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NEW YORK — Dresses had more flair, suits had more trims, and product in general had a little more spunk at the recent round of ready-to-wear hotel shows here.
This story first appeared in the August 19, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Though exhibitors at the shows tend to cater to stores that have a slightly older customer, there was a noticeable effort by designers to add more novelty items and younger styles, while still creating wearable and age-appropriate clothes.
Since the resort market tends to be an in-between one, there were significantly less vendors at both the Designers at the Essex House and the American International Designers at the Waldorf-Astoria. Nouveau Collective, which took place Aug. 2-5 at the Park Central Hotel, had more vendors and featured a range of designers from inexpensive sportswear to bridge-priced eveningwear, as well as several accessories lines.
Vendors said buyers were looking at fall merchandise to fill in for immediate delivery, as well as holiday. Resort was also on their radar — since that is the season these shows are intended to serve — but many tend to pick up resort when it’s shown along with the spring collections next month.
“As a holiday show, it’s kind of fallen short,” said Felesha Turney, sales director at Rebecca Bruce, a Mill Valley, Calif.-based company featuring two lines at Nouveau Collective. “Companies that used to have elaborate holiday parties and other social events during the year are just doing a Christmas cocktail.”
That affects the amount of dresses and special-occasion looks she sells, but the Rebecca Bruce line offers plenty of novelty coats and dresses in addition to Bekke by Rebecca Bruce, which has more basic items. So there is normally something that works for a variety of stores, said Turney.
For the Bekke line, a basic top runs about $80 wholesale, while matte jersey bouclé dresses can run $130. The Rebecca Bruce line features a faux shearling jacket for $136 and a wrap tie jacket for $230 wholesale.
For Melvina Starks, a sales representative at Los Angeles-based sportswear line Arielle Tyler, cutting down on basics and offering more trendy items was the way to go.
“In this economy, buyers don’t want to buy entire collections,” said Starks. “They want to mix and coordinate items, and if they find a must-have item, they will go beyond their budget to get it.”
Arielle Tyler shared space with Cubix, a sweater line based in Glen Cove, N.Y., whose sales representative, Lydia Wen, also said novelty was key. Though she said the show was somewhat quiet, she saw the majority of her stores and said it’s always important to be present at trade shows, even if just for marketing purposes.
For Lisa Lynch, owner and buyer of Ports & Co. in Cohasset, Mass., the August edition of Nouveau Collective was focused on buying closer to season, while she would focus on resort and spring during next month’s show.
“People want bright color. Everyone is staying away from black,” said David Bershad, national sales manager for day and evening line WWW Collection. “Buyers here are the ones that mean business and they are staying focused on the newest and the latest. It’s the ones you don’t see that you worry about.”
Trims, novelty pieces and bold colors such as red were attracting buyers, Bershad said.
A little more than a handful of designers convened at the Waldorf show, which took place Aug. 6-10, including Abigail Kate, Linda Cunningham, Lady Vivienne, Michael Casey, Pesavento Couture and San Carlin.
At Abigail Kate, cashmere sweater sets with matching grosgrain trims in colors such as red, black, chocolate brown and beige were in high demand. The sweaters are imported from Hong Kong and mark the first items that Abigail Kate has made offshore. Other evening separates to go with the sweaters, such as skirts and pants, were made domestically.
Vivienne Marloe, owner of Lady Vivienne, launched Kelly Blue, a lower-priced line of evening, career and day apparel ranging from $59 to $129 wholesale. Her signature line runs about $950 to $1,600 wholesale for gowns and $550 to $850 for suits.
The Waldorf show didn’t share the same dates with the Essex House venue, but they did overlap for one weekend. The Essex House took place Aug. 9-13 at the Central Park South hotel.
There, a slightly larger group of designers exhibited, including a couple of defections from the Waldorf show, such as Catherine Regehr and Lourdes Chavez who both featured elaborate evening gowns.
Despite all the novelty looks, retailer Barry Stagman said his customers still want basic-looking items.
“I’m looking for clothes that are exciting but they also have to be classic. I don’t care how much money she has, she doesn’t want to wear it a couple of times and toss it,” said Stagman. “My customer is relatively monochromatic but loves texture.”
Stagman has a 1,200-square-foot shop called Stagman’s in Glencoe, Ill., a tony suburb in Chicago’s North Shore area. At the Essex House, Stagman said he visited Zenobia because it has a sophisticated and clean look.
At Mark Heister, sexy evening outfits such as halter dresses in bright colors including banana yellow were a fresh change for the designer.
“It was just time,” said Linda Heister, president, in reference to the younger-looking pieces. “There was a customer that was attracted to Mark Heister, but the [traditional pieces] weren’t shapely enough.”
The newer pieces are meant to attract a younger client, as well as some new retailers, since on average they’re priced about $200 less than Heister’s regular pieces.
Marsha Posner, president of New York-based buying office JP Associates, picked up a store called Isabella’s, based in Framingham, Mass. That store has done well with Zenobia, Mark Heister and Skinz Designs, both of which were at the Essex House show.
“Catherine Regehr had some very new-looking cocktail and long dresses I thought were beautiful,” Posner said. “They were young-looking evening clothes, which is what I really liked. I thought she was priced well.”
Though Posner said the September market is generally more important, it’s necessary for some vendors to show during August, since some buyers have a hard time breaking away from the strong fall selling season to spend a week buying in New York.