Cynthia O’Connor & Co. has hired Scott Sussman as chief operating officer, a new position in the New York showroom. Sussman was most recently director of creative merchandising at Tommy Hilfiger and formerly a handbag buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Sussman’s responsibilities include expanding the distribution of the showroom’s lines to new stores and overseeing the firm’s new Internet site at cocandco.com, which offers press information and a regular shopping feature, and is designed for the trade. He will also help develop a product line under the Cynthia O’Connor name, which will likely be sold on a home shopping network, O’Connor said.

ITALIAN STYLE: Two Italian jewelers are stepping up their presence in the U.S. Nanis and Garavelli each showed their new offerings recently at Couture in Phoenix and the JCK Show in Las Vegas.

Nanis is known for its bold 18-karat gold creations and many of its styles for fall transform into other styles, such as dangle bracelets that can become necklaces.

Garavelli, meanwhile, offers a range of fine watches, as well as gold looks that include dangle earrings and thick necklaces. The company still makes everything by hand, including its newest creations, which have nature motifs, open-work gold lacing and pavé designs. Nanis and Garavelli are members of the Italian Jewelry Guild, which promotes and markets Italian jewelry brands in the U.S.

HAIR AFFAIR: It was a rowdy scene last Monday night at Manhattan’s Copacabana Club for the third annual Tulips & Pansies — The Headdress Affair. Co-sponsored by designers Diane Von Furstenberg and Alfred Fiandaca — neither of whom were actually at the event — the dinner gala featured Broadway singers, comedians, a silent auction and a runway show of floral hat creations, some literally overflowing with flowers.

Among the designers and firms who made hats for the event were Liz Claiborne, Simon Doonan, Zang Toi, Angelrox, Ron Chereskin and House of Field. Toi took home the top prize in the headdress competition for his creation, which was designed to be a modern-day Rapunzel look with pink flowers masquerading as the fairy-tale heroine’s long locks.

The event benefited Village Care of New York, which provides services for people with AIDS.“We have to remind people that [AIDS] is not over in the city, the country and the world,” said Arthur Y. Webb, Village Care of New York’s president and chief executive officer.

MORE NEW STORES: Accessories designers are opening stores all over the map.

Jay Strongwater has joined the bustling Las Vegas retail scene with his first store, which opened earlier this month at Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops. The 450-square-foot space carries Strongwater’s entire collection, including tabletop items, jeweled picture frames, baby gifts and bridal items, as well as lipstick holders, mirrored compacts and special-order custom pieces like wrought-iron stone doors. First-year sales are expected to reach about $2 million, sources close to the company said.

Sigerson Morrison, meanwhile, opened a new shop on Madison Street in Sag Harbor, N.Y. The 170-square-foot store includes handbags and shoes, many of which have a beach theme. Sales are projected to reach $500,000 this year.

And, handbag and accessories firm Perlina Handbags just opened its first store at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y. The store has the range of Perlina’s offerings, including watches, small leather goods and handbags. Roger Mizrahi, president, projected first-year sales of about $700,000 to $800,000. “We want to open more stores, eventually between eight and 10,” he said.

EXTRA, EXTRA: Junior brand Unionbay is making a heavy push into the accessories arena with new licensing deals for sunglasses, watches and belts.

Outlook Eyewear is the licensee for sunglasses and its launch collection features oversize rimless and small-scale geometric metal sunglasses with gradient lenses. The line, at $22 to $25 retail, will be presented during the August market for an October launch.

Genender International will manufacture Unionbay’s watches, which will feature digital and analog styles with Velcro, resin and stainless steel bracelets. The collection will retail for $20 to $40 and is slated to hit stores in time for the holiday season.

Belts are licensed to Daniel M. Friedman & Associates and will have such design elements as enamel logos, chains, studs and grommets. The belts, which retail for $14 to $26, will debut during the August market for holiday. Unionbay also has licensed collections in junior footwear, headwear and infant clothing.

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