EXECS’ OUTLOOK UPBEAT FOR SPRING
Byline: Wendy Hessen
NEW YORK — With snow melting and buyers emerging, accessories executives were feeling good about spring opportunities last week.
After the blizzard of market week cut into the buying action, buyers were catching up on their rounds last week, and vendors reported that a variety of trends and the return of simple clothes has set off a demand for novelty shapes, color and high quality, a demand that far outpaced concern about price for most retailers.
“Price just isn’t an issue anymore,” said Cynthia O’Connor, owner of the New York and Dallas accessories showrooms bearing her name. “Both stores and their customers are really keying into quality as their number one issue.”
O’Connor said that despite cancellations by nearly half of her firm’s scheduled appointments during the recent Accessorie Circuit show because of the storm, the retailers made up for it with a bang this week. Business in both showrooms has been so strong, she said, that she revised her spring season projections to double that of a year ago, based on the response to new items, strong trends and the resurgence in the jewelry market.
“Novelty is really where the business is today. We’ve done very well with cotton piquA, terry cloth and printed fabrics in all classifications, and anything with a little color is also doing really well,” she said.
On the retail end, Gail Pisano, senior vice president, general merchandise manager for accessories, Saks Fifth Avenue, agreed, saying, “We’re feeling pretty bullish about spring accessories after an exceptional fall and are continually searching out new resources that could work for us.”
Jewelry was a key classification for the stores, and Pisano pointed out the following collections as being particularly promising: Siman Tu, for his beautifully colored stones in either solids or combinations; Roberta Chiarella, for her unusually shaped stones, such as cushion cuts and baguettes; Maria Ferra’s frosted glass bracelets; Miguel Ases’s sterling silver with stones, and Dayne DuVall’s color combinations and unusual use of gold.
Pisano said a lot of newness even showed up in more established lines. Among them, she cited Robert Lee Morris’s smaller and more intricate jewelry, Darcy Creech’s hats with interchangeable brims, Kate Spade’s Lilly Pulitzer printed Bermuda bags and scarves from Susan Lazar and Maria Pinto.
Helen Welsh, senior vice president, general merchandise manager, Accessory Place, acknowledged that spring looks bright largely because “there is so much more to grasp this year compared to last year, and jewelry, by far the biggest category, is definitely on a much clearer track.”
Welsh cautioned that it will be very important to carefully schedule deliveries, especially for specialty stores. “A lot of trends in a small store can turn into a mess if they are not flowed correctly. Proper timing can be very impactful and support the looks in ready-to-wear,” she said.
“Most of our cancellations during market week made it in this week, and the rest have placed orders over the phone after receiving line lists and photos. We have a lot of requests for February deliveries,” said Roy Kean, an owner of the handbag showroom, Hart & Kean. Black and white color combinations and bags made from materials with shine have remained strong trends, he said, but there is also considerable interest in color.
“The bright tangerine, cobalt blue and candy-apple green colors from a combed cotton group by Mena attracted a lot of walk-in traffic as well,” Kean noted. Chocolate brown, which the showroom has in its Liz K., Pibra, Mena and Delfino lines, has also been a popular color in leather or other fabrications.
Still, the importance of January as a market varies from vendor to vendor.
“January is an intermediary market for me, since most of the major stores completed their spring buys during last November’s market,” said Lana Marks, owner and designer for the luxury accessories firm bearing her name. “We use January to finalize schedules for advertising and personal appearances, and some stores do add items to their planned assortments.”
For spring, Marks said stores are focused on shape — shoulder bags and saddle bags, often with her signature hardware or jeweled strap and tassels — and color, both bright and soft.