Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio and Janet Ozzard

NEW YORK — Retailers are heading for Fashion Coterie looking for hints of glamour to spice up their late summer and fall collections.
The show opens its three-day run on Feb. 26 at the The Plaza here. With more than 300 exhibitors on tap, the roster is slightly up from a year ago, according to a Coterie spokeswoman.
At this early stage of the buying schedule, retailers frequently point out that they are still formulating their plans, and they are eager to start getting some early reaction from their consumers on the season’s offerings. However, many agree that a new fitted fashion trend is clearly emerging, and they’re optimistic about a strong fall. They see such items as shaped jackets, sweater sets, and retro Forties styles as appropriate to the new mood.
“I’ve seen enough masculine-looking things; I am looking for femininity,” said Dana Hurowitz, owner and buyer of Scarboro, a women’s apparel store in Glencoe, Ill.
Hurowitz, who hasn’t confirmed appointments with contemporary resources yet, added that her budget is even against a year-ago.
“We want to test certain looks,” she said.
Among the items for which she’ll be hunting are short, belted jackets, sportswear-inspired dresses, sweater sets, the new length skirts and narrow pants. Important colors include gray, blues and blacks.
Penne Weidig, a senior buyer at Tootsies, Houston, said she is seeking riding pants and fitted jackets in colors such as taupe and winter white.
Weidig noted that her budget is flexible and said she is planning to raise her open-to-buy a bit.
“We’re not locked into anything,” said Weidig. “If we see something that we like, we’ll just buy it.”
Brenda Bedrick, vice president at Mel & Me, a Cranston, R.I.-based women’s specialty store, said that she has no set budget and is keeping an open mind when shopping fashion at the Coterie.
At the same time, Bedrick said she’ll be homing in on retro Forties looks, like the new length skirts and belted jackets. Other items include knit tops and charmeuse blouses, some oversized. “I’m not interested in leggings,” said Bedrick. Instead, she’ll be focusing on narrow wool pants with some Lycra spandex.
Some of the vendors with whom she’s scheduled appointments are Biella and TSE Cashmere.
“You go to see trends, to find new resources, to pick up items,” said Barbara Weiser, executive vice president of Charivari here. She said she’s already started writing some of her European designer lines and is looking for some American lines to complement them.
Meanwhile, designer and contemporary resources are gearing up for strong sales at this edition of the Coterie.
Stefani Greenfield, vice president of sales here at Esprit de Corp., will be bringing the Susie Tompkins dress and sportswear lines to the show for the third time. She’s looking to add 20 percent more business to her early fall bookings, although she said she’s also bringing some immediate goods.
“Specialty store accounts like to have some immediate because they aren’t booking as far in advance,” she said. “But that won’t be the focus; we’re really showing early fall and transition.”
More fitted looks that are part of the glamour trend are replacing soft dressing, Greenfield said. Key trends that have emerged for her lines are long bias-cut skirts and dresses and knit dressing, such as a knit dress and cardigan.
“I think everyone will be looking for dresses to retail from $118 to $168,” she said. “Those are the magic numbers. Knits are also expected to continue as an important dimension in the fitted picture. Antonio Campbell, creative director at Colin Baer, a contemporary resource, noted that the firm has expanded its sweater offerings for fall and he looks for a “really good show.”
Some other key trends getting a play in the line include fitted jackets and skirts, which run the gamut from flippy to straight.
“I think what is going to be important is the mixing of fabrics, like corduroys and flannels,” he said. He also believes that knee length will gain more followers.
“I am expecting traffic to be up over last year,” said Ellen Greenberg, president of Magaschoni Apparel Group, a contemporary resource here. Greenberg,, too, feels that knitwear will be strong. “The climate is turning, and I think that customers are going to look for newness.”
Lilli Hamrah, owner and buyer at Hamrah, a designer boutique in Cresskill, N.J., noted that her open-to-buy budget was up 20 percent for the Coterie compared with last year.
“I’m looking for special items — items that can’t be found all over department stores,” she said. Shaped jackets and lean-cut trousers in wool gabardine are among the looks on her shopping list. While she predicts color will be important for fall, she said she will still buy black.
Because of lackluster reaction to the New Length, Hamrah said she is sticking to hemlines that hit right above the knee. “Our customer just felt they look too dowdy,” she said.
Ellen Gradwohl, buyer at Charles Sumner, a women’s boutique in Boston, noted that her budget is up by 10 percent for the Coterie compared with last year.
“I am looking for novelty tops, like blouses, vests and shaped jackets, items that will mix well with designer collections,” she said.