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NEW YORK — A desire for lower opening price points, lean retail inventories and immediate deliveries were among the key issues permeating last week’s market.
This story first appeared in the August 12, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Although many retailers said accessories are still trending better than other fashion categories, buyers were in somewhat of a cautious mood, and traffic at both Accessorie Circuit and AccessoriesTheShow was relatively sluggish, vendors said.
“I am being careful with my inventory levels because a lot of people are getting laid off,” said Christine Phillips, owner of specialty store Crissy’s Closet in Collinswood, N.J., who was shopping AccessoriesTheShow. “I am looking for immediate deliveries and am being more cautious with my orders. Instead of choosing one item in six colors, I may just go for three colors.”
“Overall, business is a little tough,” said Jon Callanan, designer at Dorfman Pacific, which makes hats under the Scala brand. “A lot of customers told me they are cutting back on the higher-price point items. They want the look, but they are price conscious and cautious.”
Nonetheless, Jane Elfers, Lord & Taylor’s chairman and chief executive officer, noted that accessories, and particularly jewelry, were a stand-out category this spring and summer. Accessories has been an area of focus for L&T, which has updated its offerings with trendier and more fashion-forward lines.
“We have just started to bring fall in and we are already getting strong reads on scarves, suede and fringe,” she said.
While vendors showed a mishmash of holiday, resort and early spring looks during market, most stores were putting the finishing touches on their fourth-quarter orders. On the trend front, now that turquoise has saturated the accessories field in every possible form, companies are stepping out with a number of new items to keep the momentum going. Firms such as Judith Jack, Rage and Nine West have introduced a broader range of stones into their looks.
Among the most important looks on tap for holiday and early spring are:
Beads and stones such as lapis, garnet, amethyst and coral.
Black lace and gothic influences.
Sherbet colors such as green, pink and yellow.
Clutch bags, wristlets and mini versions of large handbags.
Long scarves, especially styles with fringe that can be worn around the waist.
Despite challenging conditions, a number of new firms made their debut at the shows and many firms introduced additional categories into their mix.
Kate Spade, for example, continues to develop itself as a lifestyle brand. The company is in the midst of expanding its offerings of small leather goods, shoes, stationary and home items. It has also recently premiered its beauty line, and its sunglass business continues to grow. Kate Spade handbags for spring have some new twists, including styles with zebra prints and leather bucket shapes with polkadot lining.
Among the newcomers at Accessorie Circuit was Bijoux Panache, a San Francisco-based company started by two women in their 50s who have entered the jewelry industry as a second career. The collection includes handmade necklaces and bracelets of venetian glass, vintage beads and gems, including some semiprecious stones.
“We love doing this and when we find beads we like, we foam at the mouth,” said Caye Hursey, a co-owner and designer along with Marilou Cramer.
The line, which is being sold through the Notanonymous showroom, carries wholesale prices of $60 to $200, and the duo is targeting smaller department stores, galleries and boutiques. First-year sales are expected to be $200,000 to $500,000, according to Hursey.
Another newcomer was Lauren Tango, a handbag line being distributed through the Pure Accessories showroom. The company is offering a range of handbags made in the Philippines, many of which are in natural materials such as straw and leather. Wholesale prices range from about $60 to $90.
Meanwhile, Rafe New York exclusively showed resort and spring looks, including a woven leather tote with cotton twill lining and pebble grain leather bags in light colors such as mandarin orange and white. The fast-growing firm also launched its new shoe collection featuring a variety of open-toe looks, such as slides, mules and clogs.
In addition, Rafe premiered some jewelry items, including belts made of shells and necklaces with large shells as the pendant.
Rafe Totengco, designer and owner, said: “We are building our distribution internationally and opening stores in Asia and in London.”
Among the newcomers at AccessoriesTheShow was handbag firm Poesis, which launched the Geometric Collection, a new line of handbags in square and rectangular shapes, a small clutch and a new circular shape reminiscent of a hat box.
Prints include zebra, French script, polkadots and argyle, with contrasting toile lining. Poesis wholesales from $45 to $80. The firm sells to about 100 high-end specialty stores, and this month is opening its first freestanding unit at 20 East Main Street in Richmond, Va.
Another first-time resource at the show was Kate Lord, a division of Ahead Headgear. Kate Lord, which wholesales for $15 to $25, was launched in February. Director of sales Tim Miller said the firm was looking to build its distribution in golf and women’s specialty stores. Currently, the line is sold in 500 doors. Miller declined to give sales projections.
Kate Lord’s strategy is a minimum order of only 18 pieces, and retailers can pick the size, color and design within that minimum.
“Our flexibility has helped business,” he noted. “Retailers liked the ability to have sizes, the low minimums and the ability for quick turnarounds.”
Meanwhile, costume jewelry firm Blair Delmonico launched Diva Delmonico, a new division to tap into the growing items business. Diva Delmonico consists of fun and whimsical bracelets and necklaces featuring plastic, glass, crystal, resin, ceramic and enameled charms and beads, including one pendant featuring an enameled image of Dolly Parton.
“We took elements of Blair Delmonico, but added porcelain and glass and mashed it together with glass fruits and fish,” said Sophia Jolly, chief executive officer, who added that the line is younger in spirit, with retail prices of $25 to $125.
Diva Delmonico will be made available to the company’s existing accounts, which include specialty and department stores.
Also making its debut during market week was Foundry, a new line founded by Laura Saltzman, a New York-based artist by training who is also just stepping into the accessories scene. Her debut collection features leather and suede offerings, including large totes with adjustable side straps and a shoulder bag with a soapstone ornament, wholesaling for $125 to $140.
“My look is inspired by art nouveau and by Lenny Kravitz,” Saltzman said. “He has an amazing sense of style.”
Other news around town during market was the launch of Nine West hats, produced under license by Riviera, marking its first time entering the hat arena. The spring collection includes a wide range of products, such as floppy styles, denim looks and straw hats with shell and wood accents.
In addition to shopping the shows and showrooms, buyers attended a number of events and parties. The Accessories Council held its second annual “On The Avenue” event on the rooftop of L&T’s Fifth Avenue flagship. The event drew a crowd of more than 200 people from a cross-section of the industry, including designers such as Adrienne Landau, Patricia Underwood, Carlos Falchi and Kenneth Jay Lane, as well as industry executives such as Michael Horowitz of Judith Jack and Elfers of L&T.
Other events included a party at accessories and ready-to-wear showroom Apropo, which celebrated the addition of 3,000 square feet for its growing assortment of rtw, and the launch of Apropo Press, a new venture between owner Uri Alter and public relations executive Brian Long. The agency will handle clients such as Bettina Duncan, Mimco and Michal Negrin.
Rosetti Group held an event to launch its new line of Franco Sarto handbags, which it produces under license. The line carries wholesale prices of $20 to $50 and features a wide range of bags, including styles made of leather and suede, and ones made of linen with appliqué flowers. The line is expected to bring in first-year retail sales of about $12 million, according to Katherine Hudson, president of the Franco Sarto handbag and small leather goods division.
It marks the first time the shoe company has gotten into other categories and it is also the first venture for Rosetti into licensing.
Ron Hersh, president of Rosetti, said: “This will give us the entry we have been looking for to enter into the department store channel. Many companies are expanding into other categories now. Everyone wants to be a lifestyle brand.”