By  on August 9, 2007

NEW YORK — Contemporary designers who showed at Designers & Agents cast away the somber color palettes and tailored looks synonymous with current fall collections in place of eye-popping brights, jewel-toned tops and dresses and eco-friendly designs.

D&A ended its three-day run at the Starrett-Lehigh Center on Monday. The exhibition had 56 booths, a 16 percent increase from last August, and 1,120 stores visiting, a 29 percent jump, according to Barbara Kramer and Ed Mandelbaum, co-producers of the exhibition.

For the spring 2008 show next month, D&A will undergo an expansion with a second location for exhibitors, and new partnerships with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Trade Council of Denmark.

Those who thought dresses were a trend of yore were proven wrong at this D&A. The resort season is rife with frocks in an assortment of silhouettes and rich, sultry colors — much to the delight of vendors and buyers.

"Dresses are very strong now, it's so happening," said Kramer. "I see it in the stores changing quite a bit. It's getting a little more feminine and sophisticated, and even though there is some novelty, it's more about the fabrics and the workmanship. It's a little fresher."

Barbara Sued and Sara Bibi, owners of Breeze in Brooklyn, N.Y., purchased a bubble dress and asymmetrical dress from Maggie Ward, as well as tunics and dresses from Charlotte Ronson.

Ann Gitter, owner of Knit Wit, a five-unit chain throughout southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, also bought an assortment of T-shirts and dresses from Maggie Ward, as well as basic T-shirts and tanks from Christina Lehr and skirts and dresses with a resort feel from Coolchange.

Lori Friedman, owner of Great Stuff, a five-unit contemporary retailer throughout New York's Westchester County and Connecticut, placed orders at Maggie Ward, Rory Beca and Christina Lehr. Friedman caters to young mothers in towns such as Greenwich, Conn., and Rye and Chappaqua, N.Y. "My customer has just gotten out of maternity clothes," she said. "They are looking for something to show the figures off that they work so hard on."I loved Maggie Ward," she continued. "I love the bubble top and dress, because it's not too bubble, which is what is so good about it. I also bought the boyfriend V-neck to go over a bathing suit and the asymmetrical dress."

Exhibitor Charlotte Ronson, who used a lot of yellows and crochet in her resort collection, said the mood is "fun, fresh and full of sunny colors." The wholesale price point for her eponymous line ranges from around $40 for a tank to $91 for a dress. Bestsellers included a linen and lace dress with black and brown dotted lines, a mosaic cotton scoopneck tunic with lace scallop edging and a black cotton shift dress.

Julie Brown's silk jersey designs are available in an array of Mod-looking turtleneck dresses and shifts to floor-sweeping tank dresses and reversible halter tops. Dresses wholesale from $120 to $150, while tanks hover around $100.

Maggie Ward, owned by Three Dots founder John Ward and a favorite with buyers, was a new line that emphasized the basics with a flair for luxury fabrics. The mini-bubble dress, available in both Lyocell, a 100 percent biodegradable fabric, and a soft glitter jersey, wholesales for $60 and $120, respectively.

"We chose these gorgeous bright colors," said designer Rory Beca. "The colors of the season are lemon, grass, kale, silver, smoke, milk and blueberry, with gold as an accent color in the buttons." Beca also embraced trends such as nautical-inspired pieces, metallic accents and high-waisted and wide-leg pants. A standout in the collection was the racer-back silk ruffle tops and dresses that have a gold button at the neck, available in numerous colors and fabrics, wholesaling from $120 to $150.

L.A.-based Rhys Dwfen, a newcomer to D&A, is no stranger to diaphanous fabrics. One of the company's bestsellers was the "Harry Cardigan," a pointelle cotton, trapeze cardigan that is almost sheer, wholesaling for $74.

Meanwhile, beginning next month, D&A is expanding beyond the borders of its present location to an additional space at the Chelsea Art Museum on West 22nd Street here.

The floor plan of the new space will enable designers to showcase their collections differently, as well as serve as a space to host D&A's latest partnerships. The CFDA has chosen D&A as a partner in its New Business Services Network. Each season, two designers will be selected and introduced at D&A-sponsored booths."As part of our relationship with the CFDA, each season we vote for one sportswear and one accessories designer to have a CFDA booth at the D&A show," said Mandelbaum. "We are picking the ones that are most geared to who we are, and we will do that for all of our cities, in Los Angeles, New York and London."

D&A has also joined forces with the Trade Council of Denmark to showcase 11 fashion collections from that country. A Sept. 14 cocktail event sponsored by Dansk will celebrate the new space and feature Danish fashion and artwork.

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