By  on September 13, 2011

With the drab economy challenging the apparel business, designers and brands exhibiting at the Fashion Coterie are going wild for brights, with hopes this kind of a stimulus will do wonders at retail come spring.

Reflecting some of the trends on the runways of New York Fashion Week, bright floral prints and colors from citrus yellow to pink and coral will be among the trends at Coterie, which takes place Sept. 18 to 20 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

“Based on the traffic that we have seen at our fall 2012 shows, we expect traffic to be strong,” said Elyse Kroll, chairwoman and founder of ENK International. “Solid commerce began for our brands with ENKNY in July and continued through Accessorie Circuit/Intermezzo in August. Brands have been writing good business with new accounts that are both domestic and international, which is the most important reason one would participate in a trade show.”

With the ongoing challenges at retail as a result of the economy, ENK is introducing several new measures to help buyers better navigate the show. These include a smartphone app at enkshows.com/mobile and a retailer hotline at 818-464-7130. Helpers will also be strategically placed throughout the show to answer questions.

“The show has been well merchandised, and it will be very easy to shop for retailers,” Kroll said. “In terms of challenges, the retailers have a tremendous amount of brands to discover and buy, so it will be a long three days for them.”

This season, the Coterie’s TMRW section, which highlights emerging collections, has expanded and will feature several returning designers and labels and a few first-timers, including Barbara Briones, Demo Parkchoonmoo, Illesteva, Joomi Lim and Leila Shams.

“Retailers should pay attention to these young designers of the future,” Kroll said.

Other labels making their premiere at the show include Vena Cava, SLVR, Winter Kate, Kathy Hilton, Charles Cotonay, Oska, W. Kleinberg, Anna Sui for Hush Puppies and Havaianas.

James Lim, president and founder of James Jeans and James Icon, said premium denim — once a fast-expanding category at retail — is no longer immune to economic woes. To that end, the company diversified its offering for spring.

“While our core product competency is still denim, we have successfully ventured into nondenim categories with the launch of James Icon,” Lim said. “In these unpredictable and volatile times, it is an undeniable asset to have a diversified portfolio of product groups.”

Contemporary label Ali Ro, meanwhile, is bringing an expanded collection of outerwear to Coterie.

“Our business has been very good and consistently driven by a mix of trend-driven items such as colorblocking, leather and color, both fall brights and fabulous jewel tones,” said Sarah Hanna, president of Ali Ro. “Ali Ro staples, such as our outerwear and feminine ruffle silhouettes, continue to be top performers as well. Although the consumer is cautious now, she is still excited by newness and trend-right items, which is what is driving our business at retail.”

Hanna expects that novelty, color and special knits will be among the top sellers at Coterie.

“We think stores will be careful with the buying purchases, but anxious to continue the flow of newness to keep their customers coming in,” Hanna said. “Our specialty boutiques are buying closer into the deliveries, which makes roadwork and follow-up as important as the shows.”

Marlena Ruiz, founder and designer of Riller & Fount, noted an uptick in business since the start of the year.

“While our loyal customers know what works for them, new accounts are more cautious initially, and it can take a full season before they get on board,” Ruiz said. As for trends, she added, “Unlike past seasons where our focus was on neutrals and superclean silhouettes, our spring collection has considerably more detail and bright color — shades of pink, coral and citrus in our great washed silks, which we introduced in fall. While we still see bright color going into spring, hem lengths will vary from maxis to minis and everything in between.”

German brand Strenesse is bringing its contemporary Strenesse Blue label to Coterie. For spring, the collection was inspired by a cruise down the Mediterranean, with earthy colors reminiscent of Casablanca’s landscape, as well as fluid silhouettes for skirts and python prints.

“You will also see clean shapes and cool business outfits that fit the vibe of the Sicilian capital of Palermo, and slim suits with chunky knits that follow the modern architecture of Valencia,” said Gerd Strehle, chief executive officer of Strenesse, adding that business has been growing steadily.

“Profits and buyers’ responses have been constantly improving, and we hope to continue in the same direction,” Strehle said. “We now have our sights set on the future of the brand and how we can continue to offer appealing styles to our international markets.”

Jen Menchaca, founder and designer of Nation Ltd., said since business continues to be challenging at the store level, “Retailers are gravitating to proven brands and styles that they know will sell on the floor. Thankfully, we have some great relationships and are doing OK even in the tough market.”

For spring, Nation Ltd. is showing a French tweed knit group. “We absolutely love this fabric because we are able to put it into silhouettes that people know Nation for — but it looks dressier, and also much more expensive than it is,” Menchaca said.

Ilan Elfassy, designer of Soïa & Kyo, said the best remedy for the times is still the right product.

“Business is challenging in this economic environment, but if you have the right products and you know what the consumers are looking for, the potential is big,” Elfassy said. “Buyers are looking for new ideas to excite consumers. If you understand what those ideas are, business will be great.”

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