LIVELY BUYERS KEEN ON TRENDS AT BOUTIQUE SHOW

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg and Alice Welsh

NEW YORK--Buyers were busy spotting the trends--from baby T-shirts and kilts to shiny looks--at the International Fashion Boutique Show here at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
Although some complained they weren't finding things they wanted, the retailers appear to be generally in a lively mood, many reporting increased open-to-buys geared mainly to immediate goods through holiday. Booths such as XOXO, a Los Angeles junior sportswear line; Joe's, a T-shirt resource represented by the Times Two Showroom; Eileen Fisher, a contemporary sportswear resource here, and Urban Outfitters, Philadelphia-based junior sportswear firm, had a bustling look, when the show was visited Monday. The four-day event runs through today.
Shopping the XOXO exhibit, Wendy Red, buyer for Up Against the Wall, 15 junior apparel stores in the Washington, D.C. area, said cropped and tight looks are still big. She ordered separates in vinyl, fake fur, silver lamé and Lurex, satin and leopard prints.
"I'm not doing a lot of men's wear looks, the more girly thing, short, cutesy and tight, is what's retailing for us," she said. "There's a billion great things here. I could write an item in almost every booth."
Equally enthusiastic was Carmen Rodriguez-Winter, an owner of Back Alley Peddlers in Toledo, Ohio, who said she relies on the boutique show for the majority of her resources.
"Definitely, everything I could imagine is here. I'm looking for lots of vinyl, Day-Glo colors and futuristic Star Trek Looks," said Rodriguez-Winter. A new resource she found for the store was Mondorama, a Los Angeles- based trendy sportswear line. Big looks included a polyester stretch miniskirt with fake fur trim and a front-zip minidress.
Linda Cassidy, owner of two People People stores in Philadelphia and Stone Harbour, N.J., said she relies on the boutique show for a lot of basics and novelty and goes to the higher-end shows for collections. "I'm looking for kilts, mohair at a lower price point that's still good quality, and jumpers--what I call club clothes."
Cassidy's open-to-buy is up 20 percent over last year. She said she needed immediate fill-ins and a lot of lower-end dresses for holiday, between $60 to $100 retail. But Cassidy said she was not overly impressed with the dresses she had seen so far, and was looking for newer fabrications.
Jennifer Quick, co-owner of EJ Sandals in Savannah, Ga., also said she was looking for dresses, and with an $8,500 budget planned for the show, Quick said she placed orders with XOXO, Giselle and Lucie for long-sleeved cotton jersey dresses, simple satin chiffon cocktail dresses and cotton separates.
"I'm not buying any more rayon crepe printed dresses. They're everywhere," she said. "In order to sell to our customers, there has to be merchandise they won't see in department stores."
Sandy Cohen, owner of two boutiques in Boulder, Colo., Cool 4 Cats and Freedom Clothing Co., was buying "body-conscious clothing and a lot of denim-related separates, looks that work back in with Levis 501 jeans."
"The whole industry has been fueled by the baby-T. It's one piece that works with everything, and there are some looks that won't sell without it, certain dresses and tops. I'm going forward with long sleeve styles."
"I write a lot of Urban Outfitters' lines, such as Anthropologie and Free People," she added.
Two retailers cited a lack of great blouses at the show. Nana Sullivan, owner of the Toshiro boutique in Chicago, said she was desperately looking for blouses retailing for under $80. What she was buying was a lot of short, 17-inch A-line skirts, citing Urban Outfitters and French Connection as good resources. "For a lot of customers, a T-shirt is not the first choice for work. They need blouses," said Sandra Horwitz, owner of Clothes Minded, also in Chicago. Horwitz said she was also looking for kilts. Both retailers were excited about Expose, a French line, they said had great suiting ideas--jackets with lots of style for $69 retail and skirts for $34.
"The boutique show is where you go to get all the current, fun, inexpensive looks at a great buy," said Horwitz.
"Trendy should be cheap," added Sullivan.

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