By  on May 16, 2007

Buyers flush with higher budgets hit last week's Moda Manhattan and FAME trade shows, writing orders for fall knits, pants and, of course, dresses.

FAME and Moda again shared space with AccessoriesTheShow at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here May 6 to 8, and numbers were up on all fronts, from buyer attendance to open-to-buys to exhibitor numbers and square footage.

"They were without a doubt the best May shows we have ever run," said Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc., which owns the exhibitions.

In Business Journals' promotion of trends in preshow newsletters and on its Web site, the show identified polished dresses, novelty knits and Katharine Hepburn-esque pants as key trends. With more money to spend, buyers also said they were impressed with the offerings in those categories, and they reported that the gray and metallic color stories were strong. Most wrote primarily for fall.

"There were a lot of choices for women, so people could pick up on what the best trend for them is," said Stacy Levinson, whose family owns the Columbia, S.C., boutique Brittons. "My store appeals to customers from 19 to 90, and those two shows offer something for everyone."

Levinson had higher open-to-buys and placed more orders than normal. She wrote orders for summer and fall and started to look for holiday. In particular, Levinson liked lightweight knits, dresses, particularly with sleeves, and wide-leg, high-waisted pants. She also identified trends in metallics and gray. "You'd have to be blind not to see gray," she noted.

Jennifer Huggard, who owns Tyler House in Raleigh, N.C., wrote immediate spring fill-in orders for dresses, dress tops and long shorts. "We've had a great dress season, and we needed more dresses to get us through the spring," she said. "Moda's vendor selection is consistently getting better each market."

Although Huggard wrote for spring, she mostly looked for fall and holiday, identifying knits, retro jackets and capelets as trends she is eager to sell in her better-to-bridge-priced store. Huggard was less excited about the color palette for fall, though. "All the grays and browns are lovely and sophisticated, but the customer needs to see color to be excited about things," she said. "I wish there was more color in the market."Paula Morgan, owner of TravelWares, a Sewickley, Pa., store that caters to a 40-plus customer with its travel-friendly apparel and accessories, was also disappointed in the prevalence of gray. "There was a lot of gray, but if people liked gray so much, why would they color their hair?" she quipped.

Morgan said she went into Moda with "a main purpose of finishing my fall, getting a feeling for holiday, and then I had enough open-to-buy to pick up something different for now to add excitement." She thought pants were strong for fall, particularly full-length pants, with the capri phasing out.

New York-based knit line Ava launched for fall, and Ava sales manager Betsy Barnett said the line's experience at May's Moda was far stronger than in February. Specifically, Ava did well with its novelty sweaters.

"Traffic has been pretty good, and pretty much everybody wrote," Barnett said. "Buyers know exactly what they want, and they cherry-pick the line. Nobody sits down and takes notes."

Another New York-based knit firm, WR9000, showed at Moda for the first time. It did well with its novelty sweaters, which wholesale for $39 to $89, including those with leather, oversize Mod buttons or chunky jewels on them.

"Yesterday traffic was nice, today it's spotty, and tomorrow I can predict already will be non-existent," WR9000 sales account executive Jaine Immerman said on Monday during the show. "Most people are writing for fall, though. Secondary shows are always better for writing."

Soundgirl, a New York-based contemporary line that wholesales for $16 to $75, found business at FAME slow but steady, with consistent writing. A $65 felted wool coat was a top seller, along with printed minidresses and hoodies. "Surprisingly we are doing very well, and we've met a lot of interesting accounts," said representative Suzy Policarpio. "This is usually a buy-now show, but a lot of people have been buying for fall."

This was the first FAME appearance for Los Angeles-based junior brand Yas, which wholesales for $18.75 to $24.75. "Everyone seems to be looking for fall or winter," said Yas sales representative Joseph Oh. "People here are far more advanced than in Dallas, Atlanta or at MAGIC."

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