By  on April 19, 1994

NEW YORK -- The debut edition of the New York Bridal Apparel Show quickly made fans of vendors and retailers last week.

The trade show -- which featured wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, flower girls' dresses and assorted accessories -- was lauded for its convenience. It ended its four-day run at the Hotel Pennsylvania here last Wednesday.

Using an open-booth format, the event drew 44 exhibitors from the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and Australia and was attended by 400 retailers, according to Gail Stone, president of 411 Resource Group, which produced the exhibition. A fashion show was staged on opening day, and seminars, cocktail parties and lunches were other features.

Stone, formerly an associate publisher at Modern Bride magazine, and her partner, Donna Kelley, owner of the Ultimate Bride boutique in Chicago, put together this event after they were approached by several SA bridal manufacturers who wanted to do a formal show during market week.

"We wanted to make this easy for retailers to shop and stay in one location. This kind of a show unifies a fragmented industry," Stone said.

Stone added that the show, which will become a twice-yearly event, was launched during the smaller fall market to work out the kinks before the larger spring market.

"We hoped to get 20 vendors and we sold 44 booths," she said. "We already have a commitment for 80 manufacturers for the spring show." "I think the setup of the show was done very nicely," said Allison K. Celentano, bridal manager for Brooklyn-based Kleinfeld.

Celentano said her open-to-buy was up about 10 percent from last year and she was leaving orders at the show. She cited the Rena Koh Collection and Australian Bridal Couture as two lines she liked.

"Clean, sophisticated and European are the looks," she said. "We've had enough of beads."

She added that ivory, off-white and some touches of color are key, as are quality fabrics like pure silk. She also said with the broad range of gowns at Kleinfeld, price is not an issue.

Jenny Zilka, a buyer for Gianine's Wedding Shoppe in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., also said price was not a top concern as she shopped for different looks."The women we deal with have a career and know about quality. As long as it fits and it makes her feel like a princess on her special day, she'll buy it," she said.

Zilka said that her business this year was up 10 percent from 1993.

Janet Pisaneschi of PJW Bridals in West Piston, Pa., said this was the first time she had been to a trade show for bridal.

"I usually just go to the Broadway showrooms," she said. "This is much more convenient, especially on a rainy day like this, and I'm finding more here than I expected."

Pisaneschi said she was shopping for gowns, head pieces, shoes and flower girl dresses.

"In my area, the very traditional look, with lots of beading, is still popular," she said. "But I am getting more calls for simpler, less beaded looks."

Pisaneschi said business was picking up after a slow winter, her open-to-buy was up 20 percent and she was leaving orders.

"We have 10 bridal stores in a 25-mile radius," she said. "So I try to find lines that I don't see in anybody else's window."

Although Rena Koh, the Hong Kong-based designer of the Rena Koh Collection, was participating in a U.S. exhibition for the first time, she had one of the busiest booths.

"We've been really well received," she said. "We've picked up 40 new accounts and stores are ordering an average of five dresses."

Key dresses in the collection included an ivory silk duchesse satin gown with a chapel train, halter top and embroidered details, a princess dress with square neckline and beaded detailing that the designer said was "Audrey Hepburn-inspired," and an ivory silk quilted embroidered short- sleeve dress with boat neck, available with or without a chapel train.

Designer Helen Morley found the show to be well attended and said she picked up several new accounts.

"Brides are looking for more sophisticated, less ornate looks," she said. "There is less emphasis on bows and flowers and more concentration on sleeker silhouettes, satin and pure laces."Morley said important styles in her collection included a guipure lace, off-the-shoulder sheath gown with a sweep train; a silk velvet bodice with pearl and crystal beading at the scoop neckline, cuffs and basque waistline with a silk chiffon skirt and sweep train, and a satin ribbon off-shoulder bodice with a star-embroidered tulle skirt.

"I've done other shows," said Stan Goldstein, a sales representative, "and this is a good show. A lot of manufacturers are interested in doing this. The future of this industry is a show with everything under one roof. This show has brought more people into the market for a fall season than in the past five to six years."

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