I wasn't able to go, but followed up to get an update about what is new with O'Neill Girls under new Vice President of Juniors Design Kari Johnson. The first season that represents her vision is spring '09, which debuted at the recent trade shows.
First, here's a little bit about the Generation Next event, which sounded like a big undertaking. Five Orange County high school students mentored by Teen Vogue and O'Neill created their own O'Neill dress and handbag. The designs were unveiled on the runway, and the audience sent a text message to choose a winner. The winner, Rebekka Schuman of San Clemente High School, earned a $2,000 scholarship, an O'Neill internship and other prizes.
Here's what Kari Johnson had to say about her vision for O'Neill Girls.
Spring 2009 is your first line for O'Neill Girls. Can you tell me how you have influenced the design?
"My main goal was to refocus the line for 2009. We wanted to stay true to O'Neill's bohemian surf roots, but also wanted to make the line edgier and more relevant to the 18-year-old, California beach girl. We took more risks in color, prints, silhouettes, fabrics (introduced chiffon and satin) and made sure the line was on trend with what's happening in fashion. We balanced the line with core staples and ‘wow' pieces. Another important aspect was to assure fit and quality of all our pieces.
Are there any categories and/or pieces that retailers responded to at the shows?
"Dresses have been a huge hit for O'Neill for spring 2009. One of our best pieces is the Maui dress, left. The Maui dress is the perfect blend of a strapless mini with vibrant color on our fun new shiny satin fabric.
"A new category for spring is swim coverups. We've received an amazing response to this category and it ties in perfectly to our brand and the California beach lifestyle.
"Fashion sandals are a huge category for us. Our main goal in this category is to create trend right footwear at a great price for our consumers."
Who is the target O'Neill Girls customer?
"This was a strong focus of mine. I wanted to hone in our designs to our target consumer, which is 18 years old. Our line is for the girl who is inspired by the beach lifestyle, style conscious and a trend setter among her peers."
Some brands are going after a more sophisticated, college girl rather than the typical juniors customer. Is O'Neill Girls creating anything for that crowd?
"Our target is a true juniors girl and it's critical we stay focused on her. However, I'm a strong believer that this age is aspirational and that some of our girls are in that transitional phase between high school and college. We wanted to create a line that works well in all environments."
As you prepare fall 2009, are there any new developments or directions?
"I'm not ready to let the cat out of the bag on that one, but O'Neill Girls will have tons of new items coming out for Fall 2009!"