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Stores Look to Fill in Gaps at FAME

NEW YORK — A between-market refuge for boutiques, the FAME (Fashion Avenue Market Expo) show here this week served up trendy, moderately priced fashions from novelty T- shirts to Indian-inspired looks.<BR><BR>Some of the fashions came from...

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NEW YORK — A between-market refuge for boutiques, the FAME (Fashion Avenue Market Expo) show here this week served up trendy, moderately priced fashions from novelty T- shirts to Indian-inspired looks.

Some of the fashions came from relative newcomers who have been bitten by an entrepreneurial bug and successfully forged ahead through the daunting economy of recent years.

In the crowd was Bonnie Benedetto, owner and designer of Yardley, Pa.-based Bella-Chic Tease, a three-year-old T-shirt company.

Bella-Chic’s cotton T-shirts and tank tops, which wholesale from $14 to $25, feature a saying in Italian on the front and its English translation hidden inside at the bottom of the shirt.

“You flip the hem to translate and flirt,” Benedetto said. The sayings include “Italiana per amore,” or “Italian by love,” and “bella ragazza Americana,” or “beautiful American girl.”

Bella-Chic Tease has about 400 accounts across the country, and has been a welcome change for Benedetto, who had been a TV sportscaster in Philadelphia.

Connie Mezger, co-owner of Acclaim Accessories, which has offices in Potomac, Md., and San Diego and was established last year, was at FAME selling an array of handmade crocheted rayon capelets, which follow on the strong poncho trend last fall. The company has garnered more than 180 accounts so far.

The looks wholesale from $8 to $17 and are produced in Mezger’s homeland of China, which has become even more important in fashion manufacturing since the elimination of textile and apparel quotas on Jan. 1 by the countries of the World Trade Organization.

“The quality control and also the creativity have improved a lot [in China],” Mezger said. “It’s just amazing, the energy and the creativity.”

Vendors with more established companies said business has been good lately.

Kathryn Peters, president and owner of Charleston, S.C.-based Kayon Corp., which had three lines at FAME, said overall business was humming along “surprisingly well.”

Kayon produces Whitewash and Putumayo as well as a recently added collection called S.H.A.G., which stands for “sexy, hip and gorgeous.”

This story first appeared in the March 17, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The more embellished the look, the better, Peters said. “That whole bohemian-chic look is going strong.”

Some are pulling back, though, from overly busy looks, such as Lynn Schaller, owner of New York Trends, a Red Bank, N.J., store.

Schaller said that beading, which was ubiquitous at the January outing of FAME, has faded some.

“I don’t mind stuff with beading on it, but not everything with beads,” she said. Instead, FAME featured other looks with embellishments such as sequins.

Shoppers have been kind to Schaller, who said sales doubled in February compared with a year ago. “The economy’s gone up,” she said. “People definitely are spending more now than a couple of years ago.”

Nadine Purdy, owner of Purdy Girl in New York, said:  “It’s really a small fill-in show. It’s more for immediates, pick up a couple of things here and there to fill in.”

Some of the need for quick shipments comes from less-than-perfect deliveries. “Being in the young contemporary market, I find that you place orders and you get incomplete shipments, late shipments and then you find yourself with not enough merchandise,” she said.

That can lead to good finds, though, with larger vendors who can offer better prices.

Purdy said she saw Indian-inspired silk skirts with embellished waistbands at FAME that cost $36 to $42, where they are sometimes priced as high as $200 elsewhere in the market.

Produced by Business Journals Inc., FAME ended its three-day run Tuesday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here. The show had more than 3,500 attendees and 278 booths of apparel and accessories.

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