AS BOUTIQUE BOWS OUT, BUYERS UPBEAT

Byline: Melanie Kletter

NEW YORK — Retailers at the International Fashion Boutique Show were trying to forget about the sluggish fall and less-than-stellar holiday season in anticipation of a better year ahead.
With the resolution of the presidential situation, combined with the start of a new year and some fresh looks, buyers seemed to be in an upbeat mood as they shopped the show, which ended its three-day run at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan on Monday.
It looks to be the last Boutique show, as well. Starting with the May edition, the Boutique Show and Style Industrie will be combined in a new show format called Femme. The first edition is slated to run from May 6 to 8 at Javits, and will still be operated by Advanstar Communications, which put on the two shows and also counts WWDMAGIC among its productions.
Femme will be held three times a year and will be a completely different format from the existing two shows, said Camille Candella, marketing director for women’s for Magic International.
“We are upgrading the look of the show and remodeling it,” she said. “We are reevaluating every aspect of the show.”
Candella said her company decided to form Femme because there were too many shows a year, and Magic felt it “needed to come up with something new.”
She declined to cite many specifics about how the new show will be different except to say that booths will now have a hard wall booth format. She also noted that existing sections such as the Streetwear arena will be part of Femme.
Overall, retailers at Boutique were feeling more upbeat about business prospects for 2001.
“Christmas was OK, but January has been a good surprise,” said Eileen Pianka, owner of Splinters Boutique in Limerick, Pa. “People seem less afraid to buy, and I don’t have that much on sale.”
Topping her list at the show were novelty items such as wide pants and streetwear with a twist.
Matt Tercsak, owner of the Mystik store in Orlando, said he was on the hunt for clubwear and streetwear. Tercsak said sales this holiday were significantly lower than last year at his store, although he attributed his problems in part to the political drama in Florida, and said business seemed to be picking up.
“Holiday was definitely worse than last year, but I am here trying to find some new vendors,” he said.
Most of the buyers were scooping up apparel for immediate spring and early summer. While the big designers and larger companies are moving full swing into fall, most junior companies are still concentrating on spring and summer, preferring to stay close to trends at retail.
Wendy Red, fashion director at the Washington, D.C.-based chain Up Against The Wall, was scouting for denim and T-shirts.
“I am also looking for geometric prints, especially red, white and black,” said Red, who was shopping at the Azzure Denim booth. “Also, dresses are making a comeback. I haven’t sold a dress in four years, but they are going to be hot. I am looking for T-shirt dress styles and dresses that button up the front.”
Vendors at the show said their most sought after items included floral prints and T-shirts, especially ones with provocative sayings such as “sinner” and “vixen.” Nearly every vendor had some take on T-shirts, which have become a hot fashion trend again and are found in nearly every imaginable shape and style.
Denim also continues to be a big draw, especially styles with novelty treatments and hip-hugger, low-waist cuts. Vendors are also dressing up their jeans with studs, metallic prints and new washes and treatments.
Dresses are also making a comeback in the junior market, and were seen in a variety of interpretations at the show, especially in printed and floral looks. Other key styles included camouflage prints, tropical looks, sherbet colors, updated geometrics, polkadots and sequined embellishments.
Syrup, a four-year-old young contemporary firm based in Los Angeles, saw strong bookings of T-shirts.
“By far, T-shirts are the best thing I had at the show,” said president David White, who noted that his two best logo Ts said “Bombshell” and “Poison.” “We are doing more tops than ever before.”
Also booking well were tied-dyed tops and floral fabrics, including florals on a pleated fabric.
Ace Ross Studio, the company formed recently by the former head of One Clothing, made its debut at Boutique. The business includes three lines: Ace Ross Studio, a core junior line; Oboe, which targets older teens, and Seraph, a more sophisticated line. The offerings include a wide range of apparel, such as basic Ts, sleepwear, bottoms and dresses.
“We have seen a strong reception to the line,” Ross told WWD.
With wholesale prices ranging from $2 to $30, the lines are being targeted to specialty and department stores, Ross said.
Another new firm was Withitgirl, a San Francisco-based firm that aspires to be a lifestyle network for young women interested in extreme sports, such as skateboarding and snowboarding. The company’s Web site at withitgirl.com went live Nov. 15 and targets teenage girls. It is also involved in off-line activities by sponsoring events, contests and extreme sports athletes.
On the fashion front, the firm is sponsoring three designers, whose looks will eventually be sold on the site, and are also available for wholesale distribution. Among the company’s offerings were graphic T-shirts, sleepwear and corduroy pants carrying labels Pamela Buss, Buka, and Spike and Jeff.
The Streetwear section of Boutique, which includes edgier brands and plenty of nose rings, purple hair and gothic clothing, was separated from the rest of the show in a format many vendors found confusing.
Guest List Wear, a firm that bowed about a year ago, was in this area and had a number of takes on denim, including stretch jeans with a splatter paint design; short shorts and a cut-out pattern, said design director Deborah Hunter. Camouflage bottoms booked well, she noted.
While many companies were zeroing in on spring fabrics and lighter-weight offerings, some were carrying on with fabrics normally associated with cooler temperatures.
B. Lucid, a better junior firm focusing on leather and suede sportswear, saw interest in its printed suede offerings. President Steven Zellman said leather and suede sales have been strong for a while now, and more women are wearing them year-round.

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