Byline: Rebecca Kleinman

Thanks to an ample selection of trends — with color leading the list — plus a good economy and an item-driven market, retailers are heading to March market with increased open-to-buys and plenty of enthusiasm for another strong season.
A majority told WWD they will concentrate on writing fall, with a few tacking on immediate fill-ins or a head start on holiday.
While many retailers hope to find some categories that have been absent from the market for a while, like suits and dresses, they also hope to see many of spring’s trends move forward, the biggest being color.
All report doing a phenomenal business with color, from T-shirts to novelty pants to beaded bracelets.
And even though fall typically means toned-down colors, brighter shades are more requested lately. Retailers think brights would work back nicely to brown, which is proving to be this fall’s gray.
Some other trends selling strongly include skirts that fall just below the knee, stretch, embellishment and prints, especially animal. Fake python and alligator-printed clothing and accessories are important for fall. Retailers also plan to move forward with basic animal prints like leopard and zebra.
The bohemian and ethnic trends have resulted in a surge in novelty leather and suede items. From colored to printed to basic neutrals, retailers plan to sell all silhouettes and accessories at a range of price points.
And even given the current importance of bohemian and soft dressing trends, many merchants report needing more structured clothing for customers who prefer traditional or career-oriented looks.
Keep an eye out for the men’s trouser, which is expected to make a comeback. So are sweater jackets; fitted, sexy jackets, and suits. The majority of buyers said they want to find updated, contemporary versions of suits that are softer, unique and interesting. Retailers also will look for mini and bustle skirts; looser, novelty knits; blouses; casual, evening separates; longer, chunkier jewelry; unique accessories from local designers; and novelty jackets and coats.

Julie Schneider, partner, Hubba-Hubba, Chicago
My order book is packed, so I’m probably not going to need a lot. But we’re not very sophisticated when it comes to our open-to-buy. When we see something we like, we buy it. Mostly I’ll write fall.
Soft, feminine and romantic are key. For example, a soft suit instead of the scary, anchorwoman look. I like Taryn De Chellis’s retro, 1940s styles, because they’re tailored, chic and fitted, but in a soft fabric.
Even with suits coming back a little, separates are still strong. I used to do all dresses, but now I only have a small section of them, or outfits in general. My customers prefer the bohemian, eclectic, sexy and fun looks now.
Color is really strong. I think it will stay. We’ve already done the whole basic colors thing. I think fall will be a more muted-down version of spring, though. Our Michael Stars T-shirts in brights are selling strong.
I don’t like to follow trends. I don’t want things in my store that customers think they’ll have to throw out soon. For example, all the pashmina shawls are on sale now. I also don’t order things that are too out-there.
Skirts, especially the below-the-knee length and layered looks, have been strong for a couple of years. I think they’ll move forward. For pants, I think the classic cuts, like the old-man trousers or Annie Hall look, will come back. The conservative bottom can be paired with a wild top. People are more willing to play with a wilder top than bottom — although we sold lots of wild bottoms this spring, like printed satin capris with beaded trim.
Since bracelets are so popular now, three-quarter sleeves are, too. We also carry some right above the elbow. As far as necklines go, it’s pretty much across the board, just like my customer base. But funnelnecks are probably the trendiest variation. It comes down to what is sexy to each person.
I’ll write some prints and snakeskin, which should get the same reaction as pony and leopard. Animal prints always do well.
For accessories, I like to support Chicago designers. My customer likes it better, because then they don’t see it everywhere. I carry two lines of fabric totes with great construction that are very popular now. I’ll mix those in with some bigger names. Kate Spade is too high of a price for my neighborhood. They don’t really look for names, but just the fun looks.
Since necklaces are going longer, I’ll pick up some lariats. Jewelry seems to be getting bigger and bolder. Everything was so small and dainty for a while. I also like beads, color and frosted rhinestones.
For special occasion, my customers prefer evening separates over dresses. I like these gorgeous, bias-cut, silk drawstring skirts with an Indian-henna look. My partner says we’re all going to look like elegant gypsies this year. It’s bohemian chic.

John Liberty, owner, Handle With Care, Chicago
We were up every single month last year, so I’m looking at a good open-to-buy. Mostly, I’ll be focusing on fall from lines like Theory, Chaiken & Capone, Laundry and Catherine.
Chunky knits did well last year. We just touched on it, though, so I’ll get more for fall. Turtlenecks and sleeveless turtlenecks are strong styles for knits. I always do cashmere, too, but I think chunky will be more important, along with sweaters with ties around the waist. I won’t buy big and boxy looks. Even the chunky looks are fitted now. I may do some embellished knits, but toned down from last year.
I barely carry suits anymore. But if they show up at market and we like them, we’ll get some. I’ll focus on cropped, clean pants, rather than pleated trousers.
We carry more casual looks like jeans with stretch. All types from wide-leg to skinny pants will be big. It’s all item-driven now. A pair of python-printed, leather cropped pants that retailed for $350 have already sold out.
Skirts are huge for me in all types — prints, embellishment, wild colors. I’ll definitely do minis for fall, but women can’t wear them all the time, like to the office. The three-quarter is still strong. It’s great looking, too.
I’m seeing more printed blouses with poufy sleeves. I haven’t seen them in a while. We bought Laundry’s sheer versions with slightly belled sleeves and matching miniskirts in a python print. Snakeskin and animal prints will be the big thing for fall, especially fake alligator accessories.
We do a big accessories business. Novelty bags are huge. It depends on what we see, but I’m loyal to a few vendors. It’s all about items.
My jewelry business has fallen off, because everything’s so embellished now. We need cleaner looks for a return to jewelry. My dress business has dropped off, too. They’re more into evening separates now, like a backless sequined halter with a handkerchief or asymmetrical skirt.
Right now, my store is full of color. People don’t want black anymore, but because color’s been important for so long, I think we’ll see a return to more basic colors. I have a gut feeling we’ll see pinks and oranges for fall, but toned down.

Louisa Shortall, owner, La Colonna, Wilmette, Ill.
My open-to-buy is fairly bought up. I’ll look for some immediate fill-ins, but mostly transitional and fall. Holiday’s still too far out. I like to buy close to season.
I may go back to some structured looks this year, but people are so used to comfortable fabrics now. We sell some suits, but they have stretch, like in Jenne Maag’s line. We still sell more sweaters than jackets.
For sweaters, the trends are longer and bigger. We’ve had short and fitted for a while. The new looks won’t be baggy or too chunky, but soft. There are many good resources for cashmere. So many lines do it now, and the price has come down. I’ll continue with it as long as it has some style or a color that’s interesting. I won’t do cashmere basics.
For pants, I like to see more trousers. There’s some resistance to pleated pants. Everything’s in a flat front and zipped. That look excludes some categories of customers like working women. The trousers can’t be too traditional, though. They have to be something interesting. It’s been narrow for so long now that I think things will go a bit wider, too.
I’ll do some leather looks, too, but within a good price point. I’m not interested in printed leather. It’s a little too out-there. I prefer more reasonable items, like Kenneth Cole’s coats.
Blouses have been boring, but anything with stretch or three-quarter sleeves tends to sell.
I’ll do animal prints if they’re done in a new, interesting way. They come back every other year, so I’m sick of them. But they’re good for accent items like underpinnings.
Embellishment is just starting to happen with my customer. I think it will have longevity. It looks new and fun. We did well with capris with beading at the hem, and sweaters will shells hanging at the bottom. People who didn’t do the trend for summer will get it by fall.
Dresses are always a struggle. Some years are good, but most aren’t. The millennium wasn’t. I did better with evening separates.
Accessories are strong. I carry jewelry by Blazing Beads, Sol Creations and Velvet Moon. My customer still prefers delicate jewelry, rather than chunky. Crystal and beaded bracelets continue to sell. I’m also looking for more fun than serious novelty bags, at reasonable prices. Scarves are good, too, especially velvet versions. I’ll look at Spinoso, Saldarini and Toki. Kenneth Cole used to be our main resource for belts, but they haven’t been doing them lately.
For suits, I’m trying to find a replacement for Kenar. We used to do a lot of business with them, especially crepe suits. I’d like a resource as consistent as them. We also write Renfrew. Even though we’re not a career store, we do a good suit business. It has to be something different and interesting, though. I need to research good suit resources the most.
I’ll look at Michael Stars, Jenne Maag, Debra de Roo and Gett, which does great wool knits for fall. They’re so simple, but look great on.
I don’t want to give up all the color we have now in fall. I think brown will be like last year’s gray.

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