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Women-run companies design sophisticated sports apparel

A few years ago Sara Rosenberg of Miami took one glance at the fashion look of accessories such as pocketbooks and tote bags that showed sports team logos and was aghast.

“Cheesy” was the way Rosenberg described sports logo fashion and fan gear for women who wanted not only to support their sports teams but also carry classy, fashion-forward pocketbooks.

At the Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Thursday, Rosenberg joined a growing number of female company owners who are designing more sophisticated apparel, shoes and accessories for women sports fans who want to show off their team’s colors with a savvy fashion statement all week long, not just on game days. The show runs through Saturday but is closed to the public.

In Rosenberg’s case, her company, By Sara, showed fashionable handbags and tote bags with NBA team logos such as the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks. Her lightweight bags have patent leather bottoms, charms that serve as a detachable key chain and inside compartments.

“These bags look like high-end bags at affordable prices,” she said of the merchandise that sells for $40-$70 in retail stores.

Indeed, women are looking for more savvy fashion design in their sports apparel and accessories, said Kameelah Simpson, co-owner of a Modesto, Calif. store called Game Time Pro Shop who was reviewing exhibitors’ products.

“You can still feel girlie while supporting your team,” Simpson said. “You don’t want to look like a man. I wouldn’t want to wear my husband’s T-shirt.”

The women’s sports merchandise niche can be potentially lucrative because women like to wear different outfits to games, while men always wear the same lucky ball cap or jersey on game days, said Vickie Nelson, owner of Team Blingies, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based company that makes women’s jewelry in the team colors of their favorite teams.

“It’s a fashion show for women,” Nelson said.

To illustrate the growing fashion sophistication in women’s sports logo apparel, Meredith Garrett, owner and designer of Los Angeles-based Signorelli, showed stylish pre-washed garments with custom dyes adorned with college team logos such as Auburn University. Some tops had an off-the-shoulder look, while others had a specific cut that showed the back was lower than the front.

Angelo Anastasio is counting on upscale fashion appealing to female sports fans.

His Newport Beach, Calif.-based company, Anastasio Moda, displayed a $480 “Bohemian vintage” pocketbook bearing the retro circa 1960s logos of the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. The pocketbooks with the vintage looks sell at high-end retail stores such as Nordstrom and Neiman-Marcus.

“Licensed sports products have come a long way for women,” Anastasio said.

The show’s most stylish women’s shoes bearing crystallized team logos were on display at Cuce Shoes, a Virginia Beach-based company owned by 30-year-old twins Kathleen and Kristina Cuce. At 27, the duo won NFL licensing agreements and set out to create “fashionable, fun footwear.”

Their booth showed gray suede boots, tan suede shoes with 3-inch heels, black wedges lined with synthetic fur, ballet flats with pink synthetic suede and a flexible collar and a water-resistent boot. Naturally, all were adorned with the logos of major league teams.

“We wanted to make a product that women can wear seven days a week,” Kristina Cuce said. “People are realizing that women’s sports products are just not for wearing on Sundays.”

For Orlando-based Miss Fanatic, founded by Orlando Magic cheerleader Tiffany Pearl, marketing to women has meant embellishing boring logo shirts and tank tops with rhinestones and sequins.

Pearl even designed a three-way ruffled top for $39.99 that allows women to wear it as a tube top, off the shoulder or on both shoulders.

“The market wasn’t catering to women,” said Lauren Polt, owner of Austin, Texas-based Chicka-d, which makes dresses and cropped jersey tops showing the logos of 85 college teams for college-aged women.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273.

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