By  on May 8, 2008

NEW YORK — It's only May, but at this season's Intermezzo and Designers & Agents trade shows, the holidays were in the air.

ENK International Inc.'s Intermezzo show ended its three-day run on Wednesday at the Show Piers, while D&A concluded on Tuesday at the Starrett-Lehigh building here. Retailers said they were pleased overall with the offerings at both shows.

"It's nice to see the enthusiasm at the shows when business has been so tough," said Cheryl Chotiner, owner of the Pittsburgh-based Cheryl W boutique and Web store, who shopped both shows. "There's a lot of good energy here and it's nice. We need to think positively and we need to fill our stores with interesting products. If we don't, business will never get better."

Kim Jones, owner of another Pittsburgh store, Karma, which carries brands including Nanette Lepore, Alice + Olivia, Cynthia Steffe, J Brand and LaRok, said she was happy with the many choices she had at Intermezzo.

"The show is smaller than it was for fall, but I'm really finding a lot," Jones said. "I just was at Elizabeth and James, and I loved everything. I'm so excited to get that line into the store. It's just so different from everything else, I love that about it."

Dava Muramatsu, owner of the Boston-based Matsu, a high-end boutique selling brands such as Comme des Garçons, Acote and Rozae Nichols, said she found a great number of items at Pier 94 at Intermezzo, and a few things at D&A, but she also decided to attend Moda Manhattan at the Jacob K. Javits Center for the first time.

"I've been going to the shows for many years and for the first time I headed off the beaten path and went to Moda. I found a great new jeweler there, which made the trip worth it," she said. "The prices of gold are just so out of control these days and I'm seeing a lot of resistance on the consumer level, so I needed to find something to fill that void. Moda really isn't usually the show for me, but I found one new thing, so that was good."Muramatsu said she always attends D&A, but this time, with only 89 collections there, she didn't have enough of a choice.

"Barbara [Kramer, co-producer of D&A] has such great taste, but for me, the show is a little too West Coast, a little too relaxed for my customer," she said. "I would like it to have a little more for the East Coast stores."

Randi Siegal, owner of the Palm Beach, Fla.-based Rapunzel's Closet stores, said she didn't find much at D&A this season, but did find plenty at Intermezzo.

"We saw some great flutter-sleeve tops, lots of navy and eggplant for fall, scarves from Love Quotes sell out within days when they hit the floor of our stores and clean washes from Paige," she said. "Rebecca Minkoff had some colorful tie-dyed weekender bags with either yellow or teal leather trim. We loved those, that bag has been a great seller for us, and we think that the new colors will really be a great addition to our customers' wardrobes. Vince had great cashmere sweaters, in lots of purples and charcoals. Those always sell well for us."

However, Siegal said she is still looking for dressier tops to pair with jeans as well as more fitted tops.

Meanwhile, on the exhibitor end at Intermezzo, the Cynthia O'Connor showroom booths were busy. Retailers were lining up to see what was new from Botkier, Kooba, Goldenbleu and Gustto for handbags, but Rebecca Minkoff had the most traffic.

"We are just doing so well with Rebecca's bags, I am pretty sure we will book $5 million with the line this year, and that's only with our specialty stores," O'Connor said.

Known as a showroom for one-stop shopping, O'Connor has upped her assortment in the apparel area, adding more from Kara Janx, Julie Haus and new brand Chloe & Reese, a contemporary social occasion line. The line takes typical daytime silhouettes and makes them from high-end silk satin and jersey fabrics, to make the wearer comfortable. There are navy and black satin cocktail dresses, which have become the brand's signature, as well as printed jersey gowns to add a more fun element to the collection. That line wholesales from $140 to $220.Also new at Intermezzo was J4 Jeans, from Verona, Italy. The line, which has been in business in Europe for two years, is making its first push into the U.S. with a new concept in denim. The jeans, which all wholesale for $59, come in two washes — dark blue or white, and two fits — skinny or boot cut. The stitching, however, is flexible, as it comes in a variety of color choices including teal, green, red, pink, yellow, purple, orange and blue.

"The concept is to bring color to denim in the stitching, while offering fun, eye-catching packaging to sell the jeans," said a sales representative for J4 Jeans.

Over at the D&A show, Kramer pointed out that while there were only 89 collections (13 of which were environmentally friendly), "It's not about how many lines we have, it's more about showing the best of them. Business is tighter, so the show is tighter."

Kramer also stressed the importance of the show's Green Room, which showcased earth-friendly lines and is open twice a year at the show — in May in New York and June in Los Angeles. Loyale, one line based here, was represented in the Green Room. That collection, which started as a yoga line, has moved into offering more fashion-forward pieces such as organic cotton blouses and silk (made without harming the silk worms) dresses. The Loyale line wholesales from $40 to $188.

Also new at the show was Knitural, a soybean and cashmere knit line for women and men. The collection, which is based in Los Angeles, will launch at retail in the fall and includes dolman-sleeve sweaters and henleys in colors like brown, green and cream. It wholesales from $79 to $135.

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