Byline: Alice Welsh

NEW YORK — Fall trends — including fitted jackets, dress and jacket combinations and the abundance of knitwear — helped fuel buyers’ optimism for the upcoming season as they shopped the Fashion Coterie here this week.
The three-day show closed Tuesday at The Plaza Hotel, with vendors generally reflecting the upbeat mood, well satisfied with traffic, especially on Sunday, when many showrooms were packed.
A number of retailers reported increases in open-to-buys, averaging 10 percent for fall, and said they were spending more because they were seeing looks they feel customers will want to add their wardrobes.
Reflecting this enthusiasm, specialty store retailer Barbara Lupo, an owner of Gary’s in Bellingham, Wash., said: “I think all the lines I carry look really strong and more interesting than ever. I am looking at closer-to-the-body shapes and a touch of retro suiting with a feminine side.”
Retro, the fashion buzz word of the moment, received mixed comments from retailers, however. Some are shying away from more literal interpretations, while others think the look is a necessary part of fall merchandise. “I think the move towards femininity and the retro influence is good for fashion,” said Sandra Masters, senior buyer for the Limited Stores. “These are looks that customers don’t already have in their closets, like the slimmer belted jacket, the jacket and dress combination, and the Prada-influenced looks in nylon.”
On a more cautious note, Masters added: “I’m seeing a lot of shine and satin here, and I don’t see it being received that well at retail, so that concerns me a little.”
One of the strongest categories throughout the show was knitwear, with retailers going for novelty yarns and a lot of texture. As for color, retailers and vendors noted, chocolate brown and charcoal may be replacing black at the top of the spectrum, while pastels continue to be big.
Some buyers were seeking immediate deliveries to fill in summer orders, but most were ready to leave orders for July 30 delivery.
Suzanne Timmins, director of designer sportswear for Holt Renfrew, based in Toronto, was among those looking for new knitwear lines. “I usually do a lot of Italian designer knitwear and English handknits, but I’m branching out for fall — looking for forward knitwear. I really liked Lianne Barnes and Duna’s handloomed sweaters.
“I’m also looking for some immediate deliveries to fill in canceled orders, especially in blouses. I found some great white shirts at Hoax Couture.”
Knits were also on the agenda for Elizabeth Bendls, an owner of Bendls in La Jolla, Calif. “The lightweight angoras from Gentry Portofino were perfect for us in black, white and pastels.
“I’m also interested in new suiting, not too retro, but tailored waist-length styles. I really liked the jackets from Zelda.” Tanya Doubleday, an owner of the Aubergine boutique in Portland, Ore., was looking for suiting, too, and was excited about Think Tank, a San Francisco-based company. “I think we will do a little of the retro suits for fall, but not too much, and I’m going for dark brown, charcoal and dark green.”
Lisa Spiva, an owner of Harry B’s in Nashville, Tenn., one of the several buyers who reported their open-to-buy up 10 percent, was on the hunt for dresses, slimmer silhouettes and knitwear. “I like the men’s wear fabrics I’m seeing, but in the more fitted feminine bodies,” said Spiva.
Lines that caught her attention included sportswear from Susan Lazar, Laundry, Chaiken & Capone and More Dash Than Cash; evening dresses from Neil Bieff; corsets from Cadolle, and Myrene de Premonville’s suits.
Despite all the structured looks out there, some retailers are looking for the softer side of sportswear. Sharon Muck, the owner of Sharon’s Apparel in Havertown, Pa., with an open-to-buy up 10 percent, wanted soft, unconstructed dressing, which she found at Eileen Fisher, especially styles in a wool crepe bouclA and washable velvet. As for outerwear, novelty was key. “With the weather being so off kilter this year, I’m looking for new silhouettes in new fabrications for fall to accentuate our private label pieces,” said Catherine Noon, the outerwear buyer for Barney’s New York.
“Our spring coat business has been strong, so I hope that’s indicative of fall and people will want to buy coats.”
Knitwear vendors were busy keeping up with the increased interest in their merchandise. At Beau Tricot, a stretch group in merino wool with Lycra spandex was reported hot, especially a fitted V-neck style for $70 and an 18-inch A-line skirt for $50. The best colors were chocolate brown and charcoal. Twinsets in silk were also winners at $59 for the cardigan and $39 for the short-sleeve sweater, according to Linda Trau, merchandiser for the line.
At Gispa, the bestsellers were an ice blue, zip-front, drawstring bottom jacket in wool and acrylic blend knit for $136 and a merino and acrylic blend knit black and white striped A-line dress for $99, according to D’Arcy Achziger, director of Spadafora USA, distributor of Gispa.
At Eileen Fisher, vice president Anne Kasper reported knits were also popular, especially a wool bouclA knit notch-collar jacket for $82 worn with knitted wool crepe pants for $44. An A-line dress for $62 and a mock turtleneck for $47 in the same wool crepe knit were also strong.
The black nylon outerwear pieces for immediate delivery were a big hit from Magaschoni’s MAG line. The bestseller was a short trench for $99, according to Cathi Golland, account executive. The nylon fitted jackets for fall were also being well received.