By  on August 8, 2007

NEW YORK — Dresses are still the reigning queen.

At this week's Moda Manhattan and FAME trade shows, which again shared space with AccessoriesTheShow at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here Sunday to Tuesday, dresses dominated the largely fall and holiday orders being placed.

Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc., which owns FAME and Moda, said the shows were on track with last year, which enjoyed a record August. "We are very pleased with how the season unfolded," said Jones.

FAME's exhibitor attendance is now two-thirds junior-young contemporary, up from 40 percent two years ago, according to Jones, who aims to dedicate all of FAME to that niche.

Michelle Kim, designer and owner of Los Angeles-based 213 Industry Inc., speculated the lower prices of her young contemporary line, which wholesales from $30 to around $100, and most of the other junior lines at FAME make it an attractive show for buyers during a tough retail climate. Kim added the shared traffic from Moda and AccessoriesTheShow helped FAME, though many buyers just browsed.

"I thought the August market would have been more crowded, because buyers have been so conservative at the last two markets," Kim said. "But I'm still not seeing anyone going crazy with their buying, because they say they still have a lot of merchandise on their shelves."

She added buyers are ordering more replenishment than far-out deliveries. "We were expecting to write a lot of January, but people aren't ready for that," Kim said. "Instead we are still filling holiday, which people should be covered for, but they aren't because they didn't shop at the last two markets."

In particular, 213 Industry did well with its holiday minidresses, which sell for around $48. Fluid solid-colored jewel tones, leopard prints and rhinestone embellishment were popular takes on the frocks.

Other exhibitors at FAME reported similar experiences. Irvine, Calif.-based BB Dakota enjoyed solid traffic on holiday orders, according to Midwest sales representative Monica Topham. The junior line's Sixties-inspired dresses, which wholesale for around $20, and jackets, which go for around $30, were its biggest sellers.New York-based junior line Soda Blu, which wholesales from $25 to $48, continued to have luck with its baby-doll dresses. Likewise, New York-based Gracia did well with its minidresses, particularly in silvers. Los Angeles-based B Gallery reported the junior line did well with its dresses, which wholesale from $25 to $40, particularly in rust, burgundies and grays.

Cynthia Rusk, a buyer for special occasion-focused women's boutique Helen Ainson in Darien, Conn., said she was pressed for time between all the shows this past weekend, but she found some new resources at Moda on which to spend her consistent open-to-buy. She said she focused her dollars on immediate through holiday.

Jennifer Gerien, the owner of the contemporary women's boutique Lily in Brooklyn, was also buying for fall. She said she did a lot of immediate writing at FAME and Moda for coats and dresses in prints and jewel tones.

Downstairs at Moda, exhibitors agreed with Jones' assessment that the quality and price point of the better-focused show are steadily increasing. Exhibitors reported similar trends as those seen at FAME: Immediate orders trumped spring buys, and retailers wanted dresses, as well as light coats.

Boston-based better dress resource Sara Campbell, which wholesales from $79 to $250, benefited from the continued dress cycle with strong sales at Moda. Its dresses, particularly the metallics and those in cheerful yellows, greens and pinks, sold well, according to its sales representatives.

"A lot of people were looking for immediate fill-ins because of light buying at previous shows," said Bob Gunther, mid-Atlantic sales rep for Sara Campbell.

Elizabeth McKay, a New York preppy line that wholesales from $36 for a top to $175 for a coat or intricate dress, reported strong traffic and orders. The line did particularly well with its Sixties-inspired dresses and jackets.

Dakota Martin, a New York-based company that bowed two years ago, also reported strong traffic, plentiful writing and lots of new accounts at Moda. Of the collection, which wholesales from $70 to $135, plaid ponchos, cashmere minidresses and flowy halter dresses sold well, according to co-founders Lizzy Sall and Shannon Casey.

Melly M's Sixties-inspired print dresses, which wholesale from $108 to $148, sold well at Moda, according to the New York-based better line's owner and designer Melissa Madden. In particular, Melly M did well with its silk halter styles and tunics.However, Madden reported traffic was light and some buyers held off on placing orders. "Southern stores have been writing," Madden said. "But Northern stores aren't ready for spring yet and are still looking."

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