By  on September 25, 2008

NEW YORK — The Train and Platform 2 trade shows cater to artsy international exhibitors, who were relieved that traffic appeared steady and business was being transacted as the U.S. economy teetered.

Unique pieces still sold well at the shows, which are owned by French parent Prêt à Porter Paris and were held Sept. 13 to 15 at Terminal Stores.

“I would love to buy everything at Train, but the euro has become cost-prohibitive,” said Ginny Fawbush, buyer for Fawbush’s, a women’s boutique in Edina, Minn. “If it’s a bad economy, we don’t drop our open-to-buy; we just drop our price points and look for special items that women have to have.”

About six years ago, Fawbush’s dropped its price points — from carrying niche European designers to a $60 to $500 retail price range — to respond to the slowing economy after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Fawbush said the store has kept steady sales by maintaining its open-to-buy for spring, while being more cautious in choosing items.

“The brands have been afraid, and weren’t sure whether they should come back because of the dollar,” said Jean-Pierre Mocho, president of Prêt à Porter Paris. “Last season they got some order cancellations because of the [devaluation of] the dollar.”

Slovenia-based line Cliche has showed at Train since the beginning of the show, and designer Jelena Leskovar, who represented the bridge-priced line, said traffic felt slower, but buyers weren’t squeamish about the $200 to $350 price range, particularly the sportswear made from black performance fabrics. “I didn’t find buyers were resistant to the price level, because we are not about the low price level — we stick to quality,” she said.

At his third Train show, designer Jason Matlo said his jersey dresses were the best-selling pieces from his eponymous Vancouver-based line, which wholesales from $200 to $550. “Traffic flow in general is less than in previous seasons,” Matlo said. “But our regulars are writing.”

But Onur Eraybar, assistant designer for the Turkey-based line Banu Bora that wholesales from $35 to $120, said traffic was better at this show than the February installment of Train. “Last time the economy affected some people, but they seem to have gotten used to it and are just doing what they do again,” Eraybar said, adding that a T-shirt adorned with metal rings was the line’s bestseller.

Next door at Platform 2, Askin Meric, designer of the New York-based line Mezza, said his dresses and print silk tops, wholesaling from about $60 to $130, were his bestsellers. “People are being cautious, but the show is small so buyers can focus,” Meric said.

Los Angeles-based Lisamichelle, which launched about a year ago, chose Platform 2 for its first show because “it sounded like an exhibit for more artistic, individual designers,” said designer Lisa Felsenthal. “I met a lot of interesting people.”

Felsenthal said some of the best-selling spring pieces in the line, which wholesales from $98 to $450, were a lavender jacquard coat dress and a yellow charmeuse dress, “though people were also into knitwear for fall because they can get it next week.”

New York-based Moksha Fine Wovens brought its novelty scarves to Platform 2 for the first time. Juhi Kilachand, the brand’s chief architect, chose to bring the more midpriced items, which wholesale from $50 to $70, to the show “catering to the economy.” Kilachand said she picked up lots of new customers who were ordering her floral-printed wool scarves for immediate delivery.

Mocho added that the organizers had more aggressively pursued European vendors to come to the New York show this season, while at the same time reducing the number of vendors to be choosier on the quality side. “We changed the team to select the exhibitors to be different from other shows,” Mocho said. “We do not want to be the same, we want to be complementary.”

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