By and  on April 29, 2008

"There is only resistance to high price when the prices on a relative basis seem out of line," said Gold of Bergdorf's. "With the weakness of the dollar, it has made it incumbent upon us when in market to be very judicious about what we're buying. We ask ourselves, 'If we will buy a $1,500 dress, how will it stack up to other $1,500 dresses, or how will a $5,000 dress stack up to other $5,000 dresses?' The product gets scrutinized to a much greater degree when prices in general are rising."He cited top sellers this season as "Lanvin, Balenciaga, Manolo Blahnik, Goyard and 3.1 Phillip Lim. In the case of those collections, we are getting extraordinary across-the-board selling."Gold said the floral trend is a hit with shoppers. "We're a store that embraces femininity, and so whenever there are collections that are colorful or with floral patterns, they tend to do well."Frank Doroff, vice chairman of Bloomingdale's, said the retailer's designer business is running ahead of last year, and he's not seeing price resistance. "The designer business is holding up well. For February and March, we were single digits ahead of last year," he said.Stephanie Solomon, vice president and fashion director of Bloomingdale's, added that prints and color are performing well from Donna Karan, Zac Posen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Lisa Perry, Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti and Lela Rose. Other collections doing well include Akris Punto, Moschino and Ralph Lauren Collection. She said dresses and sportswear are strong sellers. Bloomingdale's also is doing well with leather jackets in black and colors and sexy tops.Michael Fink, vice president and women's fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, said that, in spite of the challenging environment, consumers are still shopping. "They might not be buying as they have been, but what they are buying has a real wow factor to it, which includes color and florals," he said. "It often has an over-the-top, one-of-a-kind feeling. When it is novel and doesn't exist in her closet, she is buying it with very little price resistance."Fink cited Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli as among the store's top designer-level collections. At Gucci, he pointed to looks in black-and-white prints with dashes of bright yellow as well as a pink satin cocktail dress as bestsellers. He also highlighted de la Renta's African-print-inspired pieces, especially the beaded ones, and Saint Laurent's sweatshirt jerseys for jackets and dresses.Ann Watson, Henri Bendel's vice president and fashion director, said the specialty store's designer business is already outpacing last spring. Among the top-selling collections are Missoni, Matthew Williamson, Pollini, Sharon Wauchob and Anne Valérie Hash. "The Bendel's spring point of view was a polished version of boho chic, with Missoni ponchos, printed dresses from Matthew Williamson, jackets from Peter Som, beaded leather vests from Elise Overland, skinny pants from Sharon Wauchob and romantic blouses from Anne Valérie Hash," Watson said. "We went after prints in general and florals were part of the print story, and that is definitely selling for us." Jeffrey Kalinsky, founder of Jeffrey New York and Jeffrey Atlanta, said overall, his business is running "ahead of plan." Some of the vendors having a strong season are Gucci and Jil Sander. Linda Mitchell, general merchandise manager of ready-to-wear at Richards, Mitchells and Marshs, in Greenwich, Conn.; Westport, Conn., and Huntington, N.Y., respectively, said, "Our business is good, and I feel very fortunate. I'm very happy with all the color and diversification of product." About three years ago, the stores made a concerted effort to broaden their price points, and have done well with Tory Burch, Theory, Catherine Malandrino, Hanii Y and Diane von Furstenberg (Burch isn't in Richards, due to a boutique located on the same avenue). Mitchell said her customers, except for corporate women, "are buying more casually, but still want luxe." Among the lines doing well are Michael Kors, Loro Piana and Ralph Lauren. She said business is "up versus a year ago — not greatly, but we feel very good that it's not down." She said corporate women who want to look polished have been buying Brioni and Giorgio Armani."Still, the most outstanding items are dresses. Customers are still looking to have great dresses in their wardrobes," said Mitchell, and the stores are doing well with those by Akris, Akris Punto and Agnona.

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