NEW YORK -- In the midst of a spring slowdown for apparel in general, retailers and manufacturers agree that suit business has never been better.
Spring suit sales were so strong that some manufacturers and retailers say they are stocking up for another shopping blitz for fall and holiday. Several manufacturers, such as Tahari, Kasper, Gillian and David Bijan, say they are gearing up for what could be the biggest fall season yet.
Driven by what they say is the inherent value of suits versus separates and a market that's gone beyond traditional career wear -- offering a host of fresh trends -- retailers are looking for big numbers come fall.
Key trends include
Softer silhouettes designed for day-to-evening dressing.
Jewel tones, pastels and unusual colors.
Pantsuits with coordinating vests, a take on the men's wear trend.
Short skirts, notably flippy styles and A-lines.
Wool crepe dress suits.
Velvet trim, gold braid and novelty detailing.
At Macy's East, the leading suit labels of the 30 brands carried are Kasper, Christian Dior, Jones New York and Tahari, according to Benny Lin, fashion director. Lin said a resurgence in suits is expected for fall. While Lin wouldn't give an actual projection, sources close to Macy's East said a low double-digit increase is expected.
Short wool boucle jackets with A-line skirts, tailored wool gabardine pinstripe suits and wool crepe tank-dress suits are some of the hottest styles, Lin said.
"The biggest thing is color. Jewel tones will be big in urban places, and in the South they're crying out for pastels," Lin said. "After all, there are only so many black suits you can own."
Kasper and Le Suit dominate the suit departments at P.A. Bergner/Carson Pirie Scott, said Tony Buccini, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of ready-to-wear.
"The suit business is really stealing the career customer business from sportswear departments," he said. "We've seen consistent double-digit growth in suits over the past 18 months, and there's no reason that shouldn't continue."
Tahari, Christian Dior, Gillian and Herbert Grossman are the bestsellers at Lord & Taylor, reported Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising. Olexa said A-line skirts with short soft-line jackets should drive sales.
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