WHAT A NOVEL IDEA
RETAILERS ARE SNAPPING UP NOVELTY ITEMS, PARTICULARLY THOSE WITH LOTS OF COLOR, AS THEY SEARCH FOR WAYS TO LIVEN UP THEIR SALES FLOORS.

Byline: Rebecca Kleinman

Many retailers are focusing their attention on novelty-driven items or fun accessories to spruce up their spring buys. Whether it is denim, suits or sweaters, novelty was the key word to define the season’s direction.
The novelty denim craze, fueled by a seemingly endless pool of international manufacturers, shows no signs of waning. Retailers are looking for a wide variety of denim novelties, including stud embellishment and different washes.
On the suits front, retailers said they are looking for piping or unusual buttons, as well as slits. Buyers are also in search of lightweight cotton or cotton blend sweaters with embellishments.
Though frustrated that customers still cling to black, retailers said they plan to bring in a good deal of color. Aside from the proliferation of bright hues, which includes the return of preppy favorites pink and green, buyers said black-and-white stories are a classic must-have for spring. Retailers are also on the hunt for bold colorful prints, including geometrics, large florals, plaids and conversationals.
Low-rise pants paired with hip-slung belts are expected to be a key look this spring. On the dresses front, retailers said the most important factor is versatility — dresses that can make the transition smoothly from the office to a formal dinner or evening affair.
Accessories continue to be sought-after for spring. Belts, scarves, bracelets, hair ornaments, gold jewelry and bigger or dangling earrings are all popular. Magnetic closures are increasing in popularity, especially in boutiques catering to a mature clientele.
Retailers who prefer writing closer to season will concentrate on holiday and view spring, while most others will dive into spring.

Patti Brock-Sklar, owner, Excelsior! Couture, Pleasant Ridge, Mich.
“I’m looking for spring, but I’ll buy what I love, first and foremost. If something strikes my fancy, I’ll write it immediately. Some resources are Cut Loose, Sheri Bodell and Jaloux. My store is like a mini department store with sizes 2 to 14. I buy a little of everything, including shoes. Alec is a great line for that.
“I’ll write all colors across the board because not everyone looks good in the season’s fashion color. I won’t necessarily do navy, but we already offer a sailor’s pant for fall.
“I need great little black dresses that can go from office to evening. Those are important no matter what the season. I also need cotton or linen sundresses, which are cooler for spring. BCBG, To The Max and HYPE are some of my tried-and-trues.
“In tops, I’ll get a little of everything — halters to three-quarter sleeves. My customer isn’t afraid of prints, either. We did great with vintage and embroidered versions last summer. Prints are good for hiding things. I plan to focus more on geometrics than florals. “I still like cropped pants and wear vintage ones myself. I think they’re sexy. But I think manufacturers will offer a variety of lengths. It’s nice to see so many options in hem lengths. It’s the most diverse I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been in business. People want options more than ever.
“I’ll write lightweight knits in…sweater coats, which are great for layering and as an alternative to heavy coats. They’re easier to carry and can be incorporated into an outfit better, too. I’ll still touch on embellishment, but it’s not a focus now. I like subtle rhinestones on T-shirts. They’re fun and easy to snap with a plain black skirt or jeans. I may do a few dressy tops for black-tie.
“We don’t do denim unless it’s special, which is the case now. Jeans are phenomenal now. I carry Hard Tail’s bamboo, tie-dyed jeans, Parasuco’s studded looks, which are great for fit and fabrics, and Cultura, an Italian line that does pin tucking, fading and blocking. It’s the most incredible one I’ve seen so far.
“I’m always interested in bracelets whether they’re beads or bangles. Everybody’s wrists look good, in the same way that shoes always fit and look good.
“My open-to-buy is fabulous. Whether the economy affects you depends on the store.”

Lisa Maxwell, owner, M. Quest, Milwaukee, Wis.
“I’ll do some accessories, but not as many as I would for fall. My focus is writing spring. I have certain lines I love year-round like Emil Rutenberg, Kiko and SO Blue.
“Color is important, but everyone who comes in says she doesn’t want black, and then ends up walking out in. If I don’t have colors to work back to black, though, they won’t look through the racks. Black sells first, and then the colors. For spring, I’ll get some aqua, fuchsia and white.
“I love a white blouse with a pair of black pants. You can go anywhere in the world with it. My favorite blouses are by Jill McGowan. They fit big and tiny women. The prettiest look in the world is the white one with a high collar, but she also does beautiful colors like pink, gray and blue, or pinstripes. “I’ll do a few prints, but stay away from them for bottoms. I wish they would show more short, straight skirts in prints. I think women would be more receptive then. It’s usually their arms and tummies that they’re worried about. Prints look great if you’re young and tiny, though. I like plaid, geometrics and toile.
“I’ll pick up some lightweight knits, but they have to be black. Tiny women especially like knits. I love cropped pants, too. Even when they’re out, I’ll have them. They look great on women.
“I tend to stay away from dresses, which are really hard for me. Also, people are looking for them with a specific occasion in mind. It’s difficult for me to get excited about them. Instead, I’ll put someone in Neil & David separates for wedding.
“For suits, I like & Trousers, which has great prices and nontraditional styles like longer jackets, and Revue for suede looks. Most of my customers aren’t looking for suits, though.”
“I also need some fun, funky scarves, big earrings, hoops and a few shoes. I really like a silk scarf line called Kire. It’s good for year round. Tights aren’t for everyone, but I sold out of all the conversational ones I bought this year, and I could have sold even more. I’ll like to get some more for spring.”

Lorrin Holguin, owner, Innuendo, Chicago
“I’m buying closer to season, so I’ll do some holiday, but things that can extend beyond the season. I’ll look at spring, too.
“Women are finally buying color. Before, women would come in and say they wanted color, but walk out with black. I see color as an accessory, though, worked back to neutrals. I love black and white or navy and white, too. It’s a classic.
“I don’t buy trends because my customer expects to get more out of her purchase than one season. I’m particular about prints since they can tend to look too moderate. That seems to be the case often with colorblocking and geometrics. I love florals, though. It really needs to blow me away. I prefer clean looks.
“Fabric is very important to me. I try to find things my customers can slip on and go to work in immediately. Women are always saying, ‘Finally, something I can wear,’ when they come into the store. I’ve always built my store around the jacket. I still sold lots of suits even when soft dressing was the thing. Tamotsu and Iris Singer are some of my lines. Aside from beautiful fabrics like wool gabardines, I look for novelty like piping. I think triacetate is over.
“I love lace worn as an accent piece. A little goes a long way.
“The customer is dictating lengths now. It’s no longer about the designer. I love that women are stronger now and don’t bow to the trends. They just want what works for them. “I’ll touch on dresses, but it’s tough. I try to find ones that can go from the office to after-five.
“My number one jewelry line is Ermina Bulatti, a Holland-based company with an Art Deco feel. They do big and small pendants in antique silver or bronze. I usually don’t shop for accessories in Chicago because it’s so hard to get exclusives, especially with all of the boutiques in Lincoln Park. I’ve tried to write some lines, and they end of showing up on my street [Armitage Avenue]. I think Chicago rep Maureen Shinners has the best reputation for honoring exclusives.
“My open-to-buy is the same. I felt the economy’s crunch this spring and summer. But in August, there was a little more movement. I think everyone was just pre-panicking.”