BUYERS HUNT FOR PRETTY PIECES
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg / Janet Ozzard
NEW YORK — Stylish, feminine and comfortable.
That’s what retailers will be looking for at the next edition of the Fashion Coterie, held at the Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue at West 59th Street here, next Tuesday through Friday.
Items, rather than ensembles, are on the lists of buyers hoping to fill out summer inventories. That means separates such as pants, long skirts, knit tops and sweaters in comfort fabrics like matte jersey, cotton or cashmere knits and stretch wovens.
Merchants said they’d like to find a range of prices and styles for customers who will be shopping to perk up summer and fall wardrobes. That could mean a cashmere sweater or an inexpensive T-shirt or skirt. Keeping an interesting mix of names also pulls in customers that might otherwise go to bigger retailers or chain stores.
Khajak Keledjian, buyer and an owner of Intermix, a four-store operation based here, said he will concentrate on fall offerings at the show. Jussara Lee, Anni Kuan, Susan Lazar and Jill Stuart are some of the lines he plans to review.
“We preview fall before we make any showroom appointments. We won’t write any orders at the show,” he said. “We’ll decide at the show who to eliminate and who to add.”
Offering more than 100 labels, changing window displays weekly and featuring lesser-known European and American designers helped Intermix nearly double sales last year at its 2,300-square-foot store at 125 Fifth Avenue, here, he said.
“We don’t look for specific items,” Keledjian said. “We look for interesting styles for our forward clientele.”
Last April, Intermix opened a 1,400-square-foot stores in Oyster Bay, N.Y., and in October, another 1,400-square-foot store opened in Tokyo. With the Japanese store expected to generate $2 million in sales this year, the retailer already plans to open a second store in Japan before January, Keledjian said.
Looking for “fill-in spring and summer items, such as soft separates,” Diane Merrick, who owns a 1,000-square-foot store bearing her name in West Hollywood, Calif., said she will check out Equipment, Philippe Adec, Dollhouse, BCBG and Bisou Bisou. Skinny pants, cashmere sweaters, T-shirts and slim skirts should be important looks for spring and summer, Merrick said.
For 1996, business was even with 1995, but Merrick said she plans a 15 percent increase in 1997. Serving customers with special incentives should improve business.
Offering sales and such low-priced items as $8 T-shirts should continue to boost sales for full-priced merchandise, she said. To secure repeat business, the retailer routinely gives customers a complimentary pair of socks or a T-shirt with a purchase, Merrick said.
The retailer also takes cues from customers.
“We’re always looking for what our customers want. Very often the customer knows more than we do,” she said. “Young girls will come in looking for something they saw on ‘Friends’ or ‘90210.’ If we don’t have it, we’ll get it in the store by the next week.”
Karen Erickson, an owner of the multiline Showroom Seven, said that the trends of the last few seasons, such as skin-baring tops and bias-cut pieces, will continue through fall.
“There will be some structure to the looks, but they will still be feminine,” she said. “There are lots of rich colors, like chocolate, berry and pomegranate.”
Her company is bringing such lines as Ghost, Amaya, Kyle Kennedy, Whistles and Betsey Johnson.
Nanette Lepore, who designs a contemporary sportswear line under her name, is bringing pointelle knit tops and skirts, bias-cut camisoles to go under chiffon blouses, stretch tweed pieces and styles with a slightly retro feeling, such as a curvy, fitted jacket with velvet applique on the darts.
“We’re going a little retro,” she said. Other more structured pieces have “an Eighties feeling, sort of Mugler in spirit,” with detailing coming from darts. Lepore said the company is also doing boned corsets.
“We’re doing feminine, sexy looks in interesting fabrics,” said Lepore. “We want to offer stores some items, but still have the suit looks stores expect from us.”
Fabrics include stretch tweed, chiffon, Ultrasuede and velvet, in colors such as garnet, chocolate and copper.
Three Belgian sportswear lines — Gigue, Ingrid van de Wiele, and Neuf Sans Neuf — are expected to be drawing cards at the show, since stores are looking for new labels, according to Martine Julien, who represents the lines in theU.S.
“I like the American market. [Retailers] are open-minded, and they do get excited about new names,” she said. “Stores want diversity in merchandise.”
Gigue’s wool dresses and coats — worn separately or as an ensemble — should be popular for fall, Julien said. Wholesale prices range from $90 to $250 for the 200-piece line, which is 30 percent larger than last year.
“The majority of people don’t like to wear trendy designers,” she said. “Our clientele wants a very complete look — classic sportswear that can be worn for years.”
Dresses and coats are also key components of van de Wiele’s fall line, which is more avant-garde than Gigue, Julien said. Wool or cashmere are key fabrics in the 100-piece line. Wholesale prices start at $160 for pants and run to $600 for coats.
Van de Wiele’s secondary line, Neuf Sans Neuf, is aimed at younger customers — many of whom are price-conscious. The 125-piece collection wholesales from $100 for wool pants to $250 for long wool dresses. For fall, dark green, purple and brown should be key, she said.
“Women are spending more cautiously. They don’t spend money without a good reason,” Julian said.