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While it may seem like a tough time to stage a major trade show in Manhattan — with the economy in a slump and the threat of war and terrorism weighing on the consumer psyche — the timing could also prove advantageous.
This story first appeared in the February 19, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Elyse Kroll, president of ENK International, which produces the Fashion Coterie at the Show Piers on the Hudson River, said in order for the country to get through these hard times, business needs to be done.
“Fashion retailers have to fill their stores and feed their customers with new,” Kroll said. “Trade shows are always important. In bad times, their presence is necessary in order to stay in business, and in good times they want to be there and they want bigger booths. And it’s necessary to be there, since they are never going to see the same traffic in their showrooms.”
Kroll said ENK has been working harder than ever in order to provide retailers with new services to make the show easier for them to attend. The Coterie, which begins its three-day run on Sunday, will have new lounges with computers so buyers can check e-mails or have Internet access, a Campari bar for cocktails and maybe even a Starbucks for a coffee klatch.
The Coterie has increased its selection of international designers, she noted, with companies from Brazil and Australia attending for the first time and many lines returning from Europe and South Korea.
“For the first time, we traveled to many different countries and met in their fashion communities,” she said. “We found that all these people want is to do business here. Europe especially favors the U.S.”
With more contemporary companies signing on with the show, Kroll said that there isn’t much room on Pier 92, where those vendors traditionally prefer to gather over the other piers. So, ENK has created an area in Pier 90 that it has labeled “The Section,” to showcase more contemporary designers such as Y & Kei, Marithé & François Girbaud and Ted Baker. The Section is organized similarly to a specialty store.
“Designers really have to work harder right now,” Kroll said. “They have to provide retailers with new trends to fill their stores. They are not coming to see the same.”
Julia Neaman, designer of the New York-based Julia collection, said while she’s only been in business for about two years, she is realizing the importance of providing retailers with new merchandise more often. For the first time, Neaman will have two fall deliveries available for purchase at Coterie.
“This is a really big deal for us, since we are still such a small and young company,” she said. “I know that business is rough all over, but my numbers have been good. I know that buyers were cautious with their summer orders, but I’m hearing that they were only doing that in preparation for a strong fall.”
Lindsay Morris, designer at Fork, a contemporary sportswear brand based in Bridgehampton, N.Y., said she’s looking forward to a healthy fall. She has broadened her collection by introducing new elements, such as leather for trimming and canvas.
“The collection is much more diverse than it used to be,” she said. “We were able to do this, since we started manufacturing in factories in India, China and New York.”
Morris said, “Business has been steady, considering the economy. We have really developed a loyal following. It seems like the little people like us become more important in an economy like this. It’s very encouraging.”
New York-based White & Warren also has plans to introduce pieces made from fabrics the designers rarely used in the past. Barbara Warren, co-owner, said this collection is all about the details, something important in a poor economy.
“Business is challenging but if you are careful and give the buyers a real reason to buy, then you will be fine,” she said. “There is still business to be done and for those of us who have been in this business for many years, we have been through tough times before. We got through it then, we will get through it now.”
For fall, the company is concentrating heavily on offering head-to-toe looks, Warren said. For example, the olive perforated suede jacket can be matched with a T-shirt and olive knit pants with subtle blue stitching. Also, Warren said the company has found a great deal of success with its cold weather accessories. More than 75 percent of the line has a coordinating accessory collection.
“By offering these complete looks to the buyers, it makes it easy for them to figure out how to merchandise them in their stores,” Warren explained.
Some other pieces the company is bringing to the show are multiyarn sweaters, patchwork knit sweaters and merino wool sweaters accented with leather.
For Mimi & Coco, a Montreal-based contemporary T-shirt company, specialization is key to staying in business. According to Vincenzo Cavallo, owner and designer of the firm, quality is a must in order to stay in business during an economic slump.
“I wanted to start this company because I noticed that there weren’t many quality T-shirt brands out there with a decent price point,” he said. “It seems to be working so far, since we started out with only two stores and just recently opened to 50 more stores.”
For fall, the company is concentrating on offering a variety of colors such as red, silver, bright pink, yellow, tan, orange and chocolate. Cavallo said he will also show a distressed, acid-washed T-shirt, which is sure to go well with denim.
Traditional men’s wear fabrics used for shirts, pants and skirts.
Mixing fabrics on sweaters and jackets, as in White & Warren’s knit and leather bomber.
Wide-leg knickers in heavy weight wool and tweed fabrics.
Bright color detailing on T-shirts and pants.
Denim treatments applied to non-denim fabrics, like corduroy and canvas.