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Place your bets

Laura Weir headed to Las Vegas to weigh up the odds and decide which of the brands at footwear trade show WSA could be worth a gamble for UK buyers

The World Shoe Association Footwear exhibition in Las Vegas attracted some new names from the UK for its spring 08 edition last week. Buyers from Harvey Nichols and Shoe Studio Group joined WSA veterans Office and Kurt Geiger to cast their eyes over the best in US footwear.

This season's show grew in size to 2.1 million sq ft, 200,000 sq ft larger than last season, despite being condensed from three venues to two - The Las Vegas Convention Centre (LVCC) and The Venetian Hotel.

It is still the biggest footwear fair in the world, with 6,000 brands on show, making it a priority for buyers in the US and an unmissable exhibition for domestic brands. WSA is also vital for any UK brand wanting to crack the tough US market. But the geographical distance and the fact that the US fashion market is a so different to that of Europe means the show is not top of the agenda for most UK and Republic of Ireland buyers, and independents from these countries were thin on the ground at this season's edition.

But the show pulled in about 35,000 visitors and there were many benefits to be had from a visit, with UK and European retailers having the opportunity to forge ties with executive teams from the US brands they stock, and to view entire ranges.

Nevertheless, European attendance at next season's WSA may be hindered by the fact the show is mooted to run three weeks later in the season, seven weeks after Bread & Butter. This prospect has not gone down well with UK exhibitors. Fred Perry global footwear sales manager Tim Phipps said that although he still sees the show as a priority, a later dateline would not correlate with European buying schedules. "For me it's going to come too late," he said. "I like to get all my orders in before my August 13 sales cut-off. Pushing the show back will compromise my forward order."

TRENDS

As well as metallics and patents, looks on show at WSA ranged from boat shoes to moccasins as brands plundered the past

PLAID

Sneakers and casual styles for women and men took inspiration from heritage fabrics for spring 08. A mix of textile-clad uppers nodded to autumn 07's penchant for texture, with argyle and herringbone patterns featuring alongside plaid coverings to give footwear a cosy look.

FRINGING

Moccasin-inspired styling and fringing featured on a variety of styles. While this is a trend that has been seen before, strip-fabric detailing also made an appearance this season on ankle boots and sandals in both bright and muted tones. Although not as prevalent as in previous seasons, slip-on moccasins were still popular.

NEUTRALS

From taupe, tan and mushroom to sand and butterscotch, neutral tones in the spring 08 colour palette were a fresh and sophisticated foil to the patents, metallics and 1980s-inspired brights so prevalent recently. These shades were used across most styles, including stack heels, peep toes, Mary Janes, wedges and flat pumps.

CHAIN DETAILS

Chain links were prolific at WSA in both brushed metals and shiny interpretations. This snaffle detail hit all ends of the market, featuring on top-end bespoke footwear as well as more value-led styles, and helped to give court shoes a tougher look for spring 08. Plastic links on younger styles were brighter and chunkier.

DECK SHOES

Boat shoes and deck shoes all passed muster at WSA as the nautical trend hit the US footwear market. Interpretations included thick gum soles, side laces and wide fronts. British heritage brand Fred Perry offered a cleaner, more up-to-date version of the style, which could be the look that US brands follow next spring as the trend evolves Stateside.

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