Jewelry Show Buyers Seek Value, Innovation

Designers who combined accessible prices with innovative styles generated attention from buyers at AccessoriesTheShow and the Accessorie Circuit.

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NEW YORK — Designers who combined accessible prices with innovative styles generated attention from buyers at AccessoriesTheShow and the Accessorie Circuit.

This story first appeared in the August 11, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The events were held Aug. 3 to 5 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

“The jewelry sector continues to be strong and it’s a time for major creativity,” said fashion jewelry designer Alexis Bittar. “The retailers and stylists we work with say, ‘Go crazy, this is the time,’ and it’s true. Pieces that used to be strictly editorial are selling. But for us, if we can be in that $200 to $300 range, that’s even better.”

Janis Savitt, who launched her signature brand, Janis by Janis Savitt, this year, said specialty stores were enthusiastic over her new styles.

“These aren’t $30,000 pieces,” Savitt said of her brass and crystal vintage-inspired cuffs and earrings. “It’s easy and it’s fun.”

Jean-Pierre Klifa, creative director of Anteprima-Nueve, a one-year-old accessories firm in Miami, said his business has doubled every three months since the brand’s launch because of the success of his nylon bucket bag that retails for $143.

“We think placing an emphasis on nylon responds well to the financial needs people have today,” Klifa said of the affordable fabric. “The success of the brand comes from great materials and design at an accessible price point.”

Roxanne Assoulin, creative director at Lee Angel, wasn’t deterred by the economic turmoil, moving forward with the debut of her high-end collection, Lee Angel Untitled. The line features statement neck pieces in bright color combinations of fabric, semiprecious stones and crystal that retail from $800 to $1,200.

“We’re still riding the crest of this costume jewelry wave and it’s great for us,” Assoulin said. “You can do commercial collections, but eventually you want to do something for the sake of beauty. It wasn’t even a thought. We had to up the ante and it’s selling.”

Celeste and Satu Greenberg, the sisters behind the burgeoning Tuleste Market jewelry line, are intent on keeping their prices below $500 retail, even in their new crystal collection. At their first show, the siblings’ vintage-inspired necklaces and belts in chunky brass, copper and beads were picked up by the Kabiri concession at Selfridges. They also will be available at Henri Bendel.

“We’re aware of the economy, but are taking chances anyway,” said Ariane Burck­hard, senior buyer for accessories at Henri Bendel, who was shopping for brooches and festive holiday jewelry. “It’s important to maintain freshness and variety.”

Smaller retailers are making more calculated decisions than in the past.

“We are feeling the pinch, but we are not the only ones,” said Kay Demaso, owner of Quiet Pleasures, a gift shop in Andover, Mass., near Boston. “We’re not super worried, though. However, I am buying from fewer vendors and less frequently. I’m also buying fewer items, but am dedicated to buying from designers with high quality at good prices.”

Accessories brand Rafe introduced bags from its Rafe for Tibi collection. President and creative director Rafe Totengco said the collaboration with the contemporary firm has helped drive his namesake business in a difficult economy.

“Retailers are coming in to buy the Tibi line and then they’re looking at my collection and taking it, so it’s helping us expand, too,” Totengco said.

Erickson Beamon founder and designer Karen Erickson said she isn’t worried about the economy and is increasing her international business in China, Russia and the Middle East.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve had a recession,” she said. “It bounces back. At least people seem to be back to normal this time around.”

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