By  on August 17, 2009

The three buzzwords in accessories next spring are colorful, casual and versatile, vendors say.

That’s because accessories companies, from jewelry to handbags, have identified that women want distinctive colorful statement pieces designed to modernize their potentially older wardrobes — that often incorporate denim.

“In these times, it needs to be denim-friendly and casual,” said Martha Radford, design director for Hobo International. “Everyone isn’t getting dressed up all the time anymore.”

Jeanne Kirkland, chief executive officer and designer for Urban Posh, an Austin, Tex.-based jewelry line, has recognized the same dynamic.

“In this economy, people are looking for things to go day into night,” Kirkland said, noting many of her bestsellers can be paired as easily with jeans and a T-shirt as with a cocktail dress.

From a jewelry standpoint, Kirkland believes shoppers are searching for more subdued statement pieces. “Before it was more ‘in your face,’” she said. “Now it’s just as bold but more refined.”

Instead of big, chunky necklaces, Urban Posh now spotlights necklaces with large medallions or pendants and more layered chains. Kirkland added shoppers are looking to accessories to liven up last year’s clothes. “A lot of people are staying with the wardrobe they have and popping it with accessories,” she said.

For Big Buddha, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based line of nonleather goods, a casual vibe always has been part of its aesthetic. As a result, color also is a critical component to many accessories lines. Designer Jeremy Bassan is introducing handbags with a pink lining, as well as bags in natural shades, turquoise and coral. They all wholesale at between $34 and $38. Big Buddha also will produce tie-dyed canvas bags with leatherlike trim and tassels and hibiscus floral embroidery.

Back at Hobo, for spring, the company will unveil brightly colored patent clutches and mini cross-body styles in black, lime, turquoise, fuchsia and a floral print. “Those are statement bags,” Radford said. Its mini cross-body and basic shoulder bags are made of Italian goatskin in pebble, saffron, clay red and blue with braiding, stitching treatment and antique brass hardware. Additionally, Hobo will offer satchels, clutches and cross-body styles in black, maple, mustard and coral among other shades in its vintage leather collection.

New details include folding, pleating, stud treatments, wider zippers and statement hardware on the bags, most of which retail for less than $200, with wholesale prices ranging from $39 for mini cross-body bags to $150 for some of the larger handbags. “We’re trying hard to keep the prices well under $100, but we use Italian skins, so it’s a big challenge,” Radford said.



Color also shapes Urban Posh’s spring assortment, where Kirkland noted she attempts to appeal to two customers — those who love bursts of color and vivid shades of orange, green and purple, and those who prefer a more neutral palette.

In turn, she offers more modern, chandelier-style earrings with marquise-cut stones and dangling leaves in smoky topaz and more vibrant stones. The earrings, which Kirkland said will be a strong seller, are wholesaling for $45 to $65. She predicted another top performer will be a gold cuff with cutouts and large gemstones set in a floral pattern, at $85 wholesale.

Overall, the line, which averages at $40 wholesale, ranges from $12 for a single leaf stack ring to $161 for a large gold, purple and green hydro quartz necklace.

And as colorful scarves were the must-have item last spring, Alexia Crawford, owner of the New York-based line bearing her name, observed that some buyers are looking for hair accessories to take their place. “Everybody’s looking for the next trend,” said Crawford, whose line sells to Forever 21 and Arden B. “Scarves were hot last spring, and now they’re oversaturated.”

Hair accessories, particularly jeweled items wholesaling for $4 to $8, have been her strongest-selling category, she said. Other top performers are metallic mesh coin purses at $2 to $4, and suede bracelets from $4 to $18.

Overall, the moderate price point has helped the line survive during the economic downturn, Crawford said. “We’re holding our own,” she said. “On the plus side, we’re in junior chain stores and they’re doing OK, but people are very conscious of what they’re spending.”

That means in today’s marketplace, accessories need to be more just than on-trend; they must possess that crucial combination of quality, design and value.

“We all just have to work a lot harder,” said Radford of Hobo, noting that, when people are spending less on themselves, an accessory must stand out. “You have to have it. [The product] has to be so fantastic that you’re full of remorse if you don’t buy it.” To that end, Hobo is focused on functional bags with an edge.

That philosophy is shared by Big Buddha, which has chosen to emphasize its function and styling with new customized hangtags that contain a drawing of a model wearing that style of handbag on the front, and on the back, lists its three top features, such as an adjustable strap allowing the bag to be carried over the shoulder or across the body, messenger-style. Additionally, each bag will now include a logo key fob and ID/credit card case. Said Bassan: “We’re trying to give our customers more for the same price.”

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