ATLANTA — After several seasons of over-the-top glitz and bohemian looks, buyers at AmericasMart reacted well to a more stylish direction in the market.
Shopping for spring, buyers applauded a return to more sophisticated design, luxurious fabrics, clean lines and neutral colors as options that would entice consumers. The women’s and children’s apparel and accessories market ran Oct. 20-24.
Mart officials reported “a record turnout, with continued expansion of all temporary categories.” Among the hot areas, shoes got a new dedicated space at the October show, and the Premiere show, a juried collection of higher-end contemporary product, is expanding to five shows a year from two.
Showroom owners and exhibitors said sales were up, although some said traffic was slow, especially as Florida accounts canceled because of Hurricane Wilma.
Vanessa Molina, owner of the Simpatico showroom, said about 10 Florida stores canceled, while two evacuated to Atlanta from the Naples/Ft. Myers area. Molina said she beat last year’s numbers, working 30 to 35 accounts a day.
“Retail is down overall and stores are cautious, but they’re buying the tried-and-true lines more than taking a risk on newer lines,” she said.
Texture and fabric interest emerged for spring, in linen and silk with metallic details, light embellishment and more natural, subtle materials.
“The boho, baby-doll trend went as far as it could go, and now the frill is gone,” said Marigail Mathis, owner of an eponymous specialty store in Florence, Ala. “You couldn’t pile any more stuff on clothes, and now I’m seeing clean, modern looks, with the detail in the fabric, rather than on the fabric.”
She cited linens and silks shot with metallics, such as Lurex, in bias-cut or architectural lines as good looks.
Mathis bought fitted jackets with ruffled sleeves in luxury fabrics by Emil Rutenberg, and skirts, jackets and pants by Babette. She also bought wrap skirts with oversized buttons by Skirtz and tailored shirts by Planet.
Bonnie White, owner of two Atlanta specialty stores bearing her name, searched for grown-up looks for her upscale customers.
“The first day at market I was depressed because all I saw was junky, bling and too much contemporary focus,” she said. “But the second day, I focused on lines for women, with beautiful fabrics and details.”
White bought knits, including lightweight cashmere sweaters from White & Warren and One Girl Who, and picked up a new line, Magaschoni Beige. Jackets with special details, from pleated sleeves to unfinished ruffles, also should do well for spring, she said.
Jan Bilthouse, owner of The Bilthouse, an apparel and home store with two Atlanta locations, bought spring goods with a budget up 20 percent compared with last year. September sales were 30 percent higher than in 2004, setting a record for the 12-year-old store after a slow summer, Bilthouse said.
“We’re getting lots of customers who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina and are living in Atlanta now,” she said. “They’re waiting for insurance checks and waiting for their houses to be rebuilt. They’re also replacing wardrobes.”
Shifting focus somewhat from the item-driven bohemian prints and heavily embellished trends of past seasons, she concentrated more on subdued colors such as army green, khaki and sand, and bought more dressy, put-together outfits that can ring up better sales.
In skirts, she purchased a variety of lengths and silhouettes, with details such as stitching, embroidery and sequins from resources that included Skirtz, Basil & Maude and Citrine.
She bought novelty tops, in crochet, georgette and embroidered fabrics, from Johnny Was, and fitted blazers from Johnny Was, Provence de Amour and Baxis & Baxis.
Suits and dresses for the Kentucky Derby were the goal for Raquel Koff, president of Rodeo Drive, a specialty store in Louisville. Searching for dramatic looks, she ordered gowns and special-occasion dresses by Nicole Miller and Dina Bar-El.
Koff put skirts, jackets or shrugs together from Cynthia Steffe, Basil & Maude and Credibility, accessorizing with chunky metallic belts by Suzie Roher and Streets Ahead.