STORES SEEK DRESSES, SEXY LOOKS

Byline: Sharon Edelson / With contributions from Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — For three days starting on Sept. 27, about 6,000 buyers from all over the world will walk up and down the Chelsea Piers browsing 400 exhibits for the new and unusual at the Fashion Coterie show.
Several buyers said their wish lists for spring include sexy dresses, high V-neck sweaters, flat-front pants in fluid fabrics and simple-but-elegant evening dresses.
Linda Dresner, the owner of two eponymous stores, on Park Avenue here and in Birmingham, Mich., said her “reason for going to [Coterie] is to look for any new small collection or accessory. We scout the entire show for resources. Last time we found some obscure T-shirt lines that were good for us.”
For spring, Dresner hopes to find “great-fitting pants with some stretch, wonderful luxe sweaters and simple balmacaan lightweight cotton raincoats.
“Our look is rather classic, but interesting,” she said. Pants that are narrow or fuller at the leg and have no pleats will be the silhouette of the season, she said, noting, “The most important thing is that it doesn’t have a crease in the front.”
In terms of dress lengths, it’s still a mix, Dresner said, adding, “We’re still selling long clothes. Our search is for easy clothes that have a particular personality. If we could find more sports-style jackets in gabardine cotton or cotton stretch, I’d be happy.’
The search is also on for eveningwear.
“We’re selling eveningwear very well again,” Dresner said. “We would be delighted to find some simple evening dresses that are sexy but elegant in double chiffon or silk. That’s where we could really fall in love with something that’s embroidered or very special. Beading still looks good, and we’ve been selling beading and lace very well this season.”
Henri Bendel will be shopping the Coterie for “modern yet long-lasting styles, fashion with a classic edge,” said Angela Ahrendts, vice president and general merchandise manager.
“We are no longer looking for trendy merchandise,” Ahrendts continued. “We’re looking for modern styling, new fabrics and fresh details.”
According to Ahrendts, “There’s a big question about what’s going on in prints next year, especially as pertains to second-quarter dress business.”
As a result, Ahrendts said, “Bendel’s will be looking to the Coterie to see where dresses are going and for the outlook for soft, matte jersey dressing, which was so big this past year.”
The Coterie draws a lot of “good designers from Los Angeles, which is important for the summer piece of it,” the Bendel’s executive noted.
Like its counterparts, Bendel’s will be keeping an eye out for new talent, as well as figuring out, said Ahrendts, “how to connect the dots with existing vendors like Vivienne Tam and Joseph to boost our business.”
“Dresses will be important in the spring,” said Stacey Albert, who operates a buying office here. “To me, everything is becoming more sexy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s long or it’s short. I’m into cleavage lately. When you watch Melrose Place, all you see is cleavage. Dresses have to have a sexiness to them. I’m looking for a flirty dress with side slits.”
Sweaters continue to be a strong trend, and Albert is also hoping to find some in new shapes.
“Last year, it was mock turtlenecks, and this year it’s high V-necks,” she said, adding that she’s also interested in “things that have some kind of Lurex in them.”
Last year, the pants of the moment were boot-leg in a fabric with some stretch.
This season, the pants to watch have a flat front and may or may not have a boot-leg cut, Albert said, adding, “it’s in a fluid fabric. It can be put together with a sexy, fluid sweater.”
Skirts look right at any length, she said, including the A-line. Interesting fabrics are an important development, especially dip-dyed or ombre effect, which starts at the top of the garment in one color and changes in gradations until it reaches the bottom.
Albert is also seeking apparel with an ethnic flavor, decorated with sequins, beading and embroidery.
“In terms of strong trends, the Coterie is not such a cutting-edge show, but it’s one of the shows I like the most,” she explained. “My Asian clients are looking for strong young brands, such as Onyx.”
Albert’s largest client is an Asian retailer and distributor called Bluebell, with stores in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. The company distributes Blue Marine and Moschino and has a joint venture with Louis Vuitton, Albert said.
Theresa Fulhorst, assistant buyer for The New York Look, with six stores in Manhattan, said the company buys about 80 different lines a season.
“What seems to be doing very well for us that a lot of people need is underpinnings for suits,” she said. “What we find at the Coterie is tops and romantic dresses. We found some interesting beaded pieces last season, and we buy a lot of scarves.
“I like to look at the Coterie for the colors and the prints,” she added. “We definitely bring in new vendors and have always given them a chance. Recently, we picked up a company called Lola and have done very well with it.”
For spring, all shades of blue will be important, as will celadon, Fulhorst said.
“People tend to buy more color, with the economy being what it is,” she said. “We did very well with color last spring. One of the last things we have left for fall is black, which is funny because the New Yorker buys black. I was looking at our sell-through, and the black has been sitting longer. We even brought in some pastel colors for fall, and they sold out.”
Fulhorst’s explanation: “Everybody has a black suit. When they go to shop, they’re going to buy things that are fresh looking.”
“I want to discover people at that show,” said Vickie Ross, whose buying agency shops for Hirschliefer’s in Manhasset and Japanese clients. “I don’t want it 100 percent discovery, but I do want 15 percent discovery.
“Japan loves all the cutting-edge designers,” she said. “I buy gold embroidered Indian shawls and saris for Hirschliefer’s, as well as cashmere ready-to-wear and shawls. In order to make these stores special, they need the individual item and new person that’s coming up.
“We’re the kind of fashion consultants that look for the newest,” she added. “We’re always chasing around town to TriBeCa and the Lower East Side to find people. We would like our trade shows to be developing those people as much as Mephisto, or Parallel.”
Ross said she hopes Coterie can maintain its edge.
“It’s a very well-done show, that’s beautifully presented and one of our classiest of venues,” she said.

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