COLOR, ORNAMENT BIG DRAWS

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Although there was speculation that all the embellishments and color that have propelled accessories business for the last two years would finally start to slow, it seems that the appetite of store executives and their customers is still not sated.
Fortunately, the market seems to have an endless ability to come up with enough new things every season, and exhibitors at the industry’s two major trade shows last week did not disappoint.
Despite reporting somewhat uneven traffic at the shows, exhibitors said once buyers arrived from the unseasonal sweltering heat outside, they seemed content to settle in and place significant orders. The Fashion Accessories Expo was held at the Jacob. K. Javits Convention Center, and the Accessorie Circuit occupied its usual space at the Show Piers on the Hudson.
Regardless of where they showed, similar trends were tagged as the big draws for retailers. Among them were:
Color: The prevailing theme that crosses all categories and materials. Although there are occasional sightings of frothy pastels, the fall palette has moved into stronger color combinations. Reds ranged from brick to burgundy to berry, greens went from olive to spinach to chartreuse. There was also plenty of offering in shades of camel, blue and turquoise. Color blocking, a strong theme, has evolved beyond complementary pairings to more subtle and sophisticated tertiary blends.
Ornamentation: Although beaded, embroidered and hand-knit touches have all been seen before, now they are being combined in ways that blend Eastern and Western hemisphere styles. Even printed fabrics are getting the once over, with beads, crystal or nailheads accenting paisley or other prints.
The square or box-shaped handbag: Even though there were probably way too many copies of Prada’s bowling bag, the major firms offered their spin on the silhouette in a variety of materials from embossed leathers to canvas or fur.
Lariats: Although periodically popular, lariats have long been a tough sell at retail. This time around, however, vendors and retailers have seized on their versatility and were talking up their potential to be worn in places besides the neck. Now, many are being made long enough to wear as a belly chain or wrapped several times for an anklet or bracelet.
Whether they were disco-inspired, crystal-laden versions like those from Paige Roberts at Fragments, to sterling silver and marcasite styles at more traditional firms like Judith Jack or in 18-karat gold and turquoise at Talisman Unlimited, just about every jewelry firm had some in their assortments.
Versatility as a whole continues to be a strong selling point at wholesale and retail, not only as it relates to function and value, but because it taps into the ongoing demand for personalization.
Quirky items with witty functional touches accounted for the bulk of the orders at Wooden Ships, a maker of knitted hats, scarves, gloves and other knitted accessories showing at the FAE.
“Buyers have really liked what we call our Rapunzel scarves that have pockets at the bottom, our chunky muffler with a zippered pouch,” said Noreen Reilly, sales manager. “Buyers are really looking for new things.”
Reilly said orders at the show were up compared to a year ago and that she was even surprised at the staying power of items introduced last year, such as ponchos.
“Stores like the handmade feel of our pieces and are really liking color, too,” she said, noting that orange and turquoise had been selling well.
Dianne Graham, owner of the accessories firm Graham Kandiah, was trying to service several stores that were crowding her booth, intent on placing immediate reorders for colorful pareos and beaded caftans, as well as for fall leather bags with paisley lotus embroidery.
“This is just our third show and we’ve been incredibly busy,” Graham said. Almost on cue, another store owner, Jennifer Miller, of an eponymous accessories shop within Zoom, on Job’s Lane in Southampton, N.Y., walked up to secure a reorder.
“I’ve received my first order and, even though we just opened last week, I know I’m going to sell out of what I have,” Miller said.
Allyn Fried, owner of the showroom Allyn & Co. and the FAE’s largest exhibitor, quipped that she measures her orders every show by the height of the pile and this market has been one of the tallest ever.
“Anything that is different, anything original and anything in color is what the stores want,” she said. “Basics don’t sell anymore.”
Among the strongest looks in her showroom were mesh jewelry by Ferrara, and from Le Borse, a collection of painted python bags made in Spain.
Buyers visiting the Maxx New York booth at the Circuit were focused on color, according to Robert Rokoff, who heads up product development at the handbag company.
“We didn’t even offer any black in many of our fall bags,” he said. “The stores have really liked wine, olive, tan and chocolate, in either solids or in our colorblock group.”
Jewelry and handbags were the two top classifications for Yvette Fry, owner of the eponymous showroom, who exhibited at the Circuit.
“I’m surprised at not only how many, but how fast Pierre Urbach has been selling baguette-shape bags, and how much stores still want all the beading,” Fry said. “I had thought the baguette shape would have started to slow by now, but I’m still getting a lot of reorders from even really hip stores. In jewelry, we’ve got stores coming in and specifically asking for lariats. They really like the versatility of them.”
Fry said that although traffic seemed “a little off” at the Circuit, the numbers of new and returning Japanese stores at the show had been exciting and that orders overall had been good.
At Notanonymous, owner Maxine Coppersmith said, “Business has been spread pretty evenly across my designers. I’m still selling a lot of beaded bags and this time, suede with beads was a key mix for us. I’m also selling a lot of jewelry.