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Business Upbeat at Atelier Designers Show

Concern over the upcoming government spending cuts known as the sequester did not appear to dampen spirits.

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NEW YORK — Concern over the upcoming government spending cuts known as the sequester did not appear to dampen spirits at the Atelier Designers trade fair, which ended Feb. 25.

Vendors credited a strong holiday selling season for consistent retail traffic at the three-day trade show at the Doubletree Times Square hotel. More than 112 ready-to-wear, sportswear and accessories brands displayed collections for fall 2013.

A registration figure was not available, but exhibitors as well as show director Susan Summa reported that a majority of buyers left orders on opening day, before visiting other trade fairs in Manhattan.

“Our attendance for February was on par with the last couple of years, and actually somewhat higher than last September….Buyers were leaving good orders,” said Summa. “Retailers have had a good holiday season and we’re hearing from a number of buyers that they are feeling confident about fall. However, they are much more conservative in their buys and they are seeing their regular customers before looking for a new resource. That’s standard behavior but it’s more sharply defined right now.”

Summa noted that while the mood was upbeat, there was apprehension in the air over the sequester set to take place Friday.

“Even though economic indicators have been looking good,  there have been too many up-and-down cycles, and retailers want shorter-term deliveries. As a result, people have been indecisive in planning their orders with vendors, even though they’ve had good business on a regular basis…Buyers will probably be back in May,” noted Summa.

The show is known as a platform for a host of artisinal brands from the global marketplace that offer special, one-of-a-kind looks for stores that want to differentiate themselves from mainstream fare. Texture and color were key trends in the accessories arena, including trendy Neoprene handbags from Italy that have braided and spiked effects, hand-crocheted silver wire jewelry from Israel that has a look of lace, or unique silk and wool scarves from Kyrgyzstan.

Jill Heppenheimer, a sales representative for Toko Enterprises LLC and co-owner of the Santa Fe Weaving Gallery in Santa Fe, N.M., said reaction has been strong to a collection of Neoprene handbags in bold fashion colors by Neo di Roma.

“I’ve been selling these Neoprene handbags at my gallery for the past three years and they’ve been very popular. This is the first season I’ve shown them at the Atelier show and I’m anticipating 30 orders or more,” said Heppenheimer. “There’s room for higher profit with these handbags because people are used to spending money on [designer] handbags.”

The handbags, which wholesale from $65 to $130, are created by three Italian designers who opened their first Neo di Roma boutique in Rome in December: Rosanna Contadini, Isabella Nardone and Amalia Restrepo.

Heppenheimer said a line of handcrafted paper jewelry from Granada, Spain, called Begoña Rentero is also generating interest. Inspired by organic forms of nature, the colorful jewelry is hand dyed and molded to resemble exotic flowers or Chagall-inspired shapes. Wholesale prices are $27 to $133.

Another unusual form of handcrafted jewelry is captured by Inbar Shahak, who designs her silver crochet and acid-etched brass jewelry with a patina finish at a kibbutz in Israel. Wholesales prices are $39 to $189.
“We’ve opened 20 new accounts and a couple of buyers said they’ll be back in May,” said Arlean Gall, owner of The Downtown Showroom Inc., which serves as the line’s sales representative.

Gall said retailers were buying but the products have to be special looking.

“Spending was slightly higher than the September session…About 2 percent higher because the buyers liked what they saw,” explained Gall.

Aidai is a resource from Kyrgyzstan that specializes in old-world techniques to create one-of-a-kind scarves and wraps. Ranging from bright fashion colors to solid black and white, as well as myriad color combinations, the collection is designed by Aidai Asangulova in her native country.

“The silk and wool are literally kneaded together like a loaf of bread…It’s a technique that has existed for centuries,” said Candra Day, sales representative for the line which is sold by Vista 360 Degrees, a Wyoming-based foundation that supports designers in developing countries.

“The pace of traffic has been pretty steady. So far, we’ve opened 20 new accounts with specialty boutiques and museum stores,” said Day.

Wholesale prices for the Aidai collection are $48 to $130.

Moving on to women’s apparel, Ivona Martinko of Croatia exhibited for the second season at Atelier. A designer of rtw and sportswear as well as a patternmaker, she likes to work with wool, silk and cotton. Her silhouettes are intended to be multipurpose, and many of her styles feature zippers that can transform a shape such as a jacket with an oversized collar into a chic hoodie. Wholesale prices for the collection are $100 to $800.

“Business has been good and we’ve opened six new accounts. I’ll be back,” said Martinko.

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