cargo slacks and tan cuffed slacks.

Ray Newton, a team skate rider for the design firm Chocie Casuals, said the camouflage look is hot "because it represents a tough guy thing. We're kids living in the city and the city can sometimes be a war zone, you know." The year-old Mission Viejo company showed men's short-sleeved G.I. shirts in navy, green, brown and black camouflage as well as a sexy spaghetti-strapped blue dress.

But not everyone is sold on the idea that camouflage will last beyond 1999. Steven Schriever, owner and designer of P.I. Designs Inc. that includes the labels PopIcon for guys and Hairspray for women, predicts a tough battle for the look.

"It will be hot up until the holidays." Then it's onto the Next Big Thing. And what will that be?

It's anyone's guess. Schriever says club fashion is as fickle as the kids who wear it.

"Their motto is 'Buy now, wear now.' They're eager for the next thing and it's up to us to deliver the goods."

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