Byline: Julee Greenberg / Leonard McCants

NEW YORK — This season’s round of ready-to-wear trade shows in Manhattan showed no signs of the economic uneasiness that’s permeated the airwaves and financial circles in recent months.
The pace of ordering on fall rtw was brisk and attendance was strong at the Designers at the Essex House, American International Designers at the Waldorf-Astoria and Workshop NY, which ended their four-day runs Feb. 20.
Some buyers indicated that consumers are apt to purchase clothing even during an economic downturn if it is something they have to have.
“Customers will buy what they need when they need it,” said Maxine Rizik, owner of Rizik Bros. in Washington. “And they don’t buy a year in advance. But you have to be ready for them.”
Rizik said she came to the Essex House last week in search for basic clothing but will place most of her fall orders in April, which is closer to the selling season.
Added Susan Schwartz, owner of Sophy Curson boutiques in Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., “April is much better for me because I’m not ready to buy fall. I live in a city where the consumer buys closer to the season.”
Barry Bly, president at Marisa Minicucci, a Toronto-based sportswear company, said business was “nonstop” at the Essex House. Bly said he decided to come to the show a week earlier to see more stores.
Bly said that since the show at the Essex House has been continuously successful for the business, he doesn’t believe it is necessary to open a showroom in New York.
“We come to this show and have between 40 and 45 trunk shows a season,” he said. “That works for us.”
As far as the trends at Essex House are concerned, brown was predominant and tailored styles were seen growing in popularity.
“I am selling just about everything in the brown family,” said Ina Sherman, owner and president of Sansappelle, a Chicago-based social occasion company showing at the Essex House, noting that everything from brown tweed suits with leather details to brown and gold chiffon evening gowns was selling.
Sherman said buyers were picking up items with less embellishments, so that the customer can wear her own jewelry of choice. While evening gowns are the company specialty, evening separates are doing better than ever, she said.
At Gene Roye, a Los Angeles-based resource, “Brown is the color of the season,” said Lisa Roye, vice president. “I have so many colors and they all want brown.”
In the category inspired by men’s wear, tweed pants, skirts and jackets are selling for Marisa Minicucci, Bly said, while pinstriped suits are also doing well.
With fall being a major coat season, Bly said that fur trims were important, as are leathers and leather trims.
“We are moving in a direction of a more nontailored look for coats,” he said, pointing out a long brown fur-trimmed cape-sleeve coat.
Across town at the Waldorf Astoria, where 16 resources showed their wares, traffic was “quite busy,” said Carla Jumonville, one of the show organizers and principal with Linda Ward-Dalton in social occasion line San Carlin.
“The people who come in here are high-end, serious buyers,” she said. “There are not that many stores of that caliber left in the United States.”
Marsha Posner, owner of JP Associates a buying office in New York that works with specialty stores like Martha’s in Palm Beach, Fla., and Saks Jandel in Washington, said her customers were searching for clothing without price considerations.
“If it looks the price they’ll go for it,” Posner said. “My stores are really looking for a taste level and not price. “
Jumonville and Ward-Dalton indicated the season was at least on target with last year, despite higher prices for their gowns this season because of more expensive materials like velvet, fur and intricate lace.
Wholesale prices for the collection range from $400 to $2,000.
Best-selling looks from the Denham Springs, La.-based resource included a muted coral A-line taffeta skirt with a beaded-lace, long-sleeve bodice; a gold, pleated-back taffeta skirt with beaded trim, and a cafe-colored, chantilly lace, long-sleeve gown with flower trim and a satin skirt.
Michael Casey reported traffic had been “consistently getting better” into the third day of the show. His fall eveningwear line was based on Iceland after he traveled there four times in the past eight months, where he is producing a knitwear collection.
The new line, to be called Chill, will also include a children’s wear element called Siggi & Hotti that bows during children’s market week early next month.
The new collections came to fruition he said because a client in his hometown of San Francisco bought a defunct Icelandic knitting factory and wanted a “new approach and someone with connections to the American market.”
After several trips to the island nation, he drew inspiration for his evening collection from Iceland’s customs and traditions like Celtic ornaments, ice, moss and frost.
The line features quilted velvet, fox, chinchilla and chantilly lace.
Rubin Singer brought a new collection called Singer to the Waldorf. Rubin Singer’s father, Alik, designed in Paris and New York in the Seventies.
The Singer collection features body-conscious, bias-cut silhouettes and consists of fur, eveningwear, coats, suits and separates. An accessories line is also available with shoes made in partnership with Jimmy Choo and hats made with Philip Tracey.
“It’s a young collection, but it also translates into a lot of different climates and markets,” Rubin Singer said. “The stuff I do is about personalities rather than the actual age of the client.”
The 27-year-old designer, who studied ballet, painting and architecture at schools in New York and Europe before entering Central Saint Martins in London, looks to celebrities like Bjork, Madonna and Grace Jones — women who appreciate young design and clothing that is out of the ordinary — as his muses.
Best-selling looks at the show, which, he said, did not meet his expectations in terms of traffic, were a brown wool boucle coat with flower-pedal collar, a wool and cashmere wrap dress and a black silk jacquard dress.
Workshop NY’s second edition packed The Space at Chelsea Market with more vendors than the debut show held last September. While buyers seemed interested in what the show had to offer last time, this time they came ready to write orders.
“This time it is much better,” said Hortensia de Hutton, who created the show. “We have seen some very good buyers and I think most of the designers” were pleased with the action.
Hutton noted that lines from the U.S. and Canada were featured, as well as collections from Iceland, Israel, Spain and France.
Kemi, a Milan-based company, came back for their second show in New York. Created by sisters Francesca and Michela Pastori, they were overwhelmed with orders and found themselves not having time for breaks between buyers. Now, their newest collection will be sold in many New York shops, as well as in Los Angeles, Seattle and Philadelphia.
Several firms chose the venue to launch their new lines or break into the U.S.
Among them was ELM Designs, a knitwear company based in Iceland, which reported strong ordering, and Gary Graham, who debuted his Brooklyn-based collection.
A former costume designer for shows on and off-Broadway, Graham’s first rtw collection is inspired by his costume designs, with an element of fantasy in them. They included a long dramatic tweed coat and an early 1900s-inspired dress.
“I use higher-end fabrics and treat them,” he said explaining his technique of dying, stretching and slashing them to create the look he wants.

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