RESORT KNITS TAKE OFF

Byline: Alice Welsh

NEW YORK--For most knitwear manufacturers, resort has emerged as a key selling season.
While some companies said they offer a resort line for their customer who travels, others view the season as a time to freshen up fall merchandise in the stores by adding new colors and yarns. Still other companies see it as an opportunity to test spring styles.
There are a few firms, however, that bypassed resort altogether, citing low bookings last year and the shortness of the season.
Despite the relative brevity of the season, several key trends have emerged:
A renewed interest in more structured knits that is expected to continue into spring.
Shine--from subtle to bold.
Continued emphasis on color and novelty styles.
Nautical looks, as well as lingerie-inspired styles.
Cashmere, rayon ribbon, cotton bouclé, linen and chenille.
"For us, holiday/resort is a major season. It's a big knitwear season in retail because it's driven by color and is great for traveling women," said Ann Lockyer, national sales director for Adrienne Vittadini Collection.
"There is also a gift-giving aspect and an item-driven side because people want to pick up a new piece to refresh their wardrobe," she said.
Collection volume is up 15 percent over last year's results.
From a design point of view, Adrienne Vittadini added: "The main inspiration for resort is color and texture. Resort is about changes in color palettes, moving from hot brights in October to cool colors for November."
Vittadini showed three groups for resort--silver metallic in a rayon/polyester blend with silk charmeuse woven pieces; lambswool and angora in navy and turquoise stripes or color block, and a putty and navy silk knit group with a matching woven print.
In all three groups, the twin set was strong. The pieces wholesale from $42.50 to $47.50 for tanks and turtlenecks and from $37.50 to $105 for cardigans.
"Resort has always been a big season because knit separates are easy, and people are looking for fabrications either to wear now or take away," said Mary Jane Marcasiano.
Marcasiano's resort styles include a polyester matte jersey group "which is lighter and holds shape better than rayon jersey" and a rayon chenille group with tissue-weight taffeta pieces, rayon ribbon and satin. "There is the appeal of color, and the resort pieces are more playful in softer colors that are fresh to the eye. I used more clear intense colors for fall. These are pale and dustier," she said.
Prices for the jersey group wholesale from $33 for a cropped tank to $55 for a 36-inch dress.
Marcasiano, who's getting a lot of interest in her more constructed pieces, predicts: "Knits will go into more shape and structure for spring, like knit jackets." Chenille is playing an important role in Michael Seroy's sweaters for resort. The firm is offering rayon chenille in bright stripes. A short-sleeved mock turtleneck style, for example, wholesales for $36. A big continuing item for Michael Seroy is mohair T-shirts in brights and pastels for $22.
"For resort, rayon solids and color stripes are by far the strongest categories. Shine is also big, and I think that the basic [mohair] T-shirt is a huge business," said Jeffrey Price, president of Jeffrey Price International, which represents the line.
"For us, resort is a spring test business because the customer doesn't really understand resort. It's a chance for stores to change the color palette on the floor," said Price.
"I expect an increase of at least 20 percent over last year because we are getting smarter about what the customer wants for this time period. We are doing more colors, yarns and styles," he added.
"Resort is proving to be strong so we have a lot more novelty items that stores can test and turn around into true spring volume," said Martha Weatherford, sales representative for the Erik Stewart line.
Resort groups include cropped tennis-inspired cable cotton sweaters. Those sweaters are "clearly going to be one of our strongest and most represented groups because they combine a contemporary attitude with a classic clean American style," said Weatherford. A long-sleeved style with a hood wholesales for $42.
"Our volume basics will be the cotton twin set, and the baby muscle T that we are offering at a promotional price of $16 because we expect high volume," said Weatherford.
"Structured knit jackets are the hot things. So are twin sets in short cropped styles, anything you can wear as a jacket," said Karen Strauss, Erik Stewart's fashion director.
Helen Hsu, a handloomed knit dressing company, uses a wool/rayon knit all year.
"I don't really think in terms of resort as a separate season, but we have new colors and bodies every month because stores want to bring in new merchandise monthly," said Marjorie Cohen, vice president of Helen Hsu.
"Our business is driven by the cardigan, both short and long. Dress sales have been excellent, and dress and jacket looks have come back and are very strong for us. Our business is up 15 to 20 percent already.
"I think Nov. 30 is a good preview for early spring," Cohen added. "Stores can get the merchandise in and then see what to go forward with. Knits are less about a time period and more about a look."
Wholesale prices are $150 to $200 for jackets, $135 to $190 for dresses, $150 for cardigans and $80 to $100 for skirts and pants.
For resort, Belford Knits is doing a cotton group with Lurex and a lot of openwork, see-through stitching in pastels and neon brights with "a smattering" of neutrals, said designer Hillary Anzis. Belford also offers silk and cashmere blend, openwork pointelles and microfiber ribbon yarn.
"We have a customer that goes away, and we really try to aim for items to take away, in the correct weight and fabrics like cotton with nautical stripes and gold Lurex," said Anzis. "Resort is a very valid season for us. It's a little about testing out spring trends, and there is some wear-now, especially with our Southern accounts."
"We are doing a group of 100 percent nylon parachute ribbon basics in neon solids and stripes wholesaling for $42 to $78," said Rosemary Newhardt, vice president of Michael Simon. The novelty sweaters have a Caribbean feeling and include a hula motif with raffia and cotton embroidery, wholesaling from $46 to $88. Also offered for Nov. 30 delivery are three sweaters with heart motifs, wholesaling from $78 to $88.
"Resort is important because it is shipped Nov. 30, so many of the sweaters will be Christmas gifts, especially the Valentine theme sweaters. And a lot of people go away between Christmas and New Year's," said Newhardt.
Malo's resort delivery is all cashmere but in different gauges, weights, hands and stitches.
In single-ply cashmere, the strongest styles have been with a short, front-button, sweetheart neckline cardigan and a three-button polo version. Prices range from $150 for a sleeveless number to $200 for a long-sleeved fitted style.
"We are getting a tremendous reaction to our six-ply 2 1/2 gauge fishnet yarn, which is special to Malo," said Luigi Leonardi, executive vice president of MAC USA, distributor of the Malo line.
The most popular styles include a short boatneck or longer tunic with side slit. Prices range from $200 for a short V-neck to $400 for a long cardigan.
"The third group is a lightweight, gauze-like cashmere. It's very ethereal and delicate and is great for cruise," said Leonardi. "Some buyers flip for the bright colors while others wouldn't take them if you gave them away. They're afraid if they brought in bright colors, they might lose their quality customer. Brights require a leap of faith, especially when its comes to cashmere, but customers need a change.
"We have a very unusual angle to the word 'resort."' he continued. "We almost work against the season. We treat it as a late-winter collection in cashmere that is in holiday and resort colors."

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