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WWD Coterie issue 02/15/2012

NEW YORK — While the global economic environment continues to be volatile and challenges in the Euro zone are causing some headaches, exhibitors said they are heading into next week’s Fashion Coterie with a positive outlook that there is still plenty of business to be had.

This story first appeared in the February 15, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Designers said they just have to be more nimble and work that much harder to make it happen.

ENK founder and president Elyse Kroll said the level of activity at recent shows is an encouraging sign for the upcoming edition of Coterie, set for Feb. 21 to 23 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

RELATED CONTENT: More on WWD’s Coterie Preview >>

Many exhibitors said they are looking to Coterie for growth this season and most agreed that keeping a strong price-value ratio will be a key ingredient to success.

Gerd Strehle, chief executive officer of Strenesse, which is showing its Strenesse Blue label, is anticipating a rise in sales orders this season, even in these uncertain times.

“Let’s face it, the previous seasons have been challenging for the U.S. market,” Strehle said. “However, the most dynamic stores have been able to keep their stocks selective and have been able to remain profitable. More than ever, it is crucial to offer good products at a good price and with an interesting story to keep the customers inspired.”

At times when retailers limit their investments, “it is important to make it worth their while,” Strehle said.

“Selling to wholesalers is half of the job, but making sure the collection sells out is crucial for the business,” he added. “Businesses want to be assured they are getting a strong product that will satisfy their customers.”

Designer Rachel Roy stressed that value is key, now more than ever.

“Customers are looking for value and we’ve really challenged ourselves to deliver…design and detail in opening price point merchandise,” she said. “For fall, we are launching a dedicated dress capsule collection [in the] price range [of] $348 to $468 that really speaks to our woman’s modern life — classic silhouettes paired with feminine details and color to create a strong and sexy collection.”

Rebecca Minkoff ceo Uri Minkoff said a key challenge is to stand out among a sea of vendors.

“I think price is also an issue in this competitive landscape,” he noted. “We fight these by making sure we always maintain unique and innovative marketing and communications platforms with the end consumer so that we can drive behavior and experience. Social media has always been our hallmark. On the other hand, we make sure that we have a great price-value ratio for our customer.”

As for trends, designer Rebecca Minkoff pointed to more versatile looks, noting, “Convertible bags are a big trend right now, especially bags that have compartments for tech products.”

Several companies have also made changes to their deliveries to better serve retailers with newness. Starting with this fall, White + Warren will be offering month-by-month capsule collections.

“Each capsule collection features more novelty in comparison to prior seasons, and has its own focus and color palette,” said Susan White, White + Warren president. “In addition, we have increased the presentation of offerings in the White + Warren cashmere essentials.”

Having the proper financial plan is also crucial, she noted.

“Many of the specialty stores are placing a larger portion of their buy with us, which can result in cash flow issues,” White said. “We have had to find more creative ways of funding the business within this channel. Transparency is key. In order for the factor to be confident in granting credit, the retailers must have up-to-date financials and be willing to share this information. We are working with each retailer to create a better flow of receipts for each category each month.”

She added, “An open start date will give small boutiques a longer selling period, which enables a better sell-through on our product.”

Slipper company Jacques Levine is showing at Coterie for the first time. President Sam Calvanio said, “Our existing buyers are increasingly relying on this show for its mix of brands, and while we have a targeted approach for growing our distribution, this show still ensures that we meet with the right buyers.”

For fall, the company is expanding its offering to include drivers, skimmers, flats and loafers.

“The biggest challenge facing our business right now is price sensitivity for slippers,” Calvanio said. “While we are at the high end of the slipper market, the construction and materials that we use are in line with shoes that sell for a much higher price. It’s a constant challenge to balance the quality that we want for our line with the consumer’s notion of how much they want to spend on a slipper. We are working to evolve that perception.”

Kroll is pleased with business. “While we approached Accessorie Circuit, Intermezzo and ENKNY with cautionary respect due to the tumultuous economy in Europe, we were surprised and happy with the results in terms of traffic and sales for our exhibitors,” said Kroll, referring to recent trade shows under her auspices. “The right stores traveled to New York and good business was written. We have every reason to believe that Coterie will also be a strong, energetic show.”

Kroll cited several new introductions this season as contributors to the ongoing energy surrounding the show. Coterie, for instance, is growing its TMRW section, which helps young and emerging designers by subsidizing their exhibit space and showing them the ropes. For the first time, ENK will feature TMRW Men’s, which is to take place at The Tunnel venue and showcase several up-and-coming men’s wear designer labels, including Resurrection and Neuw. Kroll decided to include men’s collections because “Coterie attracts a lot of specialty stores and it could be the same store owner or buyer.”

ENK is also launching the White New York exhibit, importing the Milan men’s and women’s fashion exhibition. It will also make its debut at The Tunnel, with more than 60 Italian brands, including Ter et Bantine, Roberto Del Carlo, Norwegian Rain, London.Ink and Alessandra Marchi.

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