Southeast designer retailers report spring business as flat with last year, and say it is being driven by affluent consumers less affected by economic factors. "It's now harder to sell a $198 sweater than a $1,100 jacket," said Cami Krablin, women's buyer at James Davis, a high-end Memphis specialty store.
With the weak dollar, soaring prices on European goods are forcing retailers to adjust buying strategies. In Miami, an influx of European tourists shopping for designer deals has helped mitigate the rising cost.
Tourists have always been 80 percent of the clientele at Oxygene, a designer store at the Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Harbour, Fla. But the mix has shifted from Latin Americans to Europeans, especially Russians, who now contribute half of sales. "This customer is label-driven, wants the latest thing, and can afford it," said Shayne Cohen, co-owner of Oxygene with husband Felix. "Selling a $20,000 dress is not uncommon."
Spring bestsellers are jeweled gowns by Galliano, London's Jenny Packham and Jasmine di Milo; Share Spirit's embroidered lace, and leather rock 'n' roll-inspired sportswear. European lines are 80 percent of the mix.
Roma Cohen, Felix Cohen's son, owns Alchemist, a South Beach, Fla., designer boutique, where European tourists are 90 percent of the clientele. He offers Jil Sander, Rick Owens and Hervé Léger, and will pick up Givenchy for fall. He carries U.S. lines, including Phillip Lim, for European bargain hunters. Hervé Léger's bandage dresses, from $700 to $2200, sold more than 150 units, and Rick Owens' chiffon pants, at $900, sold 20 this spring.
At Gus Meyer, a Birmingham, Ala.-based specialty store with a Nashville unit, designer business has been erratic, with sales off during spring break and tax deadline week, according to Janice Elliott, designer buyer.
"People bought sundresses, hats and evening gowns for events," said Elliott. Color has been strong, in tangerine, lemon and white sundresses by Michael Kors. The white pant has been a key item, also from Kors and Dolce & Gabbana, to mix with jackets. Giambattista Valli, Peter Som and Pamella Roland have also been key resources."Prices and the euro have been challenging, and American designers are using European fabrics," said Elliott. "Our open-to-buy doesn't increase because prices are up, so we have to edit more carefully."
At James Davis in Memphis, Cami Krablin said she has taken lower margins, as prices have increased, to protect customers. She also has dropped marginal lines or ordered fewer deliveries. "Some European vendors now require up-front minimums," she said. "If it's a line I need, I still have to go for it."
Armani is the number-one seller, due to "timeless versatility," said Krablin, who added that M Missoni and L.A.M.B. also are doing well. "Customers don't want something for a onetime event," she said. "They want to extend wear and expand their wardrobes." To entice customers, the store is increasing the number of events, including multiline trunk shows, upgrading interiors and offering more conveniences. "We're making our numbers, but we're working harder than ever," she said.
Taking the final spot on the mens’ portion of New York Fashion Week calendar next month will be none other than @tomford. Though he’s shown his men’s wear in New York in the past, this will mark the first time the designer has shown his men’s collection alone during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. His runway show will debut on February 6 at the Park Avenue Armory. #wwdfashion
London-based couture house @ralphandrusso has certainly been in the spotlight, having its dresses worn by @beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Meghan Markle in her engagement photos and more. For couture, Tamara Ralph focused on ornamentation — think: feathers with chain mail, jet embroidery and clusters of pearls and crystals. See the rest of the collection on WWD.com #wwdfashion #couture (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
Minnie Mouse celebrated her 90th birthday by getting her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her celebratory luncheon, @coach’s creative director @stuartvevers dressed her in a custom made prairie dress, complete with Vever’s take on the polka dot – black sequined versions – under a cropped motorcycle jacket. The designer also put his own mark on Minnie’s classic red shoes, infusing the color with sparkles and adding some Coach crystals. “We chose colors that were very Minnie and also represented quintessential Coach elements,” said Vevers. #wwdfashion #nationalpolkadotday (📷: George Chinsee)
@nickjonas is unveiling his first-ever apparel collection through a partnership with John Varvatos. The limited-edition capsule, which makes its debut in spring, also marks the first time the designer has collaborated with anyone on a line. “The process in working with Nick is amazing. It’s inspiring to be around someone who is not only connected with the trade that they do, but also with what’s happening in the environment around him, and how that connects to what we do with style,” said Varvatos. (RG: @johnvarvatos) #wwdfashion
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)