By  on February 14, 2008

NEW YORK — Retailers scoured ENK International's Fashion Coterie trade show in search of the next hot item to attract contemporary customers.

The three-day show that ended Tuesday was spread over the Show Piers 92 and 94 and at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

"The show went well for us, there were some highlights this time and I'm really looking forward to fall," said Stacey Pecor, owner of the four Manhattan-based Olive & Bette's stores. "I loved the ombré trend, especially from Liquid, and there was a lot of leopard from Rebecca Taylor, which isn't new, but still looks really great. There are a lot of miniskirts happening, which I'm very encouraged about since the customer is really wanting them."

Pecor said that if a recession is indeed on the horizon, she isn't feeling it, as her sales were up 18 percent in 2007 and increased 9 percent in December. She said she is feeling positive about business in 2008 and has boosted her open-to-buy 20 percent.

"If you can excite the customer with what you have in the store, they will want to have it," Pecor said. "Also, we really pay attention to the stories behind the brands and look for those people who are really passionate about what they make, that way you can get that story across on the sales floor and the customer gets that emotional attachment. That is always great in a recession."

Randi Siegal, owner of the three Rapunzel's Closet stores in Palm Beach, Fla., said: "Some denim collections, like Seven [For All Mankind] and 1921, seem to be going more toward beat-up washes with holes. We didn't buy into those styles because we thought they would do better in a spring or summer collection. We stuck with the classic clean washes in boot cuts and slight flares."

Siegal said she found "some amazing cashmere cardigans" from Vince in classic colors such as black, navy and charcoal, and liked what Juicy Couture was offering.

"We loved the outerwear," she said. "Every year we buy a few classic coats, and they really grew their outerwear collection. It's very original and well priced. They are not too trendy and they all had fantastic patterned linings. Juicy also had some great dresses and cardigans as well, with gold hardware."However, Siegal was especially pleased with Paige's white maternity jeans.

"We never saw that before," she said. "And we think it will be a great seller in Florida."

However, Hillary Rush, owner of her namesake Los Angeles boutique, said the show provided "nothing very new. It isn't really a place to pick up new resources anymore. I wasn't going to Europe because of the [weak] dollar, but prices weren't great at the Coterie either. I do like having the show at the Javits Center. I hope they move the whole show there."

On the exhibitor end, designers and sales representatives seemed upbeat.

Dutch designer Tony Cohen was at Coterie, just coming off his first runway show. He said he thought the show was a success and retailers were asking him for many of the looks they saw on the runway. Cohen pointed to a black cashmere and silk dress and another silk dress with draped sleeves and a tailored organza jacket, to be worn over a printed silk dress.

"The colors for the season are rich and I love the draping," Cohen said of the palette of deep purples, blues and maroon. "It's the mix of hard and soft."

The Tony Cohen line, which is based here at Showroom Seven, wholesales from $85 for a jersey dress to $800 for a shearling jacket.

At the Los Angeles-based Tee Party booth, owner Debbie Davimes was busy booking orders. The two-year-old firm has become known for its contemporary T-shirts, made in supersoft cotton. The shirts with ruffle treatments and a striped hoodie wrap dress were booking exceptionally well, Davimes said. The line wholesales from $35 to $49 and has been picked up by Nordstrom, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Anthropologie, among others.

At Seven For All Mankind, retailers were filling the booth, hoping to latch on to the brand's next big thing. The company was showing a petite jeans for the first time, something retailers seemed happy to see. The brand was also showing velvet pants in rich colors like purple, brown and black. There were denim peacoats, silk chiffon printed blouses and organic and hemp denim wide-leg jeans. The biggest attraction may have been the newly expanded line of handbags, which took up almost an entire wall of the booth."It's all about the denim lifestyle, showing that we are about jeans, but also more than just jeans," a spokeswoman for the brand said.

The Seven For All Mankind collection wholesales from $70 to $120.

Also new to Coterie was Embe, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based contemporary brand that was showing washed silk dresses, tops and skirts to be layered with fleece trenchcoats and jackets. The colors for the season include light blue, green and cream. The Embe line wholesales from $30 to $138.

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