NEW YORK — A feeling of a return to normalcy pervaded the latest round of apparel trade shows here. There was consistent talk of a pickup in order writing and consumer spending, and little discussion of the recessionary blues that dominated shows the last few years. Even the buzz surrounding higher raw material costs got little play, as record prices seem to have stabilized somewhat and ready-to-wear and contemporary vendors have adjusted pricing strategies and turned to cotton blends and alternative fabrics to deal with the sticker shock.


FASHION COTERIE

Department and specialty store buyers were busy writing fall orders at the Fashion Coterie, which took place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and Pier 94.

Some 1,400 lines were displayed between the two venues, including such first-time participants as Cluny, Cynthia Steffe’s new line; Erin Fetherston; Diesel Black Gold; Joy Cioci, a former assistant to Olivier Theyskens who has launched her own line, and Notify. One of the highlights of Pier 94 was a separate area called TMRW, which gave a platform to young, progressive talent. The group featured 33 lines, including THVM Atelier, The Riff, Whit, Bolongaro Trevor, Anagram and Alex & Eli.

Some of the busiest booths at the show appeared to be Elizabeth & James, Tibi, Alice + Olivia, J Brand, Hard Tail, Milly and Desigual.

“It’s been really good,” said Susie Greenstadt, a sales representative for such lines as Velvet Heart and Biblelot, which were displayed at Javits. “Traffic has been better than expected. People have been ordering about 50 percent spring, and 50 percent fall.”

Key Trends and Vendor Highlights:

• Skinny and straight boot-cut jeans and flares. Randi Siegal, owner of Rapunzel’s Closet, a women’s specialty store in Palm Beach, Fla., said she did a lot of denim buying at the show, particularly skinnies and straight boot cuts, as well as a few high-rise flares. “We still just bought clean washes in the skinnies and straight, and are trying a wide-leg flare in a clean dark wash from J Brand because it’s our best-selling denim brand. Citizens of Humanity had some great clean washes,” and she also bought black and charcoal corduroys at AG and Citizens of Humanity.

• Animal prints in knitwear, jackets and dresses. “Ella Moss had some great fall sweaters and reasonable prices,” Siegal said. “Vince had lots of great sweaters, too.” In addition, she said, “Joie had some great floral prints…and we love the Joie Soft line. It’s been doing very well for us.”

• Mixed textures, hand-knit sweaters, cardigans, tunics and turtlenecks: Nicole Raithel and Jordan Chadwell, owners of Meringue, an Atlanta-based specialty store, cited Fair Isle sweaters and chunky and hand-made looks, notably sweaters at Splendid and Ella Moss, and Patterson J. Kincaid’s Bambi line of animal prints.

• Outerwear, ranging from three-quarter-length toppers and military and aviator jackets to anoraks, capes and furs. Chadwell said she liked the anoraks she was seeing, as well as fox fur trim outerwear at Patterson J. Kincaid.

• Slinky and sexy tops, as well as vintage blouses and exaggerated necklines.

• The Desigual line: “The collection is gorgeous,” said Ana Santos, buyer for Tehen, a specialty store in Cherry Hill, N.J. “It’s a little more sophisticated [this time].” Others lines she was ordering were Ronen Chen’s “simple and easy knits” and Mackage’s “beautiful coats.” Harry Shiroff, chief executive officer of Tehen, added that the Haute Hippie line at Pier 94 “was fabulous.”

• ABS dresses: Holly Green, owner of Infinity on Madison Avenue, said, “This happens to be the best line they ever had,” citing a slinky black jersey long-sleeve dress with leather trim as a standout.

— Lisa Lockwood

DESIGNERS & AGENTS

Vendors at the three-day Designers & Agents show at the Starrett-Lehigh Center and the Chelsea Art Museum offered a sophisticated palette for fall, underscoring that contemporary’s old jeans-and-T-shirt image has been overcome. Vendors noted an increase in orders, particularly from international stores, and buyer traffic was up by 5 percent, tieing with D&A’s largest show, even though it ran over President’s Day weekend.

As in past seasons, stores were looking for pieces with that extra something special to sway customers to spend. Nicole Bilzerian, co-owner of the Martha’s Vineyard boutique The Great Put-On, said, “You have to know your customer and your market, and have quality pieces that are interesting and special. For me, it’s about what looks great and what stands out. Knits and accessories are trading.”

Key Trends:

• Boho chic, from floor-length floral dresses to artisanal, native-inspired prints.

• Knitwear in a variety of forms, from fine knits for elegant coats to crochet details.

• A renewed focus on textures and patterns, including sweaters with a handmade feeling and raw finishes.

Vendor Highlights:

• Min Young Lee’s fall collection, at the Noëtic Showroom, had a bohemian touch, with romantic white cotton voile and metallic lace dresses, for $150 wholesale, a silk cotton hand-embroidered top for $125, and color-blocking for silk dresses at $190. “I find my inspiration in my friends, my life, arts and design,” Lee said of her collection, which is made in India.

• 4 Love & Liberty, at the Johnny Was Showroom, took a romantic turn using silks, chiffons, laces and eyelets, including an embellished soft cotton T-shirt with a mesh and stone overlay for $55 to $65 wholesale; a three-quarter-length silk tunic with eyelet detail for $79, and supple leather handbags for $139.

• Clover Canyon, a new line by Rozae Nichols, made its debut at D&A as part of the show’s collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which also featured Esquivel shoes. The colorful line is positioned at the opening price point of contemporary, with eclectic, multiprint dresses, tops and pants, including a Deco-embellished chiffon dress and a paisley jersey top.

• Lilith, the popular Paris-based mix-and-match label, skewed more modern, with updated silhouettes and shorter skirts.

— Marc Karimzadeh

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