BETTING ON ‘EVITA’

Byline: Karen Parr

NEW YORK — If “Evita” lives up to its advance ballyhoo and really scores a fashion coup, accessories could be a big winner.
While ready-to-wear makers have high hopes that the movie, starring Madonna, will inspire consumers to rush into stores in the traditionally sluggish post-Christmas period to add to their wardrobes, accessories departments and vendors are ready to get their share of action from the film, which opens in January in most of the country.
Vendors in particular say that accessories may even be the pacesetter for the trend, giving many women a way to get into the look affordably — without investing in a complete ensemble. Furthermore, the “Evita” looks fit in with the bold, glamorous trend now gathering momentum in accessories.
Several costume jewelry collections — Carolee, R.J. Graziano and Christian Dior among them — are reviving Eva Peron’s grand style, with lines of bold pieces chock full of the pearl or colored stone looks favored by the Argentine legend. And retailers are receptive.
“We think ‘Evita’ will translate to a higher level of sophistication — cleaner looks, more classic looks,” said Larissa Sygida, vice president of accessories and handbags at Macy’s East.
“What is very successful right now is our evening category, that glamour and elegance, with velvet neck pieces such as shawls, wraps and stoles,” she said. “With the movie opening, I hope that might strengthen what is already a good volume classification.”
Other looks include short-shouldered handbags and polished leather belts with clean hardware. Sygida said Macy’s is not tagging anything specifically as “Evita.”
“It’s more of an image,” she said. “The interpretation is elegant, sophisticated and classic, and we have that covered in better merchandise.”
At Macy’s West, Denise Filchner, fashion director for shoes, accessories and intimate apparel, said the trend will hit in January and will probably peak in March. She predicts a twofold effect with jewelry: a return to estate looks, with spray pins, button earrings and important necklaces, and a feeling of “Miami brights,” with hoop earrings, wrist bangles and dog collar necklaces in colored crystal beads.
“One is true to Eva Peron and the other has a Nineties twist to it,” she said.
“Christian Dior was the couturier of Eva Peron’s choice, and he did jewelry also,” Filchner said. Dior jewelry has shown the store some of the originals the designer did, and the jewelry firm is “bringing those back, the feel of estate, but contemporary, rather than vintage.”
She said the neck pieces will be tight-fitting in order to avoid competition with the ready-to-wear looks of ruffles and folds on the bodice.
Filchner said there will also be an importance in hair combs and clips in brights, mid-tones and opalescent finishes, as well as crocheted and nude hosiery and delicate, hand-held bags.
Gail Brail, accessories buyer for the Florida division of Jacobson Stores, said she is not necessarily buying pieces labeled as “Evita”-inspired, nor will there likely be in-store “Evita” signage.
But she will support the look of the “glamorous, opulent and fun” pieces Eva Peron wore.
“It’s going to be a feeling that’s going to generate business, like the Jackie O auction did,” Brail said.
Brail noted that the movie’s national January release date is awkward, though, for Florida retail.
“We’re ready to go into serious cruisewear in December, with a lot of color, citrus brights, blues and greens,” she said. “But if something’s very important with ‘Evita,’ I will pick it up and carry it in my dressy category going forward.”
Brail said she would wait until around the release date of the movie for such deliveries.
Helen Collinge, assistant jewelry buyer for 12-unit Canadian specialty store Holt Renfrew, is anticipating business.
“I have heard in the industry that it’s going to be a trend, and I’m looking to support it here in Canada,” Collinge said.
Collinge noted that the Jackie O jewelry trend sparked by the auction had a simultaneous effect in Canada and in the U.S. She feels “Evita” will be similar.
“Jewelry is getting bigger and bolder, which is part of the trend,” Collinge said. “But most of it is the romance of jewelry that belonged to a famous person.”
Collinge said the store has bought all of what it will carry for holiday and will look at a January delivery for any specific “Evita” styles.
The film breaks on Christmas Day in New York and Los Angeles, but on Jan. 10 in other areas. Should there be any interest in the looks before the film breaks, Collinge said her stores already have Dior jewelry on hand that “fits the bill.”
As reported, Bloomingdale’s is hoping to get a jump on the “Evita” trend and will open its shops on Dec. 2 in its units here, and shortly thereafter in Boca Raton, Fla., Chicago, Boston and in all four California stores.
The department store is banking on accessories, which will account for about 60 percent of the assortment, according to fashion director Kal Ruttenstein. Offerings include jewelry by Carolee, belts by R.J. Graziano, handbags from Jill Stuart and Nicole Miller, sunglasses from Color in Optics, hats by Deborah Rhodes, shoes by Ferragamo and hair accessories from Cejon.
“It’s Christmas, and that’s when stores sell a lot of accessories,” Ruttenstein said of the decision to carry more accessories than other classifications.
He said the in-store boutiques are scheduled to be taken out Jan. 10, but pointed out that this is entirely flexible. He noted that Bloomingdale’s “Rent” boutiques are still kicking, despite an initial forecast of one month after the May opening at the New York flagship.
Among suppliers, Carolee Friedlander, president of Carolee, noted, “The accessories are key, because Evita did understand what accessories could do.
“The little fitted suit was one element,” she said. “But when she added the finishing touches, it gave her a polished look — which was what she was trying to do, poor thing, coming from nothing.”
Friedlander’s 20-piece collection wholesales from $20 to $38 and includes key pieces such as the five-row graduated pearl necklace, similar to the one Madonna wears in the film and one that Eva Peron had been photographed in.
The Christian Dior line, produced under license by GrossA Jewels, was not created specifically for “Evita,” according to John Kleinschmidt, director of Marketing for Christian Dior Jewelry.
“It’s not Johnny-come-lately styles created to simulate the real Dior styles worn by the first lady,” he said. Rather, he said that they identified styles in the line that “are very similar to the styles worn by the Argentine first lady.”
Such styles, many with European crystals placed in rhodium-plated settings, will wholesale from $23 to $540.
Richard Graziano, president of R.J. Graziano, noted that in addition to the belts his firm is doing for Bloomingdale’s, it has also introduced for the general trade a jewelry group called Evita Eternal.
It includes brooches, earrings and bracelets set with crystals and faux rubies and sapphires in rhodium-plated and 14-karat goldplated settings. The line wholesales for $20 to $70 and will be sold in department and specialty stores as well as through his show on the Home Shopping Network.
Graziano said he interpreted the Eva Peron look by examining photos of the legendary figure, but acknowledged that Madonna’s star power will be what drives many consumers.
“It’s about Madonna, about her looking glamorous and grown up,” he said. “She’s a saint now, and we all want to see the new saint. It’s a far cry from ‘Desperately Seeking Susan,’ with her as the gum-chewing, torn-stockings slut.”

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