Byline: Alice Welsh

NEW YORK — Buyers are gearing up to make those important fall trend decisions, and one of the first stops will be the New York Premier Collections, Feb. 26-28 at the Javits Center. For many retailers, the show week is their first look at fall, and they are looking for a lot — a new pants silhouette, interesting knits, feminine dresses, fitted jackets, color, dress and jacket combinations, textured looks and options in skirt lengths.
Many are gauging customers’ reactions to spring merchandise, which hit the selling floor this month, to help them make fall buying decisions.
Retailers reported that, so far, customers are responding to dresses, fitted jackets, belted looks and more feminine silhouettes in general. They noted the consumer seems receptive to the new looks, which should help open-to-buys once the stores get around to completing their fall inventory plans.
This fourth edition of the show features more than 400 exhibitors, a 20 percent increase over last season and a 60 percent increase over last year, according to Marshall Lester, president of New York Premier Collections.
International exhibitors make up about 15 to 20 percent of the show, said Lester. “The American element is becoming increasingly significant because the show is more established, but the European element is still an important part of the show.” (See related story, this page.)
Both elements are important to buyers looking for the latest looks anywhere they can find them.
“I use the show to help crystallize what I have in my mind about fall and to give me a preview of what I’ll be seeing in Europe,” said Carolyn Moss, fashion director of ready-to-wear at Macy’s East.
“I’ll be looking for a new pant, the next step in knits and any new directions in outerwear,” said Moss.
Trish Thompson, an owner of the Toby Lerner boutique in Philadelphia, is “looking for really pretty clothes that are easy to sell.
“I’m also looking for options in skirt lengths. I hope they won’t all be knee-length because not everyone is going to go for that.
“I want to find suits that aren’t really retro, but are more timeless than that. I don’t like the styles that look like someone copied them from old movies on television.
“I am very interested in textures for fall, like tweed and other fabrics with surface interest,” said Thompson.
Teresa Tymoski, vice president and merchandise manager of Henri Bendel, said, “We are waiting to see what the customer is responding to for spring before we make any decisions about fall. We try to keep an open mind.
“The customer is definitely responding to more polished looks such as shorter, shaped jackets, and we have been selling the New Length skirts. I’ll be interested in the new fall interpretation of that skirt.
“I think the dress will be very strong for fall — those with a retro feeling — but I’m not sure how it will evolve yet.
“The combination dress and jacket is getting a good response. It’s a finished look for day to dinner.
“I think color will be tremendous for fall, both pastels and brights. Women are starved for it; they’ve had enough of all those dark, dreary, deconstructed clothes,” said Tymoski.
Max Martinez, owner of two Max boutiques in Denver and Boulder, Colo., said he will be searching for styles that an older career customer can wear.
“We’ve had such a youthful season; I think there is a void in the career category. We want sophisticated feminine looks for women,” he said.
“We will do the retro suits, and I’m looking for new dress silhouettes that are fitted and sexy, but not too ‘out there.’
“Our customer won’t touch the New Length skirts, so I’ll be looking for options in skirt silhouettes.”
Even though his stores feature a lot of black, Martinez continued, “We will be in search of color this year. Our customers already own several black jackets.”
“The whole shape issue will be prominent for the fall season. More shaped looks are in all markets now, not just the designers,” said Sheila Kamensky, vice president and fashion director of Rich’s, based in Atlanta. “I think texture is very important for fall, and I’ll be looking for tweed, bouclé and marled yarns. “Color, both muted and brights, will play a significant role for fall. Pattern will be important, and I hope to see a lot of new colorations in plaids and more men’s wear stripings.
“The dress and jacket look and shaped dress silhouettes will be big issues, but the shorter, fitted jacket will be the fashion statement for fall,” said Kamensky.
Manufacturers agree with retailers about color — most are including it in their collections — and about texture. Textured fabrics include waffle crepe, mohair and cable-knit yarns. Feminine styles are prominent, as exhibitors display transitional and fall collections.
Italian designer Marina Spadafora will show several fall groups. One in black vinyl features vests, jeans and coats with fake fur trim, said Michela Mariotti, U.S. sales director for the collection. Another group is mohair and Lycra spandex in pastels; styles include a short, fitted jacket and an Empire-waist flared dress.
“In addition to her basic textured merino wool group, Marina is introducing a lighter hand of merino for warmer climates,” said Mariotti.
Knitwear designer Carole Wang will show several transition groups. One, in a cotton and rayon yarn, has daisy buttons and embroidery. Another group is in a novelty cotton yarn with handknit cable panels in front. Wang is featuring her signature silhouettes — a fit-and-flare jacket, a tunic with side slits and a cropped jacket. She will continue with chenille, but in stripes and plaids mixed together.
“I am really focusing on brights. They are doing very well at retail for me, so I’m continuing with them for fall,” said Wang.
Contemporary firm Definitive Clothing by Donna Degnan will show a retro-inspired group of patent leather belted jackets and vests and slim long and short skirts in a navy and cream waffle crepe. Accompanying the solids are coordinating styles in a Forties floral print. Degnan is featuring pedal-pushers and HotPants in all groups.
Another group is military and safari-inspired in black, beefy polyester with brass buttons and belt buckles.
“I’m doing a short jacket with a slight mandarin collar, a long peacoat-style jacket and a blouse-type jacket,” said Degnan.
“I’m getting a lot of retail on long 35-inch skirts, so I’m going forward with that for fall, in addition to a 16-inch-length flippy skirt.”
A black and gold metallic print sarong skirt, full pants and HotPants work with the solids, she said.