Byline: Wendy Hessen

Trust accessories makers to keep an optimistic outlook. Sure, there has been plenty of talk about the softening economy, and retailers are weighing in with reports that holiday sales were less than stellar. Still, many vendors remain confident that even if the most dour of predictions comes to pass, accessories will be one of the few categories that will continue to attract consumers.
“I think many in the U.S. market are waiting to see what President-elect Bush will do in terms of the economy,” said Timmy Woods, owner of the handbag firm Timmy Woods Beverly Hills. “As long as he can maintain some sort of stability, [accessories will be fine.] Naturally, I’m a bit apprehensive, but am still optimistic about the future. Many of us have had a good fall, so stores still need to refill.”
In a continuation of what has been a prevailing aspect of the market for several seasons, color will be evident in a dramatic spectrum. Beyond the usual seasonal assortments of straws and fabrics, leather also is expected to play a bigger role than ever for spring-summer 2001, gathering steam from its current hot status in both apparel and accessories. Top off the mix with a few new items and there should be plenty for retailers to choose from. The following are some highlights:

Whether it’s sun-drenched brights, soft, feminine pastels or pearlized metallics, color remains a dominant force for accessories. The San Francisco-based jewelry firm Kenny Ma will focus on brightly hued combinations of Austrian crystal for larger, more dramatic pieces, according to Alexandria Wong, a customer relations manager.
She pointed to pairings of orange and fuchsia or purple and pink as key duos, as well as lime green with capri blue. “Color is a nice offset to all the black-and-white clothing we’ve seen,” Wong said. The colorful crystals will be crafted into anklets, bracelets, hair pins, medium-size drop earrings, and button covers, which the firm is reintroducing after a few years’ absence.

Jan Michaels, another San Francisco firm, is looking to the sea for its color cue. Oceania is a collection that, not surprisingly, taps into a wide range of blues and greens rendered in semiprecious stones set in antique brass. According to Katrine Thomas, sales manager, the firm will use lapis, green aventurine, turquoise and sea foam-colored quartz in the line, which includes drop earrings, longer, toggle-closure necklaces and bold cuffs.

Barse & Co. sets its two dominant color themes against sterling silver.
According to Jenny Williams, marketing director: “Our biggest spring offering will be a pearl and sterling group that concentrates on white, lavender and pink freshwater pearls accented by clear crystal and labradorite.”
Mosaics are the inspiration for a second collection that combines turquoise, pink agate, bright green gaspeite and lavender agate in a geometric pattern, Williams said, adding that the firm always includes some pieces in turquoise for spring and this year will offer some casual styles featuring nugget-sized chunks of the stone.

“Croc looks in leather have traditionally been just for fall, but they are becoming year-round now,” said Bettina Gordon, vice president of product development at Barganza/Sorpresa. The firm will offer leather in an increased variety of silhouettes, finishes and treatments in traditional neutrals as well as deep shades of berry and olive. Besides the real thing, the company also includes leather and crocodile looks in non-leather materials, often with metallic or patent finishes.
“Historically, our assortment has been about 50-50 leather versus other materials, but leather is definitely trending up even in PVC,” said Gordon.

Latico-Frye sales manager Lainie Schreiber says the company is also capitalizing on the strength of leather by introducing two new collections.
Its licensed Frye line, popular again with the revived interest in the Seventies and Eighties, is going back to its roots: suede and Frye’s signature boot leather are combined in colors of banana, orangish yellow and walnut with Western-style overlays, a look that Schreiber described as “not about cowboy but classic Frye. After all, Frye was around long before the Western [look] became fashionable,” he said, referring to the company’s start in 1863, when it made boots for cavalry units.
Frye’s Latico label is going biker with a line of black napa accented with “urban feeling” silver-studded and grommeted hardware in backpacks, slings, handbags and briefcases. l
On the item front, Seasonal Whispers will introduce beaded bracelets with magnetic closures to replace the stretchy styles of a few seasons ago, along with silk flowers on multicolored beaded chokers or beaded belts; A & L Seamon is bringing back wallets-on-a string in animal prints and a travel clock in bright colors of green, orange, or purple that displays any of the 24 worldwide time zones at the push of a button, and Day of the Unicorn will debut an item called “The Hug,” for those who like the idea of wearing a sweater tied around their neck, but don’t really need a real one. The Hug “looks like the body of a sweater with two arms, but has no opening for the head and no buttons or closure,” according to Sally Sedler, vice president.

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