Byline: Melanie Kletter

NEW YORK — Romance is in the air, and retailers will find plenty of it — in feminine looks, novelty items and embellishment — at the Fashion Coterie, which begins its three-day run on Monday at the Show Piers 92 and 94 on 55th Street and 12th Avenue here. More than 600 exhibitors will be showcased, making it significantly bigger than last year, according to Elyse Kroll, president of ENK, the show’s producer.
Retailers, who have seen robust selling all year, will shop for fill-in items for the end of the year and for spring. Specialty stores, which are the majority of buyers at the show, will be on the lookout for new lines and unique items to offer their customers.
Max Martinez, owner of Max, a two-unit specialty chain in Denver and Boulder, Colo., said he plans to pick up some last-minute holiday items, particularly dresses, at the show.
“We are also looking for anything with embellishments, as well as cashmere resources,” he said. “The luxury category is still so strong.”
Carrie Bobo of the five-store Midwestern chain Tootsies, said she is using the show to get an overview of new spring looks and pick up some novelty items, which are in hot demand at her stores.
Bobo has her work cut out for her, with plans to see about 100 vendors — some tried and true, some new.
“I feel like people out there are looking for novelty,” she said. “What is selling well in our stores now is anything bohemian and animal prints, and we definitely expect that to continue into the new year. Also utilitarian styles aren’t as popular now, as as people get into embellishments and beads.”
Retailer Scott Baskin, president of Mark Shale, an eight-store chain based in Chicago, said he uses the show to visit vendors who don’t have showrooms in New York and to find new resources.
“I am on the lookout for something that is not capri, cropped or casual,” Baskin said. “We are looking for interesting dress ideas, particularly dresses that women can wear to work.”
He is also on the lookout for fashionable looks that appeal to older consumers.
“Fashion today is not an age issue,” he noted. “Women want to have the look of cropped pants and fitted shirts, but they want to do it in a way that doesn’t look like they are trying to be their daughter.”
Baskin usually spends all three days at the show.
“It is a wonderful opportunity to efficiently see new people,” he added. “We try to at least walk by every booth that is there.”
Vendors are generally upbeat about the Fashion Coterie.
Designer Judy Rabineau of Mica, a contemporary firm, said she is focusing on feminine looks in snazzy colors.
“People want fun out of dressing these days.” she said. “Bright colors are so important right now. I am also focusing on spiritual-driven ethnic looks and embellishments.”
Rabineau noted that she is offering more separates since business has gotten to be very item-driven. Halter tops and peasant-style tops will also be among her offerings.
Bonnie Strauss, designer of the company that bears her name, described her newest collection as “very romantic and very eclectic.”
“There is a lot of trend happening within the collection,” she said. “And it is very item-driven. We have a tremendous amount of embellishments and beading, including hand-dipped special beading that hangs under mohair sweaters like icicles. Everything is done very gently. Even in bright colors, it is not garish.”
Other romantic looks at Bonnie Strauss include a balloon skirt that layers over a gypsy skirt.
“I like dressing up and this collection is versed in that,” she noted. “I think young girls want to be feminine — it is such a return to the Sixties and Seventies.”
Robyn Sidney, owner of R & B Inc., a Miami-based contemporary company formerly called Fiore, will use the show to strengthen her business, which was started about a year and a half ago.
“We are going from very clean to eclectic, and mixing pretty and feminine with clean silhouettes,” she said. “We are also using a lot of ribbon embroideries and leather trims and little leather strings for attachments.”
Attune New York, a casual sportswear company, will be showing new collections for both its divisions: Attune and fal, which stands for fashion active laboratory. Attune is being relaunched in a more contemporary light with a focus on women sized 6 to 16, said Jeff Grubb, fal’s designer.
“Our Attune division has new designers who are making this division more hip and updated,” Grubb said. “Although it has only had two seasons under its belt, we are relaunching it to include more options and more fashion for larger-sized women.”
The collection will include different fabrics, like new cotton twills, cotton knits and pima cotton T-shirts. Other fabrics include silk and handkerchief linen, Grubb said.
Fal, a sportier line, targets a more contemporary customer in sizes 2 to 12. Styles in this collection include activewear in vibrant colors such as pink and orange. Its knit offerings include fleeced cashmere, micro-fleece cashmere and brightly colored jersey.
Entsou, another contemporary firm, will show a lot of high tech fabrics, like a bonded-double reversible cotton, said Wen Zhou, owner of the three-year-old company.
“Consumers now are more aware of things like fabrics and they want something different,” she said. “They want quality as well as clothing that reveals their personality.”
Zhou said she uses the show to meet new retailers from out of town, since many local shop owners come to see her at her New York showroom.
Zhou said Entsou’s business doubled in size since last year, driven by the strong economy.
ENK’s Kroll noted that the show will be “significantly bigger” than last year.
“All of the exhibitors are still screened, but we include a wide variety of categories,” she said.
Pier 92 will focus on more contemporary resources, while pier 94 will house the international exhibitors, which is the reverse of how the show was organized last year. In addition, the show is starting one day later than last year due to the shipping schedules at the pier, Kroll said.
International exhibitors will be coming from Italy and Paris, and for the first time an organized group will be coming from Spain, she said. International buyers are also expected to make a strong showing. Of the expected 8,000 buyers, about 12 to 15 percent will be from overseas.
“The show should be very powerful,” Kroll said. “People have been begging for more space. Also, the market as a whole has been very ebullient, and buyers are in a terrific frame of mind and getting ready for the new millennium.”

Fashion Coterie
Where: Show Piers on the Hudson River, Piers 92 and 94 at 55th Street and 12th Avenue.
When: Monday, Sept. 27 – Wednesday, Sept. 29
Show Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.