BUYERS IMPRESSED WITH CANADIAN COLLECTIONS AT READY-TO-WEAR SHOW

Byline: Miles Socha

TORONTO--The spring-summer 1995 lines debuting at the Toronto Ready-to-Wear Canadian Collections event left buyers feeling good about prospects for the season. The two days of runway shows Sept. 12-13 served as an unofficial kickoff for the buying season.
"There were good business clothes, good suitings, good dress and jacket combinations," said Shelagh Alessi, buyer of Canadian and European designers for The Bay, a 102-unit department-store chain based here. "It looks really good."
She was impressed with the variety of linen fabrics; short, simple dresses; the gentle A-line shape of jackets; dress-coat combinations, and pastel colors: banana, blush, celadon and Wedgwood blue.
Alessi was one of 250 buyers--mainly independent retailers from the area--who attended the event showcasing 31 Canadian designers at Toronto's new Design Exchange facility. About 750 people in all, including buyers, press and various manufacturing and textile industry officials, turned out for the shows.
Among the collections on view were the outerwear of Hilary Radley, sportswear by Franco Mirabelli, Mario Serrani for Della Spiga, Jax by Ron Leal, and Comrags, and knitted sportswear by Angela Bucaro.
Several buyers said they planned to spend 8 to 15 percent more than last spring. Buoyed by strong sales in recent months, many called fall 1994 their "turnaround season," following several years of flat sales during the prolonged recession.
Barbara Atkin, fashion director for Holt Renfrew, a 12-unit chain of upscale stores, said Canadian designers offered a mix of safe and outrageous styles. "It showed we really have some world-class talent," she said.
She said she was most impressed with the range of dresses, a growth category in her stores. She also lauded the use of innovative fabrics, including satin, velvet, web-like mohair and fabrics that resemble silk linings.
One collection Atkin particularly liked for its unusual fabric use was Brenda Bent, who has returned to business after a three-year sabbatical.
James Manley, owner of Evening Annex in Kalamazoo, Mich., was one of five U.S. buyers who preregistered. Having purchased some Canadian designer goods at a Chicago trade show for his 1,500-square-foot operation, he came to see more.
"I was impressed with the quality, the craftsmanship and the styling," he said. "You get a lot of fashion for the money. The influence here is very European."
The low value of the Canadian dollar compared to U.S. currency also increases spending power, he acknowledged. "Price points are very important, and so far they're very good here," he added.
Manley noted that one of the collections he planned to buy was that of Marisa Minicucci, a former designer for Irving Samuel, a Montreal firm, who struck out on her own a year ago.
--Fairchild News Service

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