“Pleasantly surprised” was the catchphrase repeated by exhibitors showing at Accessorie Circuit and AccessoriestheShow, which took place over three days last week at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York.
While the shows appeared sleepy — having been placed directly after the new year — vendors were pleased by the amount of business they were writing, and that while the number of buyers were few, those who came were placing orders.
“Surprisingly it’s been a great show, we’re seeing a lot of new people, and they’re buying,” said Roxanne Assoulin, creative director at Lee Angel. “We’re seeing our regular big customers and meeting a lot of new ones. Stores aren’t buying from as many vendors, so you want to be one of those vendors.”
While the mood was better than expected, the rawness left by 2008 was still in the air. Assoulin reworked her spring collection just weeks before the show to keep prices in check so as to be “in sync” with her buyers.
“It’s about responsibility,” she said. “It’s not just about us trying to make a living and not caring about our stores. We have to keep the wheels turning because the economy affects all of us.”
Renée Rivera, a San Francisco-based hair accessories designer, said she was expecting a completely different attitude from the shows, but instead everyone seemed happy to be there.
“No one is walking around lamenting, no one is bringing it all up, we’re moving forward,” Rivera said. “I think people are ready to move on, and I think that’s why buyers want fun, colorful accessories. My stores are leaning toward my brights rather than basics. Everyone is ready for color.”
The San Diego-based Gustto handbag brand showed clutches and totes in an array of hues for spring, including fuchsia, mustard yellow, orange and green.
“Even though we are experiencing a difficult moment and traffic was definitely diminished, the reaction to our collection was quite positive and clients informed us that first spring deliveries of our Fabulous Classics collection are selling well,” said designer Agathe Planchon Gustto.
Sheila Dardashti, co-owner and co-designer of Treesje handbags, had a similar experience.
“Given the current state of the economy and the retail industry, and the fact that buyer attendance was significantly down, the show definitely went better than expected,” Dardashti said. “It was great to see all of our customers returning and buying.”
Jeanine Fromm, owner of Fromm’s in Lee, Mass., said she was focused on finding colorful bags at modest prices.
“I am feeling good about 2009, but I am also playing it safe,” Fromm said. “I think the new government will have good plans on how to fix the economy, and we’re all going to start looking up in the coming months.”
At Sondra Roberts, owner Robert Camache reported having a strong show, citing colorful clutches at $12 wholesale as a draw for buyers.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people coming here are placing orders,” Camache said. “I was very nervous coming to this show, but we are price-point conscious and stores react well to that right now. They want fun pick-me-ups in bright colors. It really changes the mood.”
Ann Watson, vice president and fashion director at Henri Bendel, also pointed to color as a key trend for spring, as well as fringe and Native American-inspired jewelry.
“When you can translate this Navajo theme into jewelry, it makes the look fun and playful,” said Watson, who also noted fringe bags were going to be a hot pick for spring.
Brands that opted for fringe included Linea Pelle and Susan Farber. Mercedes Salazar, an accessories designer from Bogota, Colombia, showed tribal-inspired cuffs and necklaces.