Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD MAGIC issue 02/02/2010

Coming off a better-than-expected holiday after a long period of bone-dry consumer spending, accessories vendors are upping their game with differentiated product and price, aiming to prod customers to open their wallets once again.

This story first appeared in the February 2, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


“The consumer is looking for more value and for more novelty, more artisanal detailing, more embroidery, beading. There’s no interest in classic. This trend started over a year ago,” said Carolina Amato, designer and president of Carolina Amato, a New York-based company specializing in cold weather accessories.


Amato is bringing summer and cold weather accessories to the show, including gloves, hats and scarves in polkadot and leopard intarsia patterns in gray, brown or black with orange or turquoise contrasting patterns. The designer, whose accessories sell in boutiques and better department stores, is also bringing men’s and women’s leather gloves with detailing like buckles.


Business has been good for Amato, whose price points are in the better to upper-better range. “The volume of product that retailers were able to sell has dropped off, but the cold weather really helped a lot,” she said.


Alexia Crawford, president of her namesake firm and a 10-year veteran of WWDMAGIC, is focusing on hair accessories, scarves, handbags and jewelry, all retailing for between $3 and $38. “We’re more fashion-oriented, so our stuff seems to be bigger,” she said, noting her best performers are stretch cocktail rings with large glass stones, as well as long, layered industrial chains and leather and suede bracelets. Her accessories are tied to jewelry in some way, and usually have some embellishments — even the scarves.


“Scarves are not as good as last year, so we have added more novelty-driven scarves,” with details like lace, she said.


Patti McKillop, chief executive officer of Potluck Paris, a Seattle-based company that imports jewelry from mostly French designers, also stressed the importance of unique product.


McKillop said she will bring new styles of bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings, all made of mixed metal with an “antique finish, yet a modern look.” They retail between $30 and $300.


“I think the biggest focus from this season is all the types of chains,” she said, adding that another big trend is rings with a metal elastic band.


In fact, her strongest seller is the elastic ring, most of which are adorned with rhinestones and Crystallized-Swarovski Elements crystals. The rings, which are available in a variety of shapes, such as a flower shape, retail from $65 to $100.


Differentiation is also a theme in handbags, according to Adrienne Vittadini Handbags design director Elena Humphreys. While the styles in handbags are “all over the map,” Humphreys said the one trend that has emerged is “ladylike and embellished” bags at attainable prices.


“Adrienne Vittadini is doing a luxury collection for an affordable price,” she said, explaining that the bags feature jewelry-like hardware.


Through “smarter design” and “great sourcing,” the New York-based company is able to offer the bags in the $200-to-$400 price range, Humphreys said, adding that the bags look like they cost $700 but they will sell for $300.


“With the economy still soft, people are buying investment pieces,” she observed. “I’m sure low-end apparel is doing better than low-end accessories. I think people would rather have 20 cheap sweaters than 20 cheap handbags.”


Designer Michelle Cravens, owner of Michelle Monroe Studios, a Yorba Linda, Calif.-based luxury handbag firm, concurred with Humphreys.


“If people are going to spend money, it’s going to be on jewelry or handbags versus apparel,” she said. The bags, which are higher-end, retailing from $300 to $670 and
often “on the same shelves as Gucci and Prada,” have been featured in magazines for their unique look, mixing feathers, leather and detailing like studs and gold hardware.


Cravens will bring six to seven of her signature feather bags to the show. “I have seen a feather trend but not much on bags,” she said. “I did a few pieces last year and got a lot of encouraging feedback.”