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NEW YORK — Despite ongoing economic uncertainty and a fairly late start to spring, a positive spirit permeated the Designers & Agents show, which ended its three-day run at the Starrett-Lehigh Building May 8. Retailers and vendors said their mood was lifted by a recent uptick in business, and they largely remained hopeful the momentum would continue through the summer.
Eric Newland, owner of Designer One, a specialty boutique in Larchmont, N.Y., called business “excellent.” He explained that re-strategizing the business over the last five years, including bringing in new vendors with more versatile price points, has started to pay off. “I had to recalibrate, and re-merchandise my product mix,” Newland noted. “Now, business has been starting to remind me of the old days, which reinforces the new direction of the store.”
Newland was at D&A looking for holiday merchandise, particularly accessories. “Leather will be big for fall,” he said. “I see a lot of color, like greens, green-blues and plum.”
Tom Russo, whose wife Diane owns the Diane T boutique in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and who serves as its chief financial officer, agreed that business has been strong. He was at D&A looking for new talent. “You have to have something new,” he said. “You have to weed out the weeds and keep the flowers. There is so much competition. When we find designers who are unique, our customers respond to it. ”
Amber Rush, sales manager at the New York-based Candela label, said, “We’re getting a lot of reorders. Our customer may be chasing inventory.” Top sellers include a cropped lace top for $130 wholesale, an embroidered floral tunic for $150, and a short version of the style for $130.
The May show is usually smaller than its February and September counterparts. Ed Mandelbaum, who produces D&A with Barbara Kramer, said the show was comparable to last May’s in terms of both size and attendance.
“It’s a smaller, more local show, and stores come in from Maine to Illinois,” he noted. “People are more positive. There was a late spring, but it kicked in, and I have been hearing that business is much better.”
Kramer added, “This is mainly a market for American stores,” adding that accessories are a key category. “There is lot of layering, and treatments of fabrics,” she said. “We have 11 designers in the Green Room. There is more and more interest in fair trade pieces.”
Case in point: the three-year old, Santa Monica-based Matonyok brand, which offers hand-made accessories made in Kenyan villages that benefit, according to the company, “sustainable employment, education and empowerment of women and girls in the Maasai community.” The line is designed by Mary Argimon and Jessica Walsh, with Argimon working directly with the Kenyan women to realize the final product. Ten percent of profits go directly into a fund to support the community. Among the highlights of the collection, which wholesales from $215 to $475, was a weekender bag with appliqué and beading details.