AS RETAILERS CAUTIOUSLY PREPARE THEIR FALL OPEN-to-buy, exhibitors at the upcoming Fashion Coterie are confident they can offer their customers exciting collections with great value, seasonless pieces and special attention to detail.
"Some of the things that vendors can do to impress retailers are to offer a balance of novelty product and classic pieces," said Abbey Samet, contemporary market analyst at The Doneger Group here, who will be walking the Coterie show on the prowl for new looks. "Most purchases during a recession tend to be emotional rather than a 'need' basis, therefore the item has to be trend-right or evoke some sort of emotional response, such as color, embellishment or novelty buttons. On the other hand, the idea of updated classics can also be appealing, items that can transcend seasons."
The ENK International show, which will begin its three-day run on Sunday, will again be spread out over the Show Piers and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center because of ongoing construction at the piers.
Meanwhile, as apparel companies prepare their collections for the show, they are promising to entice retailers with collections that have special attention to detail and offer a great price-value relationship.
Jane Siskin, a partner in L'Koral Industries, a Vernon, Calif.-based firm that produces contemporary labels such as LaRok, said she will bring her newest label, Elizabeth & James, a contemporary collection designed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, to the show for the first time.
"We have been very selective with our distribution," she said of the brand, which currently sells at such stores as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Intermix. "Now we are ready to expand our distribution, so the Coterie is a great place to show."
Siskin said that launching the brand last year at only a few select stores was a good way for the company to learn and get a handle on what worked and what didn't work.
"For fall we've really intensified our successes," she said. "We are also very conscious of the need for wear-now items."
Siskin said that for fall they have developed a double-knit fabric that she used for tops and dresses. There is also special attention to details, such as the small feathers used as trims on jackets and fake fur coats. There are also men's wear-inspired houndstooth jackets, washed leather jackets and plaid shirts for that men's wear/rock 'n' roll/military influence, she said.Siskin said that her plan for Elizabeth & James has always been to take it slow, and stressed the importance of that because the country may be entering a recession.
"Our strategy since the beginning has been to create a demand for the product, which I think we have been pretty successful at," she said. "We are still following that path and we will not sell everyone, our growth plans will remain very strategic."
Siskin said that besides increasing U.S. distribution, the brand also is growing overseas, as it prepares to ship to Lane Crawford and Selfridges in the U.K. for the first time this spring.
"Regardless of a recession, I think it's always important to have a great product," she said. "It's just that now more than ever you have to give your customers a real reason to buy."
The Elizabeth & James collection wholesales from $150
Also heading to Coterie is Jeffrey Cayer, owner of the Globe Showroom, based here. Cayer said that he has decided to show at Coterie after a year-and-a-half hiatus. Previously, he brought his collections to the Designers & Agents show.
"I just feel like my designers have reached a point where they are ready for the bigger show," he said.
Cayer said that he has been working closely with ENK to build a special aisle for his showroom at the Javits Center.
"With the help of ENK, we were able to build a custom aisle at Javits, to create that showroom feeling at Coterie," Cayer said. "I really believe that you have to do this sort of thing in order to stand out in a show that's so big."
Cayer will bring almost all of his designers to this season's Coterie — 13 out of 14 brands. His newest brand, contemporary label Whistle & Flute, will be sitting the season out, since they are so new. All in the contemporary market, some of the brands he will bring include HW Helen Wang, a line of cocktail and evening dresses; Luba J. handbags; James Coviello, a line of knits, wovens and accessories; Manoush, a whimsical and playful line of sportswear; Shelly Steffe sportswear and Falls tailored sportswear, among others.Cayer said that he sees Coterie as a big opportunity to expand his collections' businesses. My hope is that Coterie will really increase our exposure and show off the evolution of our collections."
Realizing that a recession may be right around the corner, Cayer said he has been working closely with his designers to help them design lines that retailers will want.
"We've really been working with our designers to layer their lines and offer high- and lower-priced items. It's also key to have a lot of buy-now, wear-now pieces on their lines," Cayer said. "A common complaint that we get from retailers is that they need to feel some excitement when they look at a line. For instance, prints are always really popular in spring. Why not add them into fall? This is just one thing that designers have to think about in this changing world."
Andrea Scoli, president of Sweetface, Jennifer Lopez's high-end contemporary line, said that she is confident that the line will entice buyers.
"Our outerwear-inspired sweaters and jackets have a very distinctive and new look, which complements the entire collection," she said. "We paid a lot of attention to detail while still maintaining a minimal feel."
Scoli said that the mood for the fall season is "very strong and sexy with a charming sophisticated edge." She said that the colors range from earth tones such as rustic brown and wheat to vibrant hues of evergreen and ochre. Draping ruffles in cotton flannel and crinkled chiffon give a feminine touch to the modern and architectural silhouettes, which she said includes dresses, coats, tops and skirts.
Sweetface, which is based here, wholesales from $89 to $584.
Dan Castle, owner of Castle Starr, a high-end contemporary line based here, said that while many brands prepare for a recession by cutting back on quality and price, he is doing just the opposite.
"We are not cutting down at all. In fact, we are giving even better quality," Castle said. "We are still planning to sell a $700 dress, but it will be the best quality dress you can buy. It's my firm belief that if you can get through times like this and come out standing, you can get through just about anything."Castle said that at the show he will introduce an expanded sportswear line, which will include outerwear and knits for the first time.
"We waited about three years to do knits because we wanted to make sure we can do it right," he said. "The hand work on these knits is very intricate and we found a great factory in China to do them exactly the way we envisioned."
The Castle Starr collection wholesales from $150 to $400.
Kosi Harris, marketing manager of Qi Cashmere, said that the importance of having "buy-now, wear-now" items is greater than it ever has been.
"When business is bad all around, people want that affordable luxury," Harris said. "That's what we've worked really hard to achieve."
The Qi Cashmere collection for fall, which wholesales from $90 to $185, includes an array of styles, including an asymmetrical cardigan, an open-back dress, racer-back tanks and a chunky knit cardigan, all made from cashmere and wool.
Harris said that the collection is already sold in department and specialty stores nationwide including Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Atrium, Fred Segal, Blue & Cream and Olive & Bette's.
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