Byline: Rebecca Kleinman

January market combines two themes: “Attack of the Killer Eighties — From Preppy to Punk,” and “Anything and Everything: It’s Not Just for Prints and Pants Anymore.” Basically, be prepared to witness every decade, color palette, accessory, neckline and sleeve, skirt and shorts length. Ironically, there will be less embellishment among this chaotic assortment, with the exception of sporadic Eighties’ influences like studs.
According to retailers, last year’s biggest trend, embellishment, is over. The “new” embellishment comes in the form of prints, belts and big, “ghetto-fabulous” jewelry. Prints are equally important for summer. But just because many versions are wild — Pucci, Op-Art, geometrics and digital — that doesn’t exclude misses’ customers.
For a more classic taste, there are good old-fashioned ginghams, Lilly Pulitzer-inspired tropical florals, dainty dots and the most conservative of stand-bys: plaid. Retailers expect to buy more printed bottoms, including shorts, mini and knee-length skirts, and capri and cropped pants. Colored bottoms, even denim, appear more exciting, too. Aside from pasty pastels, retailers report being open to a broad spectrum of colors. There’s even some mention of neons again, though many buyers are leery to take the Eighties’ resurgence that far. Though color remains the number one trend, neutrals are gaining attention once again, especially within knits.
Despite an item-driven market, retailers hope to find a variety of dresses from casual to cocktail. They can scrounge enough together while writing their tried-and-true separates lines, but would prefer companies that specialize in the category. Sleeves are a common request for more mature customers.
Accessories continue to be big, both literally and figuratively. Dangling with stuff is good, and the bigger the better. Big hoops evolve from plain, clean lines to serving as bases for baubles. Both costume and fine jewelry go geometric. Belts are back even stronger, in all sorts of styles including wovens, colored, metal, fabric, wide and thin.
Other summer must-haves are cool, breathable fabrics, novelty T-shirts in every neckline and sleeve style, and the most summery of items — straw hats and totes. It’s hard to believe retailers have any budget left over after buying all of spring’s trends and items, but some said open-to-buys are up.

Terry Farr, owner, Plumage, Beaufort, S.C.
“I really loaded up for spring, so except for accessories and fill-ins, I’m moving forward with summer. In accessories, I’m always looking for a good mix of scarves. I do well with the neckerchief look. I don’t know if shawls will be as big as in past seasons, but they’re great for sleeveless dresses. Jewelry isn’t as big as during fall and holiday, so I’ll concentrate more on novelty things and straw hats from Kaminski and Eric Javits.
“We always do well with neutrals and shots of color. Color never goes out. Being on the coast, people are in a resort mood. But I have to be cautious to find colors that flatter skin tones. For that reason, I stay away from pastels. I’ll do some brights and subdued tones, but no neon.
“Prints are so personal. Those will depend on what I see. I didn’t do a lot of the Pucci trend. My customer is more classic. Smaller prints do better and textures even more so, like this fall’s tweeds.
“I’d say fabric is more important than anything else. It must be breathable since it gets so hot here. We do lots of linen, but more of the washed than the crisp texture. Natural fibers do better. So do fabrics that travel well like Tencel and microfiber. Votre Nom’s version is great. It feels good on the skin.
“I’m doing the capri and cropped thing heavily again this year. They are the perfect answer for people who don’t want to wear shorts, but don’t want a long pant either. Dresses sell much better in the summer than fall since they’re cool and casual. Kiko has some nice ones in washed linen. Donna Morgan and Maggy London have cute, younger dresses. I tend to find more sleeveless, even though our customer would prefer sleeves. “Since my store focuses on sportswear, I don’t do any real suiting or structured clothing. I’ll look for novelty T-shirts and some soft ones from SO Blue, a division of Sigrid Olsen. My customer doesn’t want body conscious looks though. Denim doesn’t work either. Instead, I’ll write some colored Tencel, Votre Nom pants in a jean style. They’re a little dressier.
“My customer wants to look pulled together. She travels and is active in the community. She prefers casual social to cocktail wear. She also likes collars and sleeves, especially three-quarter for summer.
“In knits, I like Erik Stewart, Belford and Ballinger-Gold. My regular lines are Votre Nom, Canvasbacks, Sigrid Olsen, Eileen Fisher and Harve Benard’s private label.
“For accessories, I like Gay Boyer’s costume jewelry, because I can pick out the colors and lengths. Regency is classic, but not boring. Tim Philbin has a great showroom, and everything there is good. Echo scarves are good too. For summer, I mainly do raffia totes from my hat lines, but I’ll touch on novelty and leather looks from Perlina and Claudio Ferrici.
“My open-to-buy is up from last year.”

Donna Popwell, owner, Behind the Glass, Auburn, Ala.
“Being in a college town, summer’s not big. The university just switched from a quarter to a semester system, too, so everyone’s going to leave even earlier this year. I’ll focus on spring, but items need to be transitional. That way I can hold them over for next fall when the students return. It’s a tricky category because they won’t want spring-looking stuff, but it’s also too hot for fall clothes.
“Spring is big for us in general. Clothes are less expensive, which works well with that student budget. Color won’t be as bright as past seasons. Neutrals will be bigger in tops, paired with bottoms in subdued colors. Other strong looks are wrap and shirtdresses, both mini and knee-length skirts, prints, and denim in a variety of washes and treatments.
“I’m still seeing a lot of cropped pants. They were all we had last year, and we had an okay response. Shorts would be a nice change, but I never see them. People are looking for something else in pants. Right now, it looks like wider waistbands for belts and different styles, maybe some side slits.
“I also need T-shirts in lots of cuts and finishes. I have my basic lines like Michael Stars, Juicy, French Connection and Free People.
“Dresses used to be big for spring, but the companies I used to buy from have gotten away from the category. I can’t seem to find replacements. Skirts have really taken away from that business. A lot of styles I bought didn’t sell, but I’ll still look within my better-selling lines just in case.
“I missed out on the whole belt thing, but would still like to find some, maybe chains. In jewelry, big hoops, gold and lariats are strong. “For bags, we did a mix of the bowling bag trend, little hobo shapes, microfiber and novelty fabrics. Guess is probably my favorite. They’re well priced, on trend, good-looking, with the broadest range of styles, colors and fabrics. “My open-to-buy is up from last year because I had a good year.

Lynn Horseman, co-owner, Village, Augusta, Ga.
“This market is about summer, lots of color and items. So a bright T-shirt with a skirt or cropped jean is really important. My store is young and trendy. Trends usually reach us one market later than New York.
“Embellishment is totally over. People burned out on it. They’ve been replaced by prints and color. “I’ll dabble in the neon trend, but mainly focus on prints, which have taken off. Anything from the Seventies and Eighties influence, geometrics, Op-Art and heat transfers on T-shirts; I even wear those!
Everything is so flirty and feminine for a change. “There’s a ton of “Sex and the City” influences. Miniskirts are just one, and there are tons of adorable printed minis. Not everyone can wear them, though, so knee-length is still important.
“In pants, I’ll buy lots of capris and cropped again. We’re also doing colored jeans in sunkist orange and fuchsia. It’s scary those are coming back! We may touch on shorts, but people can go to the mall for their basic short.
“My customer doesn’t really look for dresses, even for prom. She’s more about items like a cute skirt from To The Max paired with a Michael Stars T-shirt. To The Max is an incredible line. It is our absolute number-one seller and retails so well. They have great shoes, too, that look more expensive but retail for $100. I am so tired of that generic Steve Madden look. Some of my other shoe lines are Chinese Laundry, On Your Feet and Max Studio, which also does to-die-for shoes.
“As for other accessories, I cannot sell a handbag. Even the baguette trend didn’t sell. But the other trends, like “Charlie Angel” sunglasses and “Sex and the City”-inspired big flowers, are selling. Turquoise and coral jewelry, and big hoops, especially gold, are good, too. I think hoops will continue, but with embellishment like beads. The bigger the earring, the better.
“My open-to-buy is about the same. The store’s been open for about nine months now.”

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