Buyers plan to scour Coterie next week, on the hunt for the next big thing. Here through page 27, eight retailers discuss their strategies.
This story first appeared in the September 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Beckley and Arcade, Los Angeles
Beckley owner Melisa Richardson and Arcade owner Rochelle Gores are heading from their Melrose Avenue boutiques to Manhattan to scout Fashion Coterie for fresh merchandise that will tantalize their upscale, in-the-know Los Angeles customers.
Gores has her eye out for unique items that offer shoppers options that other Los Angeles stores don’t provide. “They are looking for more special pieces, and my job is to show them what is best right now and what can keep their wardrobe alive,” she said. “When I attend a trade show, there is usually maybe one line that I will get from it that is different, or is from a newer designer I don’t know of, something that is not everywhere.”
Richardson noted Coterie’s large scale, quality selection and proximity to other fashion venues in New York are big draws.
“We like to source new lines there, plus New York is the place where we see a lot of vendors in the showrooms,” she said. “It makes for a good all-in-one trip instead of just doing Los Angeles.”
Gores has beefed up her dress assortment in the year since she opened Arcade — and continues to hunt for dress resources. Among the current best-selling dress brands at the store are Yigal Azrouël, Erdem Boot, Stylein, Lyn Devon, Preen and Kimberly Ovitz. She described a dress that appeals to the Arcade customer as “anything that makes a woman feel sexy and sophisticated.”
Richardson will definitely peruse dresses and tops, leading categories at Beckley, but she said finding a new jewelry line would be a great bonus. Kenneth Jay Lane, Kendra Scott and Iosselliani are three top-performing jewelry brands of late at the store. “We are never typically conservative because you always need to have choices,” said Richardson of her approach to trade show ordering.
Both Richardson and Gores, who are each celebrating their one-year anniversaries in business this year, praised Coterie’s decision to consolidate at the Jacob K. Javits Center.
“It is always easier as a buyer if it’s one location and you can go to one place and get it all done,” said Gores. Richardson concurred, adding, “If the weather is ever bad and for just getting around, it makes it easier.”
After about six hours on the plane from the West to East Coasts, Richardson and Gores don’t plan to take many breaks once in New York. They have packed their five-to-six day stays with wall-to-wall trade show strolls and appointments. — Rachel Brown
Olive & Bette’s, New York
For Stacey Pecor, owner of the four Manhattan-based Olive & Bette’s stores, the Fashion Coterie is important for two major reasons — to look for items ready for immediate delivery, and to discover new vendors not already carried at her stores.
These days, Pecor said, it’s more important than ever to have product on the sales floor in a timely fashion
— especially since it’s getting harder to project how business will be so far ahead of time. With that said, Pecor said she isn’t looking for items that are cheap, but rather value-packed.
“At the show, I hope to find sweaters and jackets including boyfriend blazers, bombers and motorcycle jackets,” she said. “Customers don’t mind spending a lot for something really great. One of our bestsellers so far has been a gray leather motorcycle jacket by Vince that retails for $860.”
In addition, Pecor said she hopes to find more printed items, as she already stocks a lot of solids; miniskirts
to add to the mix; dresses that easily translate from work to evening, and novelty leggings.
“If it zips, snaps, ruches, I’m interested,” she said.
While Pecor is based in New York, she said there are so many new things to do in the city since the last Coterie
show, and plenty for out-of-towners to see while in town.
“I would check out the Meatpacking District, walk the High Line and sit outside at the Standard. It’s great for people watching,” she said. “The West Village is fun, too. There’s a great mix of shops and restaurants. I like the Spotted Pig.” — Julee Kaplan
Julie Routenberg, owner of Potpourri, a 33-year-old bridge boutique in Atlanta, is heading to Fashion Coterie just as she has always has — without a stringent buying strategy.
“I don’t have a picture in my mind of what I have to have. I’m open to absolutely anything. There are no ‘should’s.’ I’ve always done it this way,” said Routenberg, who added she doesn’t write any orders at the show.
However, she has appointments with dozens of new lines at Coterie in her quest for fresh product “that jumps.”
“I can totally relate to store owners who want to stay in their comfort zones right now, but you have to balance the tried-and-true with the spice and the ‘wow’ factor. I’m ready to close my eyes and jump off the deep end and go out there and get business,” said Routenberg.
Armed with an aggressive attitude, Routenberg plans to pick up core lines such as Lafayette 148, Jones New York, Lilla P and Elliot Lauren, sticking to early spring and resort deliveries.
Routenberg sells mostly sportswear and says she’ll continue to mix pricier European labels with less expensive lines for spring.
She said she expects to see a bigger crowd at the show — and a more upbeat outlook among buyers — because “people are breathing a little easier now.” She added that she’s pleased with the decision to keep the entire market in one venue, citing logistics as a main advantage.
“It’s a very smart thing, and I’m just sorry it wasn’t done earlier. I’ve been caught between the two venues before, trying to make an appointment, with the buses not running,” she said. “The anguish of trying to get a cab and get around was really painful.” — Elizabeth Thurman
NK Boutique, Baton Rouge, La.
Sari Turner and Michele LaCour Percy, owners of NK Boutique in Baton Rouge, La., have one overriding wish for Fashion Coterie.
“I hope the vendors will offer a wider selection of styles,” Turner said. “A lot of designers had cut back the number of styles they offered, and that made our work a little harder, having to choose from fewer things.”
“We normally look for really special pieces,” Percy added, “so the more they offer, the easier it is to find those unique items.” Like a lot of buyers, Turner and Percy will hunt for spring fashions with exceptional value.
“We look for good design and great fabric,” Turner noted. “It’s a time when people are still shopping, and they really are looking for authentic value. We find they’re focusing on smaller luxuries like a great statement necklace, or a great shoe or purse to update their wardrobe.”
Bucking the overall trend at retail, Turner said NK’s business has racked up sales gains in five of the past eight months — with improved cash flow to boot. She attributed that jump partly to Baton Rouge’s resilient energy-based economy, which managed to gain 700 jobs for the year ended in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Coterie is nearly one-stop shopping for NK Boutique, which specializes in contemporary style. The only thing missing is shoes.
“This is the biggest market for us to see all of the latest fashions,” Percy said.
“All of our vendors and suppliers are at Coterie, like Diane von Furstenberg, Nanette Lepore, Mara Hoffman and Adam Lippes,” Turner added.
The pair was grateful that this Coterie would be under oneroof at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center instead of scattered across the Show Piers, as has been.
“It saves time and enables us to do our work more quickly,” Turner said. “The Javits Center has better lighting, and it’s easier to get cabs. At the end of the day, getting a cab from Coterie at the Piers is about impossible, and maneuvering from the Javits Center is a lot easier.”
During their brief down time in the city, Turner and Percy dine out with friends and family. “We always look forward to eating — we love the food,” said Percy. “We try to go to Le Pain Quotidien on Seventh Avenue and 57th Street. And we love to window shop and look at unique window designs in New York.” — Holly Haber
When it comes to shopping the Fashion Coterie, Shopbop.com fashion director Kate Ciepluch is clearly on a mission to bring in some of the best of what the contemporary fashion market has to offer.
While Shopbop is based in Madison, Wis., Ciepluch works out of the contemporary and young designer retailer’s New York offices, making it easier for her to shop the market all year round.
However, Ciepluch still stresses that the Coterie is among the most important trade shows in the country to attend.
“It’s great to see such a vast number of lines in the contemporary market in one place,” she said. “It provides a vehicle for us to check out new lines as well as check smaller appointments off our list, which helps us maximize our time spent in market.”
With that said, Ciepluch, who noted she is much happier to see the entire show is contained at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, is interested to see some smaller brands that do not have permanent showroom spaces in New York, and vendors who’ve caught her eye, if not her pencil just yet.
Living in New York, Ciepluch said she is lucky to have so many great things to do any evening, but encourages out-of-town visitors to see stores and enjoy the nightlife.
“Definitely check out the smaller neighborhoods with great vintage shopping like the Lower East Side and Williamsburg in Brooklyn,” she recommended. “Dinner at the Standard and a walk on the recently opened Highline in the Meatpacking District is [also] a great night. There is great live music every night, and a night of jazz at the Village Vanguard is never a disappointment.” — Julee Kaplan
Fashion-forward e-tailer Revolv eClothing.com wil take a spin around next week’s Fashion Coterie on the lookout for avant-garde styles that will help reverse shopper malaise.
Founded by Michael Mente and Michael Karanikolas in 2003, the Cerritos, Calif.-based e-commerce fashion stalwart offers a wide variety of styles across some 500 labels, ranging from denim to high fashion items.
Last year, Revolve made its brick-and-mortar debut with a 2,500-square-foot flagship on Melrose Avenue, neighboring boutiques such as Diane von Furstenberg, Alexander McQueen and Hervé Léger by Max Azria. The store showcases labels like Geren Ford, 6126, L.A.M.B., T by Alexander Wang, D&G and Current/Elliott in a gallery-style space.
Mente said he and his three-woman buying team will scout fresh looks and new designers, seeking to break away from repeat styles from previous seasons and existing designers.
“We’ve been looking for quality product at value pricing; right now we are [looking] for something new, something our customers haven’t seen before, looks that will get some money flowing in retail again,” he said. “For the past few seasons, value has been the most important trend. We hope to find a trend that will excite customers enough to move away from value alone.”
Versatility is a key theme for the Revolve team at Coterie, with the buyers shopping for multitasking looks, like long skirts that can double as tube dresses. Transition pieces that go from one season to the next are also high on the list. Distressed denim and new jeans washes are also important for the online boutique, which has seen the style pendulum swing from clean and neat aesthetics to destroyed looks and jeans heavier on embellishments and detailing.
Mente said he’s found that contemporary collections have been weaker than some item-driven lines recently, and he’s actively seeking innovative offerings. “Things have been safe for a while, and it’s time to get interesting again,” he said. “We’re willing to take some risks to do that.”
It won’t be all work and no play during the show, however. While in Manhattan, Mente said he has a few things on his to-do list, including attending fashion shows for Philip Lim, Alexander Wang and Jen Kao, as well as a few culinary stops, like The Smile, a retail cafe at 26 Bond Street, and Saturdays Surf Shop, a beach-themed cafe and retail concept that opened this year at 31 Crosby Street. — Anne Riley-Katz
For Melisa Murdoch, owner of two contemporary Sandpiper boutiques in Atlanta, this fall’s approach to Fashion Coterie is all about freshness.
“I’d love to find a hot trend since we haven’t seen one in a year-and-a-half,” said Murdoch, who has been in business for 23 years and has shopped Coterie since the Eighties.
Murdoch does most of her seasonal buying at Coterie and plans to scour the show for early spring and resort deliveries, replenishing core lines such as Rebecca Taylor, Diane von Furstenberg, Alice + Olivia, Milly and Tibi, while seeking merchandise with bright colors and lightweight fabrics.
Her merchandise is usually divided between sportswear and dresses, although she said dresses aren’t as pervasive now as they usually are.
“Jackets paired with jeans seem fresh again. We’re not as heavy on dresses right now but that will probably change. It’s so easy down here, because of the [warm] weather, just to throw on a dress, but it really has to be the right dress,” said Murdoch.
She said she’ll also hunt for last-minute holiday gift add-ons, jewelry and small leather goods.
Of the decision to house the entire show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Murdoch said, “I love it. I hope they keep it there from now on. Now I don’t have to wait in those long restroom lines, and leaving the Show Piers at night was always a nightmare.” — Elizabeth Thurman