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Contemporary Sportswear Vendors Still Price Focused

Exhibitors at Moda and Fame bank on value-priced fashion to appeal to cautious buyers.

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NEW YORK — “Value” and “caution” are still buzzwords for brands navigating out of the economic downturn.

At the Moda and Fame trade shows held here at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from Sept. 19 to 21, vendors stressed the importance of providing fashion at a price in order to lure buyers.

At Alain Weiz Paris, Robert Gordon, who represents the plus-size clothing brand in the U.S., said he’s seeing “fabulous” demand for misses’ fashions.

“I think that people who wear plus sizes want to wear fashion just as much as the next person,” he said, pointing out the geometric cuts and funky patterns from the Paris-based brand.

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Retailing from $78 to $128, Alain Weiz speaks to an “underserved,” yet “growing” market, Gordon said.

At Stella Carakasi, the Berkeley, Calif.-based apparel brand, salesman Allan Boutrous noted that retailers are ordering the brand’s more unique pieces. That includes architectural tops and dresses in textured fabric, such as linen. While neutrals and earth tones make up the bulk of the collection, Stella Carakasi has added some scarves, sweaters and blouses in brighter pastels for a hint of color. The collection, which ranges from $60 to $500, serves a higher-end, more established consumer, and that has helped it to grow sales.

“The mood is better than last year at this time,” Boutrous offered. “Buyers are being really cautious, but when they see something that clicks, they spend a lot.”

A few booths away, Justin Wen, marketing director of Fala by Fala Chien, echoed that sentiment.

“People are still pretty cautious, which is good news for new designers because it gives newcomers a chance,” he said, as he pointed to one of the brand’s bestsellers, a neutral silk halter dress with a tribal pattern that can be worn several ways. The convertible dress not only provides “value,” but it’s fashionable, he said.

At Fame, which generally caters to brands serving a younger, fast-fashion shopper, exhibitors rolled out the latest trends, from lacy bohemian blouses and dresses to tops festooned with sequins, studs and skulls.

“Prices have gone up a little and customers are noticing and are maybe being more considerate about what they are ordering,” said a spokeswoman for Mystree, a Vernon, Calif.-based contemporary brand whose vast collection veers more toward romantic than rocker. While Mystree’s collections hover in the $50 to $100 range, the brand has had to adjust to the ever-changing retail landscape by cycling in more fashion that appeals to its broad customer base that spans from teens to women in their 40s.

“Our sales haven’t declined, but in order to compete with China, we have to find a way to keep prices low, too, ” she said. “But with this brand, quality is still high. We won’t sacrifice that.”

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