NEW YORK — “Rebound” is a term mostly absent in recent years, but judging by the overall enthusiasm going into Fashion Coterie’s upcoming edition, there is a definite hint of the sentiment.
Vendors, as well as the organizers of the show, which will take place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center Sept. 17 to 19, have an upbeat spirit going into the spring 2014 show, but stressed that it’s more important than ever to offer special product to stand out in a crowded and ultracompetitive environment.
“There is a great deal of enthusiasm among the collections this September,” said Tom Nastos, president of ENK International, which organizes the Coterie show.
Based on preregistration, the show is expected to be consistent with the previous edition in February, “if not slightly up,” Nastos said.
“As a whole, we are seeing participation and ‘length of stay’ at Coterie continue to increase,” he said. “On the exhibitor side, we are seeing an influx of international designers such as Shakuhachi, Tila March, Margaux Lonnberg and April May. On the buyer side, we are also seeing international retailers and e-commerce buyers continue to have double-digit growth at Coterie.”
Unlike past editions, which were split between the Javits Center and Pier 94, this season marks a return of the entire show under one roof at Javits.
“The convenience of one location will allow the buyers to efficiently schedule appointments with all the exhibitors,” Nastos said. “This season, Coterie has enhanced the show’s sections to make it easier to shop. For example, Contemporary will be merchandised with Advanced Emerging Designers and Casual Contemporary. The goal is to make the show a successful marketplace for retailers.”
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Also new at the show this season will be the Jonathan Adler Lounge featuring “small gift items tailored to the contemporary marketplace,” he added. “The addition of gift items to our ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories categories will expand purchasing opportunities for our buyers.”
Pauline Nakios, co-owner and creative director of Lilla P, said business was rebounding at regional markets, as well as at the recent Las Vegas trade shows.
“The stores that traveled to the shows were positive and have embraced the new retail climate understanding that spending habits have changed,” Nakios said. “Many of them are reducing the number of lines and going deeper into the brands that sell for them. Many stores are reducing the number of shows that they attend, as it is costly to travel and be off of the sales floor. If they are doing one show, it is certainly going to be Coterie. I have found that many accounts will only come for two rather than three days, but they are still attending Coterie.”
Scott Morrison, founder of 3×1, said, “I think there are a lot of positive things happening right now, both for us as a brand and in the retail environment. Stores are reordering, as well as taking a bit more risk when placing their seasonal orders, which is nice to see. In New York City, we’re seeing great increases in our own shop’s foot traffic and our month-over-month and year-over-year numbers, which shows some positive signs for things locally.”
Morrison said he anticipates his strongest Coterie so far.
“We’ve been receiving a lot of positive interest, from both domestic and international retailers, so we’re looking forward to seeing them at the show and with any luck, we’ll once again see big increases in wholesale bookings this season,” he added.
For spring, 3×1 will be offering denims and twills, with standouts including Italian and Japanese denim that “hardly feels like denim, as well as our lightweight ‘twills,’ for lack of a better word, that look luxury even in more traditional silhouettes.” The brand is also offering more shirting and tops than in previous seasons, and introducing a collaboration with stylist Vanessa Traina tied in with the launch of her new concept store The Line.
Road to Awe, or RtA, is new to Coterie. The label was launched by Eli Azran and David Rimokh for fall, and while the first season is just hitting stores, Azran feels confident.
“Stores are once again starting to retail well, but I think the retailers, after the scare we lived, are a lot more careful and selective when buying brands,” Azran said. “Considering this is our first Coterie with RtA, we are all really excited it’s going to be a great show for us.”
Lisa Shaller-Goldberg, owner of Minnie Rose, who was inspired by a Safari theme for spring, called the current climate “as competitive as ever.”
“While many brands are still struggling to find their footing, Minnie Rose has been fortunate to enjoy double-digit growth for the sixth year in a row,” she said.
“Coterie is the most important show for us,” Shaller-Goldberg added. “Some of our buyers only go the Coterie shows, so it’s a valuable time for us to connect and show them what’s fresh and new at Minnie Rose. And with this season’s new crop of categories — washable silk, stretch twill and sunglasses, just to name a few — we can’t wait to show them a whole new side to the brand.”
For accessories designer Alexis Bittar, the climate is “complex.” He based this on “the combined factors of the vertical retail model coupled with the Internet has created an environment that is moving at a supersonic speed.”
For Bittar, key items at Coterie will include “personalized jewelry, which runs the gamut from layering pieces to stand-alone statement items through design aesthetic. We are focusing on both aquatic, surrealist fantasy and 1930s Deco/Native American inspired motifs.”
Some vendors noted a change in the way retailers shop contemporary collections today.
“Customers are buying now and wearing now, as opposed to buying in advance, so buyers have adapted to this need and we see that reflected in our business,” said Denise Focil, creative director of AS by DF. “The business is still strong and getting stronger each season. It’s all about adapting to the market.”
For spring, “I wanted to explore our motorcycle and technical heritage in the collection,” Focil said. “The collection itself has a strong motocross influence with newly expanded categories such as a bigger leather category and a much stronger bottoms category. What’s most exciting is that Tali Lennox is the face of our line for spring 2014. Not only do I love Tali on a personal level, but she embodies the edgy, cool girl attitude of AS by DF.”
At Amour Vert, the spring theme centers around the “Tomboy Romantic.”
“It’s a mix of boyish silhouettes in utterly romantic fabrics and prints,” said Christoph Frehsee, the label’s cofounder and chief executive officer. “Think a beautiful shirt in a French-inspired toile print mixed with natural denim high-waisted shorts.”
At the show, the label will also launch the Amour Vert T(r)EE line. “For each T sold, we plant a tree in the U.S.,” Frehsee said. “Currently, we are supporting reforestation projects in Florida, Montana and California and our goal is to plant at least 100,000 trees by 2015.
“As a made-in-the-U.S. eco-fashion brand, we are lucky that we launched in a climate where retailers are looking for products with more substance,” he added. “Our story resonates well with buyers, as customers are now asking for more transparency, especially after the recent tragedy in Bangladesh. We’re finding people are looking for brands that are not only aspirational, but also responsible. We have experienced tremendous growth because we offer…high-quality and socially responsible fashion, made in the USA, with an eco-conscious supply chain.”
With that in mind, Frehsee is anticipating a strong Coterie. He said, “Since our debut two years ago, our business has doubled season over season. The ENK team is very dedicated to delivering a great show experience both for buyers and vendors. We see a lot of international buyers at Coterie, particularly from Japan and Europe, who write great business.”