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Store Agenda: Items, Direction

NEW YORK -- Gaining fans in a crowded field of trade shows is the New York Premier Collections, produced by Blenheim Fashion Shows, which unofficially bills the show as the "pret-a-porter of the U.S."<BR><BR>Premier Collections will mark its second...

NEW YORK — Gaining fans in a crowded field of trade shows is the New York Premier Collections, produced by Blenheim Fashion Shows, which unofficially bills the show as the “pret-a-porter of the U.S.”

Premier Collections will mark its second year — and third event — with a show from Sunday to Tuesday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

The show features a number of European lines. Many buyers say they shop Europe for their established collections and head to Premier Collections to find new resources and standout items.

“I liked the layout of the show last year,” said Benny Lin, fashion director for Macy’s East. “There were a lot of European vendors, and the quality of vendors was good.”

Lin said the show was a good start for finding direction.

“We’ll keep an open mind,” he said. “It’s a good place to discover new people. We take notes, and when all the trends are firm, we go back to firm up orders. There are fewer venues to discover new talents.”

Lin noted that last year, Macy’s bought Belgium designer Xuly Bet at the show. “As far as contemporary goes,” said Susan Foslien, owner of four San Francisco-area boutiques known as The Grocery Store and Susan, “Premier Collections is as good as it gets. You should be able to outfit an entire store. I look in every space so that I don’t miss a thing.”

Foslien said she shops the show for items, reserving Europe for her collections. She said she’ll be looking for fall merchandise in plum, navy and black and is interested in textured fabrics.

Price point is not an issue at her two Susan stores, she said, but at her Grocery Stores, she likes to keep prices somewhat moderate — T-shirts between $50 and $60 wholesale, she said.

While Foslien opened a second Grocery Store last September, which increased her open-to-buy by 50 percent, she said she is watching her buy carefully.

“I think California still has a couple of difficult seasons ahead,” she said. “California is the last of the recession people. It will take some time before things really pick up. I will just try and bring in the best of everything so that we can sell out.”

“I went last year and found a lot of lines not traditionally seen,” said Kim Boyer, owner of The Wardrobe, in Wichita Falls, Tex. “I liked the setup, and the time frame allows me to go to the Coterie.”

The Fashion Coterie will be held here Feb. 20-22.

Boyer said she is looking for some summer, transitional and early fall on sportswear, dresses and lots of accessories. She added that she was looking for things in natural fibers, including cotton and silk twill.

“Color is important down here,” she said. “We like bright colors, especially in blues. I try to offer a variety of silhouettes, both short and long. We try to proportion an outfit, so if we go with a shorter jacket, then we can go with a fuller bottom.”

Boyer said that while price points are an issue, they are more crucial on trendy items than on products that have longevity.

“The year is starting out really well,” she said. With plans to move to a bigger space come fall, Boyer said her open-to-buy is up by about 15 percent.

Ellen Shepp, buyer for Joan Shepp in Elkins Park, Pa., is another buyer returning to Premier Collections. “You get to see a lot at once.”

Shepp said she is looking for “fall with a twist,” adding, “I’m really looking for things that will get customers to change what they’re wearing.”

Shepp said she doesn’t have a shopping list in hand, but goes to the show with an open mind, “so I don’t rule out anything.”

Her open-to-buy, she said, is about 10 percent up from last year.

“People are definitely ready to buy,” she said.

Vendors give Premier Collection a nod, too, noting it creates an atmosphere conducive to buying, providing buyers with a varied selection and allowing exhibitors to see a lot of buyers in a short amount of time.

Times Seven by Todd Oldham will appear at the show for the first time.

“We know that a lot of good people come here,” said Tony Longoria, Oldham’s partner. “We liked the way it was set up. Usually, these things don’t seem to be thrown together too well, but this is very well done.”

Longoria said he hopes to pick up a lot of people who don’t normally get to the apparel district.

“Shows like Premier Collections have become more important to do, to capture people and show them what we do,” he said, noting that once buyers had seen the line at previous shows, it was easier to get them into the showroom.

Longoria said buyers will get a peek at Times Seven’s new fall collections along with its spring II, summer and transitional merchandise.

“People are waiting to see business trends,” he noted. “Stores had a good holiday season, so they can breathe a little easier.”

Longoria said that at Premier Collections, the company would concentrate on what usually sells best: novelty vests, sweaters and shirts.

“Anything soft in stretch fabrics — we feel that’s what’s going to sell at Premier,” he said, noting that crinkle, tie-dye and white denim have been receiving a lot of positive reaction from buyers. “Lot’s of color always does well,” he added. “We make sure there’s a lot of color in each collection.”

Bettina Riedel — who will be featured in the Council of Fashion Designers of America village at the show for the second year in a row — said the exhibition offers her a good opportunity to establish new accounts.

“I like the show,” the designer said. “I opened up lots of new accounts last year, and I expect the same this year. My regular customers generally go to my showroom.”

Riedel said she would be showing transitional sportswear and dresses, along with some immediates for spring. The collection features subdued colors in navy, gray and dark cocoa, in cable and rib jersey cotton and rayon. Silhouettes include tunics, button-front cardigans, short skirts, jackets and pants.

“It’s a three-day show, and it would be nice if we could write $150,000-$200,000 in orders,” Reidel said. That’s the level she reached last year, she added.

Yoko Honda, a designer who was trained in her native Japan, will launch her new line at Premier Collections.

“We needed exposure, and this is a good way to set up a new resource,” said Sebastian De Fancamp, sales director for the company.

The fall line of sportswear, suits, separates and dresses is geared to professional women with active lives, according to De Fancamp. Honda uses textured fabrics in wool, silk and wool blends, and viscose blends in black and earth tones like dark green, mauve, and gray and blue.

“Our goal is to establish a major bridge sportswear line,” he said. “We hope to pull in $50,000 wholesale at the show, and $100,000 for the season.”