Coat makers have a lot to thank the hip-hop stars for.
After all, it is the flamboyant sartorial style of the rapper set that many said led to stellar sales in outerwear last year.
Indeed, despite animal rights activism, furs are back. Even companies that do not focus on furs are enjoying healthy sales, provided their looks are suitably glossy.
Color also is newly important, as vendors said blacks and other neutrals have saturated the market.
Lastly, pricing is key. As one vendor said off the record: “The customer is now either going to Wal-Mart or to Saks. There’s nothing really in between.”
THE FUR IS FLYING
After years of suffering from declining sales, furs once again are heating up the market.
Mitch Fazekas, owner of Mitchie’s Matchings in Montreal, which makes fur accessories such as vests, hats, scarves and gloves that wholesale from $40 to $90, said his company registered a 10 to 15 percent increase between 2003 and 2004. He anticipates a rise in sales of at least that much, if not more, for 2005.
“Fur is alive, and fur is back right now,” he said. “It’s everywhere — on coats, cuffs, boots, blouses. And more and more people are getting into it. The biggest challenge to me is that six years ago, there were three people down my back. Now there are forty.”
Andrew Vaios, director of operations for coat manufacturer Kaitery/Dena Products of Long Island City, N.Y., said sales for 2004 were 30 percent higher than they were for the preceding year, and he is expecting a similar outcome for this year. He conceded that much of the company’s business has been driven by both designers using fur in their lines and movie stars wearing it.
“It’s really brought out the fashion in real fur, and there seems to be a lot more interest in fur for fashion as well as for a necessity in the cold,” he said. “That is equally the case if we’re looking at lower-end furs like rabbit, or using mink, chinchilla and Russian sable.”Sandro D’Amelio, vice president of Astoria, N.Y.-based coat maker Dero Enterprises Inc., said focusing on the fashionable element of fur has been essential to driving sales at his company.
“We’re bringing in a higher-end product that’s very fashion-forward and almost exotic looking,” he said. “We’re coming off a great year because that seemed to be a major direction of our clientele. It’s a matter of being different.”
His company makes coats from rich leathers, shearlings, Russian sables and minks, at prices that range from $225 to $2,795 at wholesale.
TO DYE FOR
Color also is driving the outerwear market for 2005, whether it be in furs, leathers or wools.
Fazekas of Mitchie’s Matchings said early indications point to a color-rich season.
“We’ve brought color to the forefront of the fur business, and we believe that will be important for 2005,” said Fazekas. The brand is dying its fox, mink, beaver and chinchilla in shades of lime, pink, orange and lilac. The company also works in leather, fabric and velvet.
“Our retailers are telling us it’s doing well because it’s different,” he said. “The key is to be a few steps ahead of what everyone else is doing. Retailers come in to see what’s new and exciting, and if they don’t see it, they don’t buy it.”
D’Amelio at Dero Enterprise agreed that color will be essential in 2005, enlivening a market that is saturated in blacks and browns.
“Everybody in America owns a black leather jacket or two,” he said. “What we’re going for is having a customer walk into a client’s store, see something we’ve made and say, ‘I need that.’”
For fall 2005, the company is going ahead with a mix of brights and pastels.
Jeff Adler, senior vice president of Sylmar, Calif.-based Adler Collections, which does primarily a leather-focused line, also is a great believer in the sales power of color. His lamb suede and napa jackets are being dyed white, soft pink, purple and lime green.“We’re bringing out really different color variations,” he said. “It used to be just about black, brown and beige, but that doesn’t work anymore in this market.”
Indeed, Adler said that, for 2005, the most important thing would be to “show the pizzazz.”
“A lot of buyers are buying wools, so if you’re going to be in leather, it’s got to be stuff that’s really at the cutting edge,” he said.
The Adler Collection line of coats has an opening wholesale price point of $89, with the slightly more upscale collection, Alegre Donna, going for $145 and up.
Providing an extensive range of stylistic choices for retailers seems to be important going forward, but so does providing an extensive range of prices.
Outerwear vendors said a major new strategy for them is being able to provide everything from an accessibly priced pair of earmuffs to a lavish indulgence such as a sable coat.
“Both the lower-priced items and the higher-end ones have sold as well as the other,” said Vaios at Kaitery/Dena.
Flexibility also is important when it comes to pricing, he said. “We try to incorporate [a retailer’s] price into our product,” he explained. “Sometimes it’s a question of changing the fabrics so the product is similar in look, but at a price that the customer is comfortable with.”
Karl Matar of Gimpex Ltd., a Toronto-based outerwear company that manufactures under the Hide Society Canada label, said it’s always been about delivering the right garment at the right price.
Gimpex makes shearling coats that wholesale for around $500 and up, although some pieces under its Aquilou Amiq line go for upward of $750 at wholesale. But Matar maintains this is still at least 30 percent less than the wholesale price of comparable products.
“There’s never any shortage of competition, but our prices have never been outrageous,” he said of the 30-year-old company. “Because of that, our product sells itself and our customer base continues to grow. We have more than 200 pieces in the collections, taking into account better, misses’ and urbanwear, so there’s something for everybody.”
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