ATLANTA — An influx of buyers from outside the Southeast brought a buzz to the August AmericasMart.
While retailers said that summer selling had been spotty, they had hopes that fall would be stronger and they had their eyes and order books open for distinctive and unusual items that they hoped would persuade consumers to buy. Vendors at the spring 2003 market for social-occasion, prom, pageant and bridal clothing reported a strong show, saying it appeared the AmericasMart’s stepped up efforts to draw retailers from across the nation had paid off.
Special events and seminars drew large crowds during the five-day Atlanta market, which wrapped up on Aug. 26, and a Saturday night bridal fashion show attracted 900 people. But the social-occasion excitement filtered to other areas, particularly lines offering spring collections, and items unique enough to entice specialty stores looking for a competitive edge.
Exhibitors said they were pleased not only with the turnout, but also with sales.
Bruce Blaustein, president of Teri Jon, a New York-based social-occasion line, reported a sales increase of 15 to 20 percent over the August 2001 market, coming from existing accounts and new buyers from the Midwest and Northeast.
Similarly, Alan Davidson, showroom manager for Panapoly, an Atlanta-based prom-and-pageant line, had a sales increase of between 25 and 30 percent, coming largely from out-of-territory buyers and increased marketing efforts.
"I’ve shown in other markets, and Atlanta is definitely the prom center in the nation," said Davidson.
The women’s and children’s apparel and accessories show, drew almost 10,000 buyers, a 10 percent increase over last year.
"It was as good a market as we’ve had in years," said Peg Canter, vice president, general manager. "Each segment that we expected to have a good show — social occasion, traditional sportswear and accessories — exceeded expectations."
With a wide range of specific needs, in terms of climate, price and style, buyers responded to femininity in resort and spring collections. Ruffles and lace, in sheer, flowing or breezy open-weave fabrics, in vivid colors with texture and shading, were popular choices for buyers from many regions.While some Southern buyers complained that suede and leather styles wouldn’t suit their hot spring climates, Midwesterners and Northerners stocked up on lightweight suede and leather, as a stand-alone fabric and mixed with denim. Buyers bought romantic silhouettes, although many said they believed the peasant and prairie trends will be over by spring.
Buyers loaded up on cropped pants, in many variations, for spring, and some applauded the return of little skirts, shorts and skorts. Embellishment, asymmetrical sleeves, hems and Asian influences were also prevalent.
Retailers’ most common request was for distinctive items, which could distinguish their specialty stores from department stores and discounters. While summer business has been dismal for many, early fall sales have been encouraging, they said. Consumer confidence is shaky, said buyers, due to stock market uncertainties and the threat of war, which has made consumers even more concerned about price. Cautious buyers focused on items, rather than sinking big dollars in any one collection
Wendy Hutchinson, owner of H. Baskin Clothier, which has two Pittsburgh stores, had reduced her budget 10 percent, but was looking for classic, feminine clothing.
"We have to buy more traditional lines, such as Sharon Young, David Brooks and Susan Bristol earlier than contemporary lines," she said.
Hutchinson said the assortment at the Atlanta market is more in line with her customers’ taste, which runs toward "pretty, feminine clothing, with lots of color and prints." She bought floral suits with ruffle cuffs and portrait collars from Sharon Young, and prairie-inspired looks such as appliquéd broomstick skirts by Sandy Starkman. She also bought items from David Dart and Democracy, as well as Go Silk’s monochromatic separates and Forwear’s black lace separates. She said she also picked up a new print line, Loco Lindo.
Hutchinson focused on evening separates for price-conscious social-occasion consumers.
"Customers would rather have a versatile $200 to $300 outfit than a $500 dress," she said.
She said that business through July was down between 6 and 8 percent, although August sales were off only 5 percent. She said that she and her mall neighbors have noted a slowdown in traffic.Michael Day, owner of Buena Vista Shop, a 4,000-square-foot Winston-Salem, N.C.-based specialty store, shopped Atlanta for spring sportswear and special-occasion items, which make up 10 percent of his sales.
Searching for newness and evening separates, he bought Jovani for prom and WWW for evening, including ombré shadings, iridescent overlays and asymmetrical silhouettes.
Taking a shotgun approach, Day sampled a wide variety of lines, from Cambridge Dry Goods and Staples to Telluride. Day said he liked AmericasMart’s sportswear offerings, especially the bright colors, new fabrics, treatment and details.
Day bought denim, with suede or whipstitch details from Renfrew, and garments in light fabrics with subtle embroidery from many lines. Along with spring cropped pants, Day bought shorts and skorts.
"With so many capri pants in discounters, shorts will seem more exclusive," he said. "Customers have asked for them."
After cutting his inventories back the last two years, Day kept his budget flat for this show. Business has been tough this year, he said, but customers have bought fall early. For more price-conscious consumers, Day shopped for deals and values.
Items were key for Rachel Gottfried, president of No Time to Shop, a Fort Lauderdale-based by-appointment retail operation that serves customers out of a 27-foot truck that contains $500,000 in merchandise. Gottfried bought for her clientele of 30- to 80-year-old socialites, snowbirds and executives.
Gottfried bought core resources Mel & Lisa and Yansi Fugel for frequent travelers. For evening, she bought cocktail suits and separates. She bought short skirts by Cynthia Steffe to pair with sweaters by Il Gilet and suede-and-denim combinations by Beau Dawson and Vakko. She said shirt jackets are a popular alternative to suits, and that capri pants continue to be strong sellers for her, in various lengths and widths, from lines including Hanna & Gracie. In blouses, which have also sold well, she bought updated silhouettes with ruffles and ruching by Kiska.
"Customers want something different, and they don’t even know what it is," she said. "There’s a void in unique items. Customers are also cautious, and they want casual, less-expensive looks for everyday."Lynette Perlis, co-owner of The Big Store, a 10,000-square-foot specialty department store in Tifton, Ga., said some of the trends at the show seemed like a rehash of last season.
"We see trends at high prices and lower-price knockoffs, but not enough direction in the middle-price points," she said. "It’s probably too early for a complete look at spring. We’re hoping for better direction in October."
She added that many early spring fabrics were too heavy for her south Georgia climate.
With a budget equal to last year’s, Perlis bought holiday sweaters by several resources, including Sigrid Olsen, but held off on buying core resources such as Liz Claiborne and Rafaella, which weren’t ready with complete spring groups, she said.
Summer business has been slow, with cautious consumers, she said. Early school openings in mid-August also hurt back-to-school business.
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion