Byline: Miles Socha

TORONTO — Canadian vendors made out well, but the tiny contingent of U.S. firms was generally discouraged with results at the Mode Accessories show, Canada’s only major accessories event.
The three-day show, held here Jan. 29-31, drew 2,500 attendees and featured 81 exhibitors showing spring and summer merchandise. This edition marked the first time Mode Accessories had collaborated with Fashion Accessories Expo, a New York trade show, in a reciprocal arrangement designed to draw U.S. makers across the border and vice versa. In anticipation of the U.S. influx, show organizers cleared enough floor space for 100 FAE exhibitors, but only five showed up.
Among those from the U.S., most encountered considerable price resistance due to the weak Canadian dollar, as well as general caution among Canadian independent retailers.
“I’ve never been to a show where I haven’t sold anything,” said a frustrated Laura Gronewold, designer for L.C. Collectibles Jewelry Design of Grants Pass, Ore. “Once you go through the exchange rate, it’s horrible.”
Still, New York jewelry designer Michael Bromberg, who was not part of the FAE contingent, said he broke even and ended up writing several orders for upscale boutiques.
His primary goal in attending, Bromberg said, was to find a representative or distributor, and he noted that he had connected with one that looked promising.
As a whole, Canadian exhibitors seemed to fare much better. “We can’t really complain. We’ve done really good business,” said Gretchen Palmer, a salesperson for Renaissance Belt and Accessories Inc., Montreal, echoing a sentiment expressed by many of the Canadian firms.
Renaissance did best with patent, Lucite, pearlized metallic and braided denim belts, as well as skinny belts.
Buyers at the show were focusing on some of spring’s key items, with retro handbags, pearls and delicate earrings among them.
Handbags and purses, which were hot sellers for many last fall and through the holiday season, were also touted as particularly strong commodities. The key silhouette in bags seemed to be structured shapes, which fit with the ladylike trends that are expected to dominate in spring accessories and as ready-to-wear. Top picks in fabrications of the bags included shiny and metallic leathers as well as hot colors.
“Handbags are coming on strong,” noted Annette Nagler, owner of Creative Wardrobe, a boutique in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that features better women’s merchandise.
Nagler said she was betting that small, structured wallet-on-a-string purses, as well as structured bags in soft metallics and tote bags in see-through mesh, would be hot spring sellers for her.
She was also zooming in on colors such as pastel pink and blue, lime green, fuchsia and orange.
“If stores don’t have colorful things, they’re going to miss out,” she said emphatically. “You need all these new colors to put the sizzle in your store.”
A handful of first-time U.S. buyers in attendance included Diana Kincher-Fein, market fashion coordinator for New York-based Claire’s Boutiques Inc., a 1,200-unit chain with about 45 locations in Canada.
She said the show was much smaller than she had expected and offered no strongly directional merchandise that she could see.