NEW YORK--This week is shaping up to be a winner in the accessories business. Vendors and retailers are giving an early thumbs-up to new offerings for holiday and resort. Market week offically kicks off today and manufacturers said pre-market meetings with stores indicated bookings will be strong. A key reason for this upbeat mood is that fall merchandise has been getting a fast response on the retail floor, according to merchants. Some vendors are talking about getting early reorders and added that buyers who started coming into market last week were ready to make forward commitments as late as resort. The return of color and structure in ready-to-wear also seems to be setting the stage for improved accessories business and vendors and retailers both said it could help some classifications that have been lagging, most particularly jewelry and belts. Joanne Hart, fashion director for accessories at Federated Merchandising, the buying arm of Federated Department Stores, said she thinks belts are due for a revival, because of the trend to fitted clothes. She noted that consumers are ready for color in a variety of palettes, and that will be one of the trends Federated will play up in accessories. The shiny look--in clear plastics, patent leather, rhinestones or metallics; in traditional tones as well as soft shades like white or peachy-pink--is another focus, she said. As the season progresses toward spring, bolder tones like turquoise blue, pink and red will also come into play, she added. She cited satin as a "sleeper" trend that may become strong. Hart also pointed to barrettes and bobby pins as "fun items" with good sales potential. Anne Gravseth, merchandise manager for accessories for J.C. Penney Co., said fall handbags have been strong performers in recent weeks, especially in back-to-school and better leather styles. She said she plans to focus on new bag styles during her market trip, as well as new trends in sunglasses, hair accessories and scarves. Sheila Aimette, fashion director for accessories at Macy's East, noted that jewelry is already reviving. She said fall designer jewelry has been selling well from such lines as Patricia von Muselin, Subtle Creature and M & J Savitt. "Designers have really thought about what women want to wear and have returned to looks that make them feel sophisticated and pretty for holiday," she said. Aimette, who is shopping primarily for holiday merchandise, pointed to filigree styles, blackened metals and fine jewelry looks as top ideas she would look for. It's no longer about piling it on, she said; the look is fewer and more statement-oriented pieces now, which is especially suited to the fine jewelry look. Also selling well for fall so far have been casual hats in plaids and animal prints, Aimette said. For holiday, she noted she would have an eye out for feather and marabou treatments in hats, evening bags and scarves and wraps. In pre-market appointments, Carol Hochman, president of Liz Claiborne accessories, said newness has been the "overriding concern," as many buyers said they think that will stimulate business and store traffic. Hochman noted that this philosophy differs significantly from the mood in recent seasons, when many stores played it safe. She said they "now appear to be much more willing to try something new and take chances." She added that July sales have been good with immediate responses to fall merchandise, particularly in oil-tanned leather goods, nubuck handbags, wool Carnaby hats and even belts. Hochman noted that the new fashion trends focusing on glamour and suitings should also help to sell accessories; the most recent long and soft trend seemed to slow interest. Jay Feinberg, president and designer at Jay Strongwater, a designer jewelry firm, noted that early sell-throughs for a series of tortoise glass-beaded necklaces put buyers visiting his showroom early in an optimistic mood. He said there were reorders for a black and silver group. Feinberg said his sales thus far have been ahead of last year, and he projected increases of 10 to 25 percent for this market. Dayne Duvall, who recently combined his own jewelry business with several other accessories designers to create a sales representative organization called Notanonymous, said he expects "huge numbers" for this market, and projected increases of about 50 percent compared with last year for his line alone. Since Notanonymous includes designers in other accessories categories besides jewelry, he said the showroom will provide them all with access to more stores, especially regional stores, particularly in Dallas and on the West Coast. He also noted that until now, much of his business has been concentrated at the trade shows, but with multiple classifications, Notanonymous would see buyers more often in between scheduled market weeks. Showroom Seven shows both holiday and resort collections during August market, and its owner, Karen Erickson, projected increases of about 30 percent over the year-ago market. Erickson said Lucite and rhinestones and a line of mohair jewelry would be hot, as would decorative barrettes that have been generating heavy reorders. As far as color, she noted pink was getting a strong play in a wide range of materials. Accessory Network, a multiclassification manufacturer that concentrates on mass market accessories, is showing holiday and some spring 1995 this week. In pre-market meetings with buyers, the company's chief executive officer, Abe Chehebar, said naturals--both in fiber content as well as color--continued to be strong. The firm has begun to emphasize information about natural fibers on its hangtags. He said retailers reported consumers had shown positive reactions to natural materials, whether cotton canvas or woven straw, and were accepting items that retail higher than usual at the mass market for quality merchandise. Chehebar said mini-backpacks and wallets-on-a-string are now year-round items and show no signs of slowing down.
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