Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Dress and suit firms previewing their spring and summer collections at two hotel shows here last week said they’re riding the ready-to-wear revival as they plan for a plus season.
Buyers shopping the two shows — American International Designers at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which features 19 upscale rtw firms, and Designers at the Essex House, comprising 10 dress and suit lines — were upbeat about fall rtw business and came armed with open-to-buys ranging from even to substantially ahead of last year.
Vendors said bookings were strong over the two-week run of the shows, with silk evening gowns and cocktail suits among the top items.
Marcy Schwait, co-owner of Marcy G., a sportswear and eveningwear store in Cherry Hill, N.J., said she spent 10 percent more than she did last year, placing orders with Fathi Due Cashmere, Lily Samii, San Carlin, Patricia Rhodes and Becky Bisoulis.
Items that wholesale from $300 to $600 are “the biggest movers” in the store, she said, because customers want the better quality.
With fall business up 22 percent at Madelaine, a specialty shop in Bloomfield, Mich., Elaine Seltzer, owner, said her show budget was also up 10 percent. On her checklist were all sorts of dresses, from daytime to eveningwear.
Seltzer said she was buying from vendors such as Sansapelle, Mark Heister, Maria Minicucci, San Carlin and Darby Scott.
Lane Davis, designer and a partner in the Beverly Hills firm bearing her name, said she expected to double the number of orders placed during this market. Unlike previous Waldorf shows, a number of buyers called last week to schedule appointments instead of just dropping in, she said.
Specializing in tailored suits, Davis said bestsellers included lightweight wool gabardine double-breasted suits at $695 and a silk doupioni cropped jacket with palazzo pants at $500.
Shopping the Waldorf Show was Fran Vaz, owner of Marla P. Boutique, Greenville, N.Y., who was looking for short cocktail dresses and evening gowns. Vaz said her open-to-buy was also the same as last year’s.
Tom Jurka, buyer for Grace’s in Nashville, said he was particularly impressed with eveningwear designed by Darby Scott at the Essex House.
While fall sales were up over last year, Jurka said he was buying conservatively at the shows. Helga, which showed at the Essex show, and David Hayes at the Waldorf are key resources for the store, he said.
“There were very salable clothes in a lot of wonderful colors,” he said. “We’re getting away from the gimmicky looks of the lingerie business. I think we’re coming around to a lot of pretty clothes again.”
With twice as many appointments compared to the last show at the Essex House in August, Darby Scott was planning for a substantial gain, said designer Karen Darby Scott.
Scott said buyers showed no price resistance to a silk georgette asymmetrical tiered dress at $395, a four-ply silk evening gown with French Chantilly lace at $575, and a silk doupioni shirtdress at $325, even though these prices were up about 25 percent over last year.
With fall sales 30 percent ahead of last year’s, Sansappelle, a Chicago eveningwear house showing at the Essex House, was projecting a 10 percent increase for spring, said Frankie Welfeld, a consultant for the company.
At wholesale prices of $695 to $995, silk cocktail suits with lace embellishment and silk chiffon cocktail dresses were key items, she said.
“So far, this has been the strongest November market,” she said. “Stores are buying in greater depth and higher-priced items.”

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