A BINGE ON BAGS
KEEP THE ANIMAL PRINTS COMING, RETAILERS SAY, BECAUSE ACCESSORIES ARE STILL THE HOTTEST THING GOING.

Byline: Rebecca Kleinman

The market for accessories is sizzling. While retailers plan to use this market to pick up transitional items, fill-ins and some cocktail attire, their highest priority is the pursuit of hot fall accessories. Reporting that budgets have increased from last year, many predict they’ll even have funds left over to add lots of fun, novelty pieces as well.
With accessories the most important category on their minds, retailers hope to find great novelty bags, especially in animal prints, one of fall’s biggest trends. Although zebra, pony and snakeskin will move forward, retailers report crocodile will be the latest interpretation used for bags, belts and shoes.
Shawls will also move forward, they say, although whether pashmina will, too, is debatable. Some retailers think customers have fallen in love with pashmina and won’t give it up, whereas others see the fabric suffering the advanced stages of overkill. The shawl in general, however, will be an essential piece due to its ease and wide range of yarns, stitches and embellishment.
In jewelry, ethnic, chunkier styles dominate, especially pieces with turquoise. Although crystal bracelets have peaked, bracelets in general seem to be selling strongly. Versions with semi-precious stones and sterling silver are the most popular.
While accessories are the main story, the category is not the only story. Other fall trends to fill in include colored leather and suede; below-the-knee and midcalf skirts; pants, including trousers, cropped and narrow silhouettes, and sweater knits.
Retailers said they consider June market to be a good opportunity to pick up sweater knits, and they report that there is a wide variety of trends to choose from. The important trends are colorblocking, stripes, chunky, mixed yarns, cut-outs and prints. Many predict the chunky look will dominate. Among the most desirable, they say, are yarns that are lightweight, not itchy, and easy to care for.
With suits making a comeback, retailers also are looking for more pieces than they have had need for in years. But versions must be updated styles with lots of novelty, rather than traditional or matronly looks. A dividend of the suit trend, blouses also will be important in a full range of colors, fabrics and silhouettes.
And once again, color remains strong. New palettes feature rich browns, purples and reds, while brights like orange and turquoise won’t disappear when summer ends.

Randall Bobo, buyer and manager, Effie’s, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
This June, I’ll be filling in, picking up some transitional pieces, and looking for cocktail dresses. Special occasion is our number-one business, because Tuscaloosa is a very social town.
Some dress lines are BCBG, Cynthia Rowley, Emma Black and Catherine. My customers are much more into color. They don’t even want you to show them a black dress.
We’ll also offer some casual, transitional items for football games and social events. By the time it’s August, my customers are over the summer trends, so I have to find darker colors in light fabrics.
For fall, I’m doing treated and colored leather, but not in bright colors. We’ll fill in lines we bought leather from, like, She, BCBG and Cynthia Rowley.
Animal prints continue to be strong. This season it’s about zebra, so I think fall will move forward with crocodile-embossed leather items. Ethnic accessories also will remain, but in chunkier, heavier versions, especially with all the leather clothes. Turquoise will be big, too.
Shawls are still strong for a bit of covering. It’s a great accessory. But I think pashmina will be reinterpreted to a more textured knit.
Novelty bags sell better than basic bags because of the cocktail business. BCBG and Leon Max are our two bestsellers.
Embellishment is over for my customer. Once they see someone else knocking a trend off, they don’t want it anymore. They’re completely over beaded jeans and any type of trim on pants.
I won’t be buying many suits or day dresses, since we really don’t cater to career women. Our look is young and contemporary, so we usually do better with separates. The problem with little dresses is that there aren’t great ones out there. They’re either fabulous and too expensive, or inexpensive and not so great.
My open-to-buy is up 30 percent. I think it’s because we made some changes to the store by focusing on one type of customer, rather than trying to satisfy a broad base.

Deborah Dugger, co-owner, The Carriage Shop, Tallahassee, Fla.
I’m bought up through Sept. 30, so I’ll be looking mostly for accessories and items here and there. June’s a slow market for us.
For accessories, we had good luck with pashminas, so I’ll probably order some more. I think people will be receptive for another season because of the bright colors.
Novelty bags are a good item where you can be different, but it’s still usable. We carry Inge Christopher and Blair DelMonico. I’ll also write some bags in mock crocodile, wovens and fabrics.
For jewelry, I like Cheryl Reis for trends, Medilias for antique looks, Simon Sebbag for chunkier, sterling pieces and Ecclissi for watches around Christmas.
We won’t carry as much color for fall. We tend to concentrate on color in spring, dark shades for fall, and then bring back color around the holidays.
But I think bright suede with matching sweaters will be important. Leather pants are too risky for us, though. We tried them and our customers didn’t respond, because there isn’t a dry cleaner here that treats leather. Animal prints and faux furs are okay.
Blouses and knits will be big. We carry versions by Collezione 2000 and Ann May. We need to find some dressier styles for holiday. Cable-knit sweaters are good, and cashmere remains strong. People won’t buy wool, though. We do well with White + Warren.
We’re carrying more suits than usual. We’ve always had lines like Garfield & Marks and Renfrew, but now we’re excited about newcomers like View. I think the trend will be more of a novelty jacket or blazer look, though, because we wore sweater sets for so long that we need something to replace them. It won’t be a structured look, but reinterpreted, like a cropped version in a novelty fabric.
Day dresses have always been strong for us. It’s hard to pick them, though, and sometimes they just don’t move. Since our customer ranges from 18 to 85, we have to cater to older customers who wear dresses. They don’t want matronly looks, though.
For cocktail, we’ll fill in Rex Lester, Kay Unger Victor Costa and ABS. But we don’t do a big special occasion business. We might buy three fancy ballgowns from Costa, and that’s it. I’m also excited about Burns, Sandy Chrysler, Louben, Loose Threads and Co. & Eddie.
My open-to-buy is the same, even though it was a really great year for us.

Elizabeth Aylward, co-owner, Lady Outfitters, St. Simons and Brunswick, Ga.
Third and fourth quarters are a big accessories time for us. I’m seeing animal prints on everything, so I’ll buy a little of everything, including zebra, pony, colored snakeskin and crocodile.
I won’t move forward with pashmina, but shawls will still be important. I like Nina Leonardo’s wool cape-like versions with pompons on the ends.
Ethnic looks aren’t big here, because my customers are too conservative, but I think it will be strong elsewhere. Chunkier styles don’t do well, either. My customers like smaller, more feminine pieces. One trend that I’ll pick up is turquoise jewelry.
We don’t do that much cocktail, but I’ll order more novelty bags, in both dressier versions and casual ones with mirrors that can be dressed up. Beaded bags will do well for us. I’ll start looking for some for holiday.
Since I’m in a resort area, I have to buy casual clothes in bright colors year-round. We really don’t do a lot with suits because of that, but I will pick up some sweater knits. I think chunky and printed looks will be the trends. But chunky items will be cropped, rather than the oversized, longer versions from the 1980s that were worn over leggings. I also ordered some colorblocked and striped pieces from Rafaella.
Surprisingly, twinsets from lines like Eagle’s Eye and Central Falls still sell. I keep wondering when the trend’s going to stop here, but a woman just bought three at once. They’re just so easy to throw on, and you can wear them year-round.
For bottoms, I’ll move forward with cropped pants and below-the-knee skirts. For the most part, we buy bottoms within collections like Rafaella, British Khaki and Gotcha Covered. We didn’t order any leather pants, but we ordered some vests and skirts by Saguaro.
Embellishment is still strong for us, so I’ll also pick up beaded items, including purses, belts and sweaters.
The color trend really doesn’t affect us, since we’re in a resort area. I may order some fall fashion colors, but will stick with brights for the most part.
We don’t sell that much special occasion, but I’ll fill in knit dresses by Nina Leonardo.
My open-to-buy is up 10 percent.