By and  on June 1, 1994

NEW YORK -- Two new hotel trade shows last week pulled steady streams of buyers, many of them armed with increased open-to-buys reflecting a more optimistic mood about retail in general and about contemporary collections in particular.

Hotlines took up six floors of Le Parker Meridien and featured about 300 collections from about 70 exhibitors.

StyleWorks, held over three floors at the Drake Hotel, had about 85 exhibitors with 230 lines. Both ran for three days through May 28.

Retailers making the rounds were searching for immediate items to spice up summer inventory, placing some orders for fall, and in some cases, previewing holiday.

Stores saw the shows as an opportunity to view resources they might not ordinarily see in their areas.

At Hotlines, Max Martinez, who owns two Max stores in Colorado -- one in Denver, the other in Boulder -- was placing an order with Felicia, Grace & Co., a New York sales firm that represents Jenne Maag, Margaret O'Leary, Marina Avraam, Cinzia, Marcos Ergas and Kara George.

"This is great," said Martinez, who said his open-to-buy is up about 30 percent for fall, with most of that for his Boulder store. "I'm filling in with immediates to bring in fresh things for the summer. Right now, for instance, I need to find some dresses with sleeves because everything is so bare. I'm also placing fall orders."

Ruthie Zeide, owner of Ruthie'z in Armonk, N.Y., was looking at Jamie Kreitman sweaters in Simply Chic's crowded suite, where other buyers perused the collections of C.C. Outlaw, Juicy, Wendy McCauley, Blind Faith, Tutto Sera and Tutto Pelle.

"I'm looking mostly for fall," she said. "I'm doing chenilles, velvets, sheer tops, cropped vests and white shirts." Zeide noted she was buying fall a little later than usual, because she was unsure about general conditions.

Linda Wolff, owner of Joe's, a specialty store in Manhattan, said she was looking for both fall and immediates.

"I'm thinking of doing a lot of long, slit, leggy skirts for fall. Everyone says short, but my customer still loves long. It's so sophisticated," Wolff said.Debra Posner, owner of Beautiful People in Nantucket, Mass., said she has substantially increased her open-to-buy for fall because "after three bad years, business has finally picked up."

"I'm actually leaving orders for fall," she said. "I'm done with immediate."

Vendors said they had been consistently busy with new orders.

"The show has been very good in terms of writing business," said Jeffrey Price of Jeffrey Price International, a New York sales agent. He was showing collections by Tina Hagen, Michael Seroy, The Line and Rockpool.

"If I had a lot of immediates here, I'd sell all of it," he said. "But they're looking for fall as well."

The JFK Sales suite, with collections by Debby Mitchell, Hendris, Hoda, Kush, Maureen Benun, Mikii, Oliviere and Vica, was bustling on Monday.

"This is terrific," said Jayne Fink, an owner of the agency. "I do the Showroom show [also produced by Non-Stop Productions, producer of Hotlines] and I'll continue to do this show. We're getting orders for at-once merchandise and some paper for fall."

At StyleWorks, sweaters and other knitwear for immediate and fall deliveries appeared to be getting most of the attention.

"We're in a knit cycle right now," said Denise Boineau, associate fashion director of Macy's East. She was looking for "novelty blouses that can hang with denim," as well as emerging fashion trends.

"It's a very good show," she said. "Jobb Worker looks good -- they have a nice narrow suspender pant. J.R. Morrissey is also nice."

Diana Salen, co-owner of Diana & Jeffries, two boutiques here, said she would leave paper at the show with her key resources.

"It's much faster to come here and go room to room than to go into the market and go from showroom to showroom," she said. "I'm seeing a return to a more fitted look. I think the soft, drapy look just didn't work on a lot of women. We're looking for new sweater resources and maybe some new bottoms, but basically we're sticking with our key resources, like Emil Rutenberg. We do very well with his silk jackets."Salen said her open-to-buy is about the same as last year's.

Alexandra Payne, owner of Alexandra's, Ann Arbor, Mich., said she was looking for fall and immediate goods, especially sweaters.

Payne said her open-to-buy is up "by at least 20 percent," and she needs to fill her newly opened, larger store.

Fay Scothorn, president of Environments 2, a boutique in Glen Ellyn, Ill., was leaving paper for the A. Gold E. line of casual Tencel-based sportswear in the PhD. showroom. She was looking for "young, spirited collections by designers who aren't out there in a big way." Her open-to-buy was up slightly, she said.

Dianne Fair, owner of Gabrielle, Providence, R.I., said she was looking for fall items, like lighter-weight sweaters, to add some variety to her knit offerings. Her open-to-buy was up about 10 percent, she said.

At Donna Maione, the knitwear designer said she'd been getting good reaction to her lightweight mohair Empire short dresses and to her spongy peluche sweaters in earth tones.

"Chenille was so huge last fall that I think people are looking to repeat that, but also to offer some variety in the sweaters," she said.

StyleWorks' creative director Debra LaChance said that about 800 buyers had walked the show during Sunday and Monday.

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