CHICAGO — Looking to add newness and a punch of color to their specialty stores, many Midwestern retailers found what they wanted at Chicago’s StyleMax fashion market, which ran March 13-16 at the Merchandise Mart.

“We’ve all gotten tired of the same old, same old,” said Mary Forsberg, owner of C.C. Dithers in Galena, Ill. “I’m seeing more freshness and color. This market is better than last year.”

Elizabeth Woodbury, owner of Elizabeth Fashions in Dyer and Chesterton, Ind., also noticed a positive shift in the fall fashions.

“I can see a change and I like it,” she said. “It’s time for a change. The style of dresses and the skirts are getting shorter.”

Overall, styles are more delicate, dainty and fitted, she said.

StyleMax features more than 3,000 lines on the Merchandise Mart’s eighth floor.

Cindi Rucinski, buyer for Elizabeth Fashions, said, “I’m seeing things that are different and versatile. The fabrics are great. There are textures mixed with different textures. It looks fresh.”

In particular, Rucinski liked the dalmatian coat, a cream cashmere design with black spots from Linda Richards, print wrap dresses with ruffles from Citrine and vibrant, chunky jewelry from Rodrigo Otazu.

Striking shades of olive, orange, pink and purple also caught her eye. Forsberg also appreciated the vibrant hues, especially the 31 colors offered by Terryl Cashmere.

“You’re usually not offered so many choices,” she said. “That’s quite a large color palette.”

In addition to ordering several styles of cashmere sweaters, such as turtlenecks and a wrap V-neck, Forsberg bought some “really fun accessories,” including long cashmere gloves, reversible hats and long scarves to knot.

“I was looking for affordable cashmere,” she said. “That was a real find for me.”

Forsberg also regularly stocks embellished French poster art novelty tops from Skinny Minnie.

“The designer is constantly changing designs,” she said. “I reorder from them weekly. Most people who buy one come in later and buy three more. That line pays my rent.”Forsberg also planned to check out the fall sweater styles from Avalin. One Avalin sweater, an $18 wholesale washable cotton style that comes in several colors, is popular among customers and she reorders it every week or so.

Meanwhile, several Canadian companies came to Chicago StyleMax looking to break into or expand their presence in the U.S. market.

Annette Reichel, co-owner of Neptune Leatherworks based in Newfoundland, said StyleMax helped generate interest in its leather gloves, especially its Pisces gauntlet, wholesaling for $79, and matinee gloves, wholesaling for $75.

The gloves, which are hand-stitched, are made of deerskin with some designs incorporating fish-skin detailing, coming in shades of black, brown, cognac and pecan.

Sallie Szanik, owner of the British Columbia-based Uncommon Threads, said she traveled to the market to find a rep to carry her novelty fleece line.

“I received some great feedback regarding pricing and where my product would fit,” she said. “Not only did I contact several reps who are interested in carrying my line, but I learned what I needed to do to increase the appeal of my product.”

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