By  on April 26, 2006

For designers based outside of the U.S., getting into Fashion Coterie could mean big business.

Three years ago, ENK International started bringing in new design talent from regions never before represented at the show, beginning with a select group of Brazilian designers. The organization now sets up sections of the show especially for designers from Italy, Japan, Israel, France, Canada and England.

"In order to take part in the show, these designers must do what anyone else must do," said Elyse Kroll, president of ENK. "They have to show us appropriate product for our buyers. Unfortunately, many designers are rejected each season."

And some just don't last. About a year ago, ENK had to let go of the area dedicated to designers from Turkey. Kroll said that the majority of the Turkish designers showing at Coterie were over­designing for the women's market.

"I'm interested in bringing in lines that will be of service to our buyers," Kroll explained. "Sometimes these lines are very artistic and beautiful to look at, but they just don't serve the buyers for the American market. I think this was the case with our Turkish designers. They were very good in men's wear, but overdesigned for women."

In order to bring international designers to Coterie, ENK works closely with the governments of their countries. After a select number of designers are chosen, their governments pay for their trip to the show. Coleman McCartan works as a talent scout in search of lines appropriate for Coterie.

"The Brazilians have done very well with accessories and swimwear since Day One," McCartan said. "But I've had to work with a lot of these companies to make sure their sizing was right for the American market, and so that they know they cannot be all things to all people here."

McCartan said that many brands make a variety of products for their home country, but in the U.S., that doesn't always fly.

"When a buyer walks into their booth, they don't want to see jeans, coats, swimwear and eveningwear," he said. "I always tell them they have to be focused and they should pick one thing."To prepare designers for their potential visit to New York, McCartan said he works with them to answer any questions so they can best prepare their businesses. Before ENK brought in the Israel-based group, McCartan traveled to Tel Aviv and held a conference where designers could learn more about the American market.

"There were a lot of things they didn't know about the U.S.," he explained. "Many didn't know where to begin, since our country is so large, so I advised them to launch in New York and then break out into their regional markets. A lot of them needed this to prepare their lines."

For many designers, entrance into the show has been truly groundbreaking for their companies.

"We've really managed to develop a majority of our businesses at the Coterie show," said Valentino Vettori, a representative at the Scatola Showroom, which houses brands such as Vivienne Westwood, LeFull from Italy and Iodice from Brazil. "With Iodice, we launched at Coterie last year and wrote $300,000 in orders and opened 45 new accounts. That was a pretty nice show for a brand-new line."

Paloma Marugan, director of consumer product for the Trade Commission of Spain, agrees that Coterie is the place to be. Her group of eight Spainish designers have all seen great success at the show.

"Our designers always write a lot of business there," Marugan said. "They love it there and now know how important it is to be at the show. Even if they don't write a lot of orders, their presence is so important."

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