Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — Exhibitors have been keeping busy at the New York Premier Collections, with buyers hunting for shaped jackets, new textured knits, color and various hemline options.
With many retailers bemoaning lackluster sales this past year, buyers said that they were looking for novelty items or anything else that would give their customer a reason to buy. Some retailers were just testing the waters, hoping to get some ideas for fall merchandising. The three-day show, which closes today at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and features 400 exhibitors, is offering a wide range of looks, from funky club clothes such as shiny Lycra spandex blend T-shirts by London-based Red or Dead, to the traditional textured alpaca sweaters of Kim & Kelly. Waterproof stretch jackets and short coats are another idea getting attention and being shown by such vendors as Ev & Al and Paris-based Samy Chalon.
This fourth edition of the show marks the last time it will be run under Blenheim Group USA, the U.S. division of London-based Blenheim Group PLC, a worldwide producer of trade shows.
As reported, two Blenheim executives, Marshall Lester and Paul O’Reilly, have acquired the Premier Collections show, as well as the International Jeanswear & Sportswear trade show, from Blenheim and formed the International Fashion Shows to continue producing them.
Lester reported that attendance was up 20 percent on the first day, compared with the first day of the last Premier show, and he expected Monday figures to show an increase of about 15 percent.
Retailers also were leaving paper, many vendors agreed, adding that they expected to see gains of up to 25 percent over last season.
Although buyers had varied ideas about what would draw the customers in, many were counting on shape and color to turn their businesses around.
“The fashion atmosphere is still a little safe, but I am counting on the shaped jackets and new colors like olives and earth tones to really boost business,” said Terri Deutsch, buyer at Joe Brand, a women’s and men’s clothing store based in Laredo, Tex., adding that her business, which is located right near the border of Mexico, has been hurt by the peso devaluation.
“My business has been pretty soft. The trends over the past 18 months have been pretty boring, but I believe that shape and all that new color in the marketplace will add a little more excitement,” said Judy Prizante of Karen, Of Course, a women’s clothing boutique in Louisville, Ky., who was looking for fall merchandise as well as immediate buying for the Kentucky Derby season.
Some of her picks included suits from the yellow and black group from Mondi, buttercup color suits from Kathyrn Dianos and angora sweaters from Victoria Watson Ltd.
“Romantic, sexy looks, lots of draped skirts” were high on the shopping list of Cheryl Panes, owner of Cheryl & Dave’s, a funky clothing store in Livingston, N.J. She was examining the draped skirts and jackets with velvet collars at Lilith, one of the vendors in the show’s Atmosphere group, comprising 17 European cutting-edge firms brought together by the Atmosphere trade show in Paris.
Joanne Roaman, owner of JSR Buying, a buying office here servicing about 25 specialty store clients like Bloomers, Hilton Head, S.C., was drawn to “newness in fabric and retro Forties looks.” She liked the New Length as well as 19-to-21-inch skirts and also cited as winners the shaped jackets from Frances & Rita.
Roaman was shopping the show’s sizable contingent of about 150 young designer firms, a 35 percent increase over the last edition. As buyers are going out less to the market, many young designer firms are turning more to trade shows to boost business, said Lester. Another expanded category was the Canadian Mode, which featured about 36 firms, a 30 percent increase over the last show. Many of them were counting on the favorable exchange rate to crack into the American market. In all, international exhibitors accounted for about 20 percent of the show. Among the newcomers to the show’s exhibitor roster were Nicole Miller, which reported such bestsellers as black and ivory crepe dresses with satin basketweave trim at $200 wholesale, and contemporary firm Misc., which was touting its new young designer line, Janet Howard, which is more structured than the Misc. line. Bestsellers at Howard were $220 pinstripe jackets with glass buttons and $135 white stretched cotton fitted shirts with French cuffs, according to the designer Howard.