Optimistic Mood at Designers & Agents Show

The summer show offered plenty of pieces for stores, even if business continues to be challenging for many retailers.

NEW YORK — The fashion news at Designers & Agents, which ended its three-day run at the Starrett-Lehigh building Tuesday, was optimistic: Ease into summer with more languid silhouettes, cool T-shirts and a plethora of colors, most appealing when rendered with tie-dye touches.

The summer show is smaller than its spring and fall counterparts, but still offered plenty of pieces for stores, even if business continues to be challenging for many retailers.

“The brands who are here do business,” said Ed Mandelbaum, who produces D&A with Barbara Kramer. “My sense is that fall was difficult because of people feeling insecure with the election and the fiscal cliff. But the stock market went up, the real estate sector and unemployment are improving, so there are some positive things going on. Hopefully [2013] will be brighter.”

Hesham Elmished, who owns the And Company stores in Greenwich and Norwalk, Conn., and is opening a 2,000-square-foot boutique called Simple in Laguna Beach, Calif., in March, echoed those sentiments.
“Retail has been tough,” he said. “We had the storm on the East Coast. But I think things are now moving in the right direction. The financial cliff is behind us. I hope the new congress can work things out.”

Given the climate, Elmished said he was at D&A looking for “very clean lines at a high quality, so people can wear the pieces for many years. They can’t afford to wear a piece just one time.”

Cool-change, a New York-based company of easy-breezy summer clothes and resort-wear, all handmade in Bali and priced from $65 to $100 at wholesale, was represented. “It’s been great,” said Melissa Slack, who handles sales for the brand. “Stores seem more confident. This is a smaller show, but we had good feedback.”

New to D&A was Isapera, a year-old Athens-based brand that offers handmade footwear based on the traditional greek sandals, but “with a twist,” said Sylvie Bohrer, U.S. rep for the label.

While Isapera is already sold in Greece and France, it is now looking to break into the U.S. market with a collection that is priced from $39 to $65 wholesale. The most popular styles include the Elia sandal mixing snakeskin and leather for $39 wholesale. “We had very good feedback, and stores loved the designs and opening price points,” Bohrer said.