Byline: Rebecca Kleinman

Leslie Gersten,owner, Sugar Magnolia, Chicago
Where she shops: “New York, about 13 times a year, and Los Angeles.”
Secret finds: “All kinds of styles by Bianca Nero. The fit is phenomenal and depending on how you accessorize pieces, you can wear them for work, an evening dinner or black tie.”
Tried-and-true lines: “Michael Stars T-shirts. Earl Jeans because they can be worn for everyday or out on a Saturday night with a sweater and boots or stilettos. The fit’s great, and she’s getting a lot of press now. Red Engine, a newer denim line, also sells well. I like to say it’s more realistic and forgiving because the pants fit no matter what your physique. It also has a great price. I love Autumn Cashmere’s sweaters because they combine richness and classic cashmere with a twist in the form of new styles and colors. The quality’s there, but it’s modern and affordable, too.
“Jenne Maag’s suitings are excellent for their fit and clean, ageless, timeless style. Also, the price is good and delivery impeccable. Susanna Monaco is a phenomenal girl and designer who gets a lot of press, too. Her separates are really packable, good for vacation. She always incorporates black and white accented with fashion colors. The price is right too.”
Current bestsellers: “Me + Ro jewelry. They’re current without being trendy. Jane Diaz also does well for jewelry. I have a difficult time with bags, though, because my customer likes Prada or Kate Spade, which are right across the street. But, Herve Chapelier is good for clean, relaxed looks. So is Walker, a San Francisco-based line that does a lot of nylon and silver mesh.
“We’ve had our fill of chenille and velvet, but knitted scarves and hats from England are big. I didn’t do any pashmina. I’m also yielding on animal prints. We had it in the spring, so now I only have a few giraffe prints and some accessories. But, Bianca Nero did a beautiful crocodile-embossed, satin lastex pants in red, black and chocolate. The chocolate had been really good.
“Camouflage is much more important than animal. I bought pretty shades in pink and powder blue. There are some cashmere pieces in it, too. In leather, basics by Kateyone Adeli and red, black and especially gold pieces by Earl have been good. For styles, cropped pants and tie-necks still sell. I bought some printed tie blouses by Diane Von Furstenburg.”
Favorite showrooms: “I’d rather not say.”
Biggest challenge at the Chicago Apparel Center: “When I get into the mental state of a buyer, all I do is research and buy, research and buy. In Chicago, my home city, it’s hard for me to change hats and become a buyer here. I also don’t shop the Center because I like to see it all before I write anything. I don’t feel like I can get that level of exposure here. Plus, I don’t do maintenance buying. Instead, I’ll do a whole season at once. But, I’m interested to see how StyleMax turns out.”
October market agenda: “I’ll buy early spring within all my European lines and pick up some fill-ins for holiday. I’ll also look for some basics for after the holidays, like jeans. People tend to buy more of them in January and February.”