NEW YORK--Specialty retailers turned up in a mood to buy for spring and summer at two newer trade shows, Hotlines and Styleworks, held here this week. Dresses and retro looks were favored categories, as buyers also made the usual search for merchandise that would distinguish their operations from department stores. Pastels and floral prints were especially popular. Unlike the department stores, many specialty stores claimed a solid Christmas season and reported open-to-buys that ranged from even to up--citing hikes as high as 30-plus percent. Both shows were three-day events running through Tuesday. The second edition of Hotlines, noted for immediate goods, featured some 270 lines at Le Parker Meridien. Styleworks, in its third edition, had 430 lines housed at the Drake Hotel, expanding its space there to a total of five floors. Vendors at both shows rated traffic satisfactory to better, and many said they were happy with the paper left behind.
Hotlines Despite complaints of trade show overload, most buyers with contemporary-oriented boutiques gave a nod of approval to Hotlines and noted they were writing orders. "I'm looking for new forward dresses that you don't see in department stores," said Denise Deschaine, buyer for Next Boutique in Kingston, N.Y. "I want Forties retro looks, and more feminine looks than I usually buy." Deschaine was also looking for pastel satin and liked pink and ivory satin jeans jackets from Gracie, a Los Angeles line represented by Thornby-Ward. Anastasia Hamilton, the buyer for two 9 Street Moda stores in Miami Beach, Fla., was also looking for pastel satin looks and baby-doll dresses. "I want forward looks, but also practical at the same time. Sexy feminine looks and dresses are very big," she said. Hamilton found soft floral-print dresses from N.C. Love, a contemporary line represented by the Times Two showroom. Coming off a "fabulous" Christmas season, Lori Scott, owner of L'Avant Garbe in Pittsford, N.Y., said her open-to-buy was up 38 percent over last year. Scott was leaving orders for a french terry cloth group from Lucie, a San Francisco company, represented by Metromodes showroom here, and knits from Su Zen, a Chicago company. "My dress business is phenomenal. It's a category that's really trending up," said Mickey Judkins, owner of Details, two stores in Eau Claire, Wis. "I'm buying dresses and interesting items at reasonable prices. I don't think people want to spend as much on spring and summer styles," she said. "Also I'm buying closer to need and really watching the trends. I need innovative, unusual designers that department stores don't carry." Also on the dress bandwagon was Kristen Erikson, owner of Nonchalance in Morristown, N.J. "I think dresses are the most economical way to dress. I'm looking at feminine silhouettes and loved Eileen West's prints and retro looks," she said. Julie Mazur owner of Rambling Rose in New Paltz, N.Y., was taken by the skinny-belted dresses from Romeo Romeo represented by Victoria Watson showroom here. She was also another fan of the Eileen West line, citing its "accessible" Forties looks. Bill Wookey, director of sales and marketing at Eileen West, said it was one of his best shows. He noted he got more orders opening day than in all three days of the Hotlines show last year. Strong silhouettes included a layered halter dress with a boned bustier underneath in small floral prints and a mandarin-collar, lotus-blossom print long dress. Wookey said half the orders were from regular customers and half from new, and 90 percent of the buyers were leaving orders. N.C. Love, the Los Angeles line represented by the Times Two Showroom, was also active. The floral retro-inspired dresses and bias-cut skirts were a hit with buyers at $35 to $45 wholesale, according to Kathy Walker, sales manager of the showroom. Wendy Wolther, owner of the Metromodes showroom, said the show was one of her best to date, with steady traffic leaving orders, especially for Lucie's french terry and gingham sportswear groups and Wednesday's Child's embroidered tulle and voile dresses in ivory.Styleworks Buyers at Styleworks--where exhibitors ranged up to bridge--also gave a vote of confidence to dresses and were attracted by sportswear collections as well, with preferences split between fluid looks and structured silhouettes. Coming off a strong fall dress business, Charlene Rosen, buyer for the Mr. Charles Shop in State College, Pa., was looking for more dresses, long bias skirts and knits. Rosen liked the structured knits at Carol Wang, the space-dyed, floral-print dresses from Mica, and the bias skirts from Maxou, represented by Terry Sahagen Sales, a Los Angeles based showroom. Gay Donovan, owner of the Donna Gay Dillon boutique in Ocean City, N.J., hunted for the unusual, especially feminine softer looks. "Anything left in the store is solid and structured," she said. Donovan praised the garden-print silk blouses from Ishyu Group, represented by Impulse Moda, a Los Angeles based showroom. Also searching for the unusual was Monique Denys, buyer for Origins in Santa Fe, N.M. Coming here after a strong Christmas, but an erratic year, Denys wanted ethnic looks, linen styles and T-shirts. She praised the silk and rayon jumpers and overdyed T-shirts available at the Steven Levinson showroom, based in Los Angeles. Marcy Schwait, owner of Marcy C. in Cherry Hill, N.J., was looking for fluid sportswear and was "not into dresses." She was excited about a new line, Shen, represented by the Felicia Grace & Company showroom here. Shen specializes in shaped, soft two-piece dressing in silk terry, silk linen and crinkled silk. Joanne Roaman, of the JSR buying office here, was pleased with the contemporary but sophisticated collections at the show. She praised Donna Maione's forward knits and Montauk, a silk sportswear line. Vendors observed that the show seemed to be getting more traffic with each edition. Among showrooms with particularly busy looks were MAG, the contemporary line from Magaschoni. Especially strong were nylon jackets and silk and linen sweaters in espresso, indigo and chambray, according to Ellen Braude, sales manager. Donna Maione was also active, with orders for her oatmeal cotton and linen sweaters and linen viscose gauze pants. Another lively knitwear company was Donna Livingston, where orders were reported for such looks as the red, white and navy linen cropped sweaters and a pigtail yarn group, which included an A-line dress and tennis sweater vest.
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