NEW YORK -- The second edition of New York Premier Collections received high marks from both retailers and manufacturers but a dose of bad luck from Mother Nature.While retailers praised the show's caliber of vendors, the European atmosphere, design and amenities, the recent spate of cold weather and snow storms seemed to slow traffic considerably, according to many manufactures and the show's producers. Layered looks, mixed fabrics, sheers, soft dressing and novelty looks, such as the athletic striped pieces, were among the top attention-getters.The show ends its three-day run today at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.Premier Collections, produced by The Blenheim Group, featured 300 designers -- doubling the exhibition's debut appearance last September. The show spotlighted a mix of both European and North American designers in a village atmosphere replete with piano bars and a bocci court."Obviously the weather hasn't helped us," said Marshall Lester, chief executive of Blenheim Fashion Shows, "but we can't really quantify that in numbers. We had great pre-registration, and nearly all of the vendors made it, as have a number of important stores."Retailers said they were impressed with the level and variety of vendors showing their lines, noting in many cases they were looking for really unusual pieces to add to their merchandise mix and an overall direction for fall.Several noted that with the Fashion Coterie and other shows running so close together, they were browsing Premier to see which one they would attend in the future. The Coterie runs next week, Feb. 20-22, at The Plaza."I'm impressed with the show," said Kim Boyer, owner of the Wardrobe in Wichita Falls, Tex. "There's more than last time, and it's well laid out."Boyer said she was looking for lightweight transitional pieces in neutrals and some colors."Some lines I just use to get a sense of direction," she said, "and others I see as potential lines in the future. This is my chance to see the European lines."Boyer noted that she would also be attending the Coterie next week in order to help her define which shows she would attend next season, since she can not afford to go to all of them."I'd love it if they would put the Coterie and this on during the same week," she said. "After this time, I will make my decision of which show to go to and then I will make appointments at showrooms."Karen Drake, owner of Exclamation in Neenah, Wis., said this was her first time attending Premier Collections and she was in search of "something unusual" in coats, sweaters, and accessories."I usually don't buy in New York," she said, "but I was here on other business so I decided to come. I'm taking cards but if I like something, I may write it."Drake called the show "nice and easy to shop, much better than running all over Seventh Avenue."Drake said while it was a tough January, February is looking a little better, but she is remaining cautious with her open-to-buy, keeping it about the same as last year. Robin Greger, a buyer from A Clothesline in North Potomac, Md., was also making her first trip to Premier Collections. "It's an issue for me to come here for so many shows," she said. "My daughter had an interview in New York, otherwise I wouldn't have come."Greger said she was looking for soft dressing in some spring items but mainly fall sweaters, blazers, skirts and short outfits.While the weather seemed to be of utmost concern to manufacturers, many noted that they were pleased by the level of retailers that did make the show, and many reported adding some new accounts to their businesses.Todd Oldham, showing his Times Seven by Todd Oldham line, took the opportunity to show actor Forest Whitaker the ropes. Whitaker will be playing a designer in Robert Altman's new film "Pret-a-Porter.""I'm just watching everything he does. He's helped me so much." said Whitaker. To which Oldham replied: "I'm honored."Over at the ABS exhibit, company president Lloyd Singer, was working his line with barely a pause. "We've done 25 percent in new accounts since Sunday," he said.Singer noted this was the first time he'd done both Premier Collections and a New York trade show."What's happening is a lot of buyers aren't making their normal once-a-week trip to the showroom," he explained. "At a show like this I can see a lot of people."ABS was doing a brisk business in athletic-inspired T-shirt dresses in nylon and Lycra spandex in silver, red and gray along with several slip dresses and long tank dresses in stretch Lycra and mesh."Our dress business is just exploding," Singer said. "I think we'd be twice as busy if it weren't for the weather.""The weather really has kept people at bay," said Barbara Kramer, a partner in the showroom Gabriel & Kramer, which brought six designers to the show, including Gaultier Jeans, Andrea Sargent and Amy Chan Smart Things. "But there have been many good stores here, which have been our saving grace."Kramer noted that business at Gaultier Jeans had been strong. "I wrote five new stores on Sunday," she said. "If I write 15 more new ones then I'll be very happy.""There may not be so many people here," said Angelika Souhami, sales manager at Lilith, a Paris-based designer showing in the Atmosphere village, a branch of a Paris trade show, making its second appearance at Premier Collections. "But I made many good new accounts. I showed here in September, and this time I've doubled my business here with 16 new clients."Joelle Berman, a director for the Federation Francaise du Pret-a-Porter -- another French organization doing a group showing for the first time at Premier Collections -- noted, "French manufacturers have been very enthusiastic to come back into the American market. The weather is a problem, but we still have another day and a half to go."Mary Allen, commercial officer for the Canadian Consulate General which produces Canada Mode, seemed pleased with the show despite slow traffic. Canada Mode was making its debut appearance at Premier Collections after showing in New York Hotels for the past five seasons."Obviously we can't control the elements," she said. "We've lost buyers, but my people are reporting business. They're not knocking down doors, but we're remaining optimistic."
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