SNOW TIME, SHOW TIME
WHILE THE SNOW WAS PILING UP, RETAILERS AND VENDORS WENT ABOUT THEIR BUSINESS AS FIVE APPAREL TRADE SHOWS HELD FORTH HERE THIS WEEK. HERE AND ON PAGE 16, A REPORT ON WHAT AND HOW THE STORES WERE BUYING.
Byline: Janet Ozzard
NEW YORK — Retailers walking the StyleWorks show at the Hotel Inter-Continental here were looking for new takes on successful trends.
Citing an overdose of tight, skimpy, stretchy or shiny clothes, stores said that simple shapes such as slim pants or loose dresses and newness in the form of details and small embellishment will entice customers to buy.
StyleWork’s seventh edition ended its three-day run Tuesday.
Despite the record snowfall of Sunday and Monday here, there was plenty of traffic at the show. One vendor said she’d had her “best first day ever” on Sunday, while another said on Monday that she’d been writing orders steadily all morning.
“I would have to believe that traffic is down slightly, but we’ve been busy all day,” said Debra LaChance, creative director of the show, Monday afternoon. There were 200 rooms in the show, with about 500 lines represented.
Buyers, who were looking for immediate and summer goods, said fresh approaches to proven sellers were tops on their lists.
“We’re really looking for new direction, and there’s too much skimpy, trendy and shiny,” said Debbie Barger, a buyer for Alexandra’s in Ann Arbor, Mich. “We’ve only spent 30 percent of what we’d planned to spend this season.”
Barger said that there’s been no price resistance from her customers as long as the look is right. That’s been particularly true for apparel that appeals to an older consumer.
“After all, it’s the matron who has the money to spend, not the trendy young girl,” she said.
But although buyers were interested in writing orders, all said they are looking to move away from the younger trends that are dominating the market — including tight looks, skimpy tops and shiny pieces — toward more casual, easy pieces that have some new detailing.
“We’re tired of markdowns, so we’ve made the decision not to follow trends,” said Lorre Tucker, an owner of Expression in Burlington, Vt., who was shopping the show with her partner Judy Heller. “We’re going toward relaxed clothing that’s easy to wear and that will work with things the customer already has.”
That includes dresses and “unusual tops and skirts,” said Tucker.
Stacy Pecor was starting to shop the show on Monday for her new store, Olive & Bette’s, on Columbus Avenue here.
She was looking for items that would work with her casual core lines. Pecor said she was avoiding sportswear collections to focus on fashions that would appeal to “the hip mother and the hip daughter.”
“Department stores are full of structured sportswear, so we don’t offer any,” she said, noting that she’d written already written order for Easel, a line of contemporary separates and sweaters.
Despite the generally dire state of retail, Pecor said she’d had an “excellent” December, noting that her store opened on Dec. 5.
“We’re right across the street from Charivari,” she said, referring to the designer boutique’s unit on Columbus Avenue. “People coming in are interested in fashion. Maybe they just bought something expensive at Charivari and they want to add a printed polyester blouse or a new sweater, but they don’t want to spend a lot.”
Elizabeth Western, an owner of Chameleon in Bradenton, Fla., and Alison Knowles, owner of Cali’s Cottons in Traverse City, Mich., were getting ready to write orders for Wednesday’s Child, a line of loose, pastel rayon dresses at Metromodes, a multiline showroom.
“We try to stay away from trends,” said Western. “I’m looking for easy-to-wear, light floral dresses. We’re a boutique, so we tend to do well with more feminine looks that you won’t see at the mall.
“Butter seems to be the color of the season,” she added. “That, along with pastels, kiwi, melon — all those fruit colors.”
Western said her open-to-buy would be about the same as last year’s, stating: “I think people tend to buy more cautiously in an election year.”
Among the styles they liked were a layered rayon georgette dress with scallop cut-outs and a long bias-cut rayon seersucker dress in black and brown.
“We’re looking for things that have more detail and aren’t so mainstream,” said Knowles.
Vendors, meanwhile, said classic silhouettes were selling well. At Magaschoni, president Ellen Greenberg singled out matte jersey separates and the line’s new shirt group as popular looks.
“As we get closer to summer, stores are also getting more interested in the bamboo print and the jungle print,” she noted.
Bias-cut dresses in black gauze and simple shapes such as a shirt dress or shirt jacket in khaki, black, turquoise or orange matte jersey were booking, said Greenberg.
At the multiline showroom Muse Room, owner Rosemary Carlucci said body-skimming floral print dresses and sportswear items from Via Moda were the most popular looks.
Traffic was “definitely affected” by the blizzard, she noted, but said she hoped to make up the business during the last day of the show.