By  on March 9, 1994

NEW YORK -- Short hemlines and novelty items for immediate and summer selling are expected to lure buyers at the International Fashion Boutique Show, March 19-22 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

The March edition is one of the two smallest of the five Boutique Shows staged here annually by The Larkin Group. The other is in October.

David Larkin, vice president for corporate development of The Larkin Group, said there will be about 500 booths at the upcoming show, about the same number as last year.

"The March show has leveled off," he said. "We were hoping for more, but the snow in January really set some people's plans back. This has been a rough winter."

Larkin said this edition was developed in response to vendors who don't have showrooms in New York.

Buyers and exhibitors have already come through last month's heavy slate of trade shows -- including Premier Collections, Fashion Coterie and Showroom -- but the potential to find good new suppliers or a hot item is, as usual, a key magnet for retailers.

Beth Silverstein, better-to-bridge merchandise manager at the Doneger Group, a buying office here, said she would be looking for immediate spring goods, summer items and some fall, as well as keeping an eye out for new resources.

"It's the heart of the selling season, so it's good to see what's trending," she said.

Silverstein said she was interested in T-shirts, broom skirts and novelty sweaters, adding that velvet will be a strong fabric going into fall.

As for open-to-buys, Silverstein said she anticipates budgets for the office's clients will be even with last year's, due in large part to the bad weather in recent months.

Bill McLane, an owner of Mystique Fashions in Wilmington, Del., said he shops the Boutique Show in search of "obscure lines," items and accessories.

"I'm going primarily just for items to fill in my buys," he said. "I'm pretty well bought for the summer, but if something unique catches my attention I might buy it. I did Premiere and the Coterie for fall. The Boutique Show is more for items, not for trends per se."McLane added that his open-to-buy is about the same as last year's.

"The economy still has not completely recovered," he said. "Especially in my area."

McLane added that he felt women were turned off by fashion last fall.

"The flowy romantic look was accepted by only a few people, and many found the wider trousers unflattering," he said. "There is a bit of resistance by women to buy anything very different unless it's very fun and inexpensive. Women are buying more timeless type fashions."

Diana Salen, an owner of two Diana and Jeffries boutiques here, had similar sentiments.

"I'm being cautious," she said. "Lately, fashion is changing so much. The fashion in magazines and the fashion in real life don't always work together. We have to sift out what's been in the magazines."

For example, Salen noted the silver and miniskirt trends, saying: "Most women will buy some of it and integrate it into their wardrobes. They don't want to be so costumey."

Salen said while short lengths are key, not all customers are willing to give up long, or be dictated to by magazines.

"I'm still selling stretch pants and leggings," she said.

With trends changing so often, Salen said she is buying closer to season with an open-to-buy on par with last year's.

"But we're not so structured that if we see something we like we don't buy it because we've already spent our budget," said Salen, adding that she is going to the Boutique Show for summer merchandise.

"I'm looking for color, fit things, little dresses, short skirts and cropped sweaters," she said. She pointed out that short silhouettes are basically what she wants for now.

Salen said that chenille and mohair will be important going into fall, as will novelty sweaters with twists like interesting yarns and textures as a counterpoint to the simplicity of recent seasons.

Although Salen bought a lot of her fall merchandise at the Coterie, she will keep an eye out on the fall selection at the Boutique Show.Among exhibitors, Kiko, a sportswear resource here, will be featuring unusual textures in cardigans and pullovers using wool boucle, heavy cotton knits and rustic topstitching in earth tones like stone and leaf.

Patricia Gomes, sales manager for Kiko, said she expects to see some new accounts as well as established ones, boosting business to a 10 percent increase from last year.

Street Life, a sportswear firm here, will concentrate mainly on skirts and dresses at the Boutique Show, according to Tracy Puzino, the company's sales manager. She added that Street Life is focusing on short lengths, but will also feature some long dresses.

The transitional collection includes short A-line skirts, baby doll and fit-and-flare dresses, along with long column and slip dresses in muted colors, using stretch cotton and Lycra spandex twills, some linen and stretch gabardine.

"This is not really a big show," said Puzino. "We're hoping to do the same as last year."

However, Puzino added, "A lot of buyers have not been coming into the city because of the weather, so we think that we will see a lot of people at the show."

Puzino added that at the Boutique Show she normally works with established accounts, as well as picking up 15 to 20 new ones.

Devin Randolph, sales manager of BCBG, a dress company based in Los Angeles, said the emphasis will be on easy dressing focusing on baby doll and Empire silhouettes, in long and short lengths.

Randolph calls the soft dressing collection "a small, direct group," in wovens, rayons and acetate and Lycra boucle knits.

Randolph said they had no clear business goal for the show, but that she does expect to do better than last year, "based on pure product availability and the amount of our collection that we have now versus last year for summer and transitional."

"This is a very immediate-oriented show, so people always leave paper," she said. "The majority of BCBG's business comes from our established account base, but there is an increase coming from within these accounts."

However, Randolph added, "We always pick up some new accounts, mainly from the Northeast area."Maria Pomara, merchandise manager for Femme, a sportswear resource based in Brooklyn, said that at the March Boutique Show she works mostly with seasonal accounts and immediate shipments,

Strong looks in the line include Irish linen tank dresses in natural colors and sheer and layered dressing featuring dresses, wide pants and T-shirt tops in cotton and rayon and acetate and Lycra, usually in silver and black.

Pomara said she expects to increase her business from last year by 15 percent.

"Hopefully the weather will get better," she said. "We're ready to ship."

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