Chicago’s StyleMax, the largest women’s apparel market in the Midwest, countered the questionable economy with higher-than-expected attendance this month and, at the same time, unveiled a new facet, National Prom Market Chicago.
Susan McCullough, senior vice president for apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., said she was pleased with the amount and consistency of activity at the market, noting there were still handfuls of buyers looking to do business when StyleMax, which ran from Aug. 9 to 12 at the Merchandise Mart, ended.
“There were still a lot of stores on the floor,” McCullough said, noting the show’s August edition enjoyed a single-digit percentage increase in attendance over last year. “In this economy, I was pleased. I was worried because everyone is saying retail is so terrible now.”
McCullough, who would not release figures, said the slight jump may be attributed to more area retailers questioning the expense of traveling to New York to do their buying.
The market’s newest addition, a 20,000-square-foot section devoted to prom and special occasion resources, likely attracted new buyers as well, she said.
“Prom has been a major success for us,” said McCullough about the area, which featured some 40 vendors including Alyce Designs, Tony Bowls for Mon Cheri, Faviana and LaFemme. “The manufacturers opened new accounts and were very happy.”
McCullough launched the section responding to many retailers who said it was difficult to buy both bridal and prom fashions at Chicago’s expansive National Bridal Market in October. “It’s so hard to do it all at once,” McCullough said. “The [bridal] show is so huge. It’s easier to shop separately. The stores like it.”
Retailers, meanwhile, continued to weather the economic downtown, with some faring better than others.
Carrie Arrouet, co-owner of Lela in Milwaukee, said her 1,400-square-foot store, which houses a mixture of new, vintage and consignment clothing, is seeing sales about 10 percent higher than last year.
Business has been buoyed by increased foot traffic due to Anthropologie moving in next door. “It’s increased the visibility of the neighborhood and brought credibility to the district as a shopping destination,” she said of her store’s location along North Broadway. “People see value to our product.”
Anthropologie opened in January in the area, which is known as an arts district and is populated with many warehouses, located just south of downtown Milwaukee, she said.
Arrouet, who was shopping StyleMax mostly for accessories, picked up patent envelope clutches from Big Buddha in purple, green, yellow and black, and also opted for oversize handbags in the same colors, as well as in pewter, silver and gold metallic shades. She also ordered leather and pounded metal jewelry from Bauxo, specifically buying hammered gold hoops and distressed leather cuffs for women and men for holiday gift-giving.
Penny Meisel, owner of Necessities in Glenview, a north suburb of Chicago, said she has become more conservative in her buy, purchasing less on first orders with plans to reorder merchandise that sells. At StyleMax, she liked fashion jackets with bell sleeves from Luii in gray, red, black and plaids, as well as lightweight scarves from VSA in gray, black, purple and plaid.
Meisel also bought 100 percent cotton sweaters from Willow, one of her best-selling lines, in purple and deep caramel and printed chiffon V-neck tops with lace trim from Sienna Rose.
Lastly, the retailer picked up lacy tanks and layering T-shirts from G. Wheels in black, beige and white.
Business, she said, has been “OK. I was already feeling it last year,” she said. “And I’m not finding it too much different this year.”
In turn, Meisel said she widened her assortment, buying new lines of accessories and adding more clothing. “Now I can do multiple sales,” she said. “When they buy an outfit, I can suggest a purse.”
Overall, the economic climate may be tougher for newer stores, McCullough said. “For stores that have been around a while, they’ve been through this before,” she said. “I don’t think people are going to stop buying clothes, period. But business is tough for everyone. We all have to work smarter.”
From overseeing America’s fastest-growing speciality retailers to codifying cool, WWD talked to the women who are leading the way for the future of beauty. Check out our Instagram Stories to see how these women built today and are creating tomorrow. (📸: @hannah_khymych) #wwdbeauty
For @laperlalingerie's spring 2018 show, the brand chose to host their event at @thevenetianmacao. With Chinese megastars @bingbing_fan and @hubing in attendance, La Perla debuted a rock ‘n’ roll-inspired collection. The show marked the start of Sands Macao Fashion Week, which runs from October 19 to 24 — the city’s first such event. Pictured here are models backstage with glimmering eyes. #wwdfashion (📷: Cheuk-Yin To)
Trending for spring 2018: top stitch design. Gone are the days of stitch just for seams — designers are using the once-minimal detail to create strong decorative elements. (📷: Paola Testa; Styled by @andrew_shang) #wwdfashion
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)