THE ‘LADY’ STILL SINGS FOR SPRING

Byline: Leonard McCants / Julee Greenberg

NEW YORK — It looks as if the ladylike bandwagon still rolls on.
With retailers nationwide reporting a strong demand for feminine and put-together looks like dresses and suits, resources at two New York hotel shows — not apt to switch tracks on this barreling train — are continuing the trend for spring.
“People are dressing in more coordinated fashions,” said Joan Rotman, owner of Top Drawer, a boutique in Westport, Conn. “I think people are tired of items now and they want things that go together.”
To that end, Rotman, who was looking for spring merchandise at the Essex House, said she is seeking colorful and textured looks that “are not too expensive” and will fit a variety of women.
Resources at the ready-to-wear shows — Designers at the Essex House and the American International Designers at the Waldorf-Astoria — said those looks were some of their hottest items, as buyers continued seeking out tailored clothing.
The shows generally lasted from Sept. 23-27 and included 16 vendors at the Waldorf Astoria and 19 resources at the Essex House.
Suits and dresses were some of the strongest selling items at Algo, a Zurich-based resource, according to Carlo Goetschel, president.
They included an orange silk shantung pantsuit, a silk and wool tweed jacket with a pleated chiffon skirt and a black and white polkadot dress with a ruffled edge.
In its second season at the Essex House, Goetschel said, business showed a marked improvement.
“We did fabulous business,” he boasted. “We got a lot of new clients and traffic was good.”
Feminine and fitted were the main themes at Marisa Minicucci, a Toronto-based sportswear company, said Barry Bly, president.
“It’s an interesting time in fashion,” Bly said. “The pendulum has swung from grunge to more tailored looks.”
Key items for spring included a white embellished viscose twin set with black and white skirt, a raffia-trimmed chiffon skirt and georgette sleeveless top, and a black and white plaid dress with ruching details.
Buyers seemed to be reacting positively to the line, as Marisa Minicucci enjoyed an “exceptional market,” Bly said.
At Buonuomo/Gus Goodman, Mark Goodman, vice president, said “While traffic hasn’t been very heavy, the stores that we have seen have been good ones.”
With their busiest season being fall, Goodman said business is still strong in the spring.
“An item that is always strong for us is the Twist-i-Fur,” he said, speaking of the company’s patented fox boas available in many colors.
Gene Roye, a Los Angeles-based resource, is popular among traveling customers, since the cottons and matte jerseys are easy to pack and generally wrinkle free, said Emily Sergi, sales manager for Gene Roye, who added that she was pleased with the amount of retailers stopping by the suite and that traffic was much better than it was for the August show.
“Since the Coterie is here the same week, there has been more stores and more people in town,” she said. “Overall, business has been good. Lisa [Roye, vice president] has been doing trunk shows, which have been just outstanding.”
Ina Sherman, owner and president of Sansappelle, a Chicago-based social occasion company, echoed the positive impact of having concurrent trade shows.
“I was very busy over the weekend,” she said. “I think part of it has to do with the fact that the Coterie is in town.”
Sherman said important items included novelty pants, leather trim jackets and even ballskirts.
“Believe it or not, I am selling a lot of ballskirts, not big ballgowns, but skirts,” Sherman said. “Also selling well is anything that has some type of novelty, like ruffles or beading.”
Overall traffic at the Essex House has been “unbelievable,” according to Linda Heister, vice president of Mark Heister.
Some of the best-selling looks from the Chicago-based resource include a bias-cut lavender tunic, and a “Seven Year Itch” top — a jacket with attached belt like one worn by Marilyn Monroe in the movie, with a bias-cut skirt.
Across town at the Waldorf-Astoria, the mostly eveningwear and social occasion resources reported strong traffic and sales, said Carla Jumonville, principal of San Carlin and one of the coordinators of the show.
“Traffic flow has been good,” she said. “Sunday was a madhouse. That was a nice problem to have.”
Some of the best-selling spring items for the Denham Springs, La.-based company included a black lace and beaded satin halter gown with matching jacket, a silk and wool skirtsuit with embellishments at the cuff, and a gold metallic sleeveless gown with a beaded lace bodice.
Craig Signer, a Miami-based firm, focused on individual items for evening.
“This collection was all about doing separates to create a full look,” Signer said. “It’s giving people options. We’re not into the big ballgown unless it’s major drama.”
Key items included a white tuxedo pantsuit with beaded piping, a white beaded halter gown and a short pink embroidered strapless dress.
“This has been a terrific show,” he said. “I’ve picked up a lot of key accounts and seen new people.”
He said he also has added new accounts in Florida, Texas and Washington, D.C.
In her first hotel show, Catherine Regehr, a social occasion resource from Vancouver, said she picked up several new accounts.
“I was worried that I would not get the same level of stores that I usually get,” Regehr said.
Suits have been important for spring, she said, including a navy and beige sequined polkadot skirtsuit, a silk taffeta floral dress and a black and white sequined gingham cocktail dress.
While California-based Bob Mackie is well-known for its dresses, Jeff Diller, the company’s director of sales, said he sold many suits.
“Business has been good and I think that the traffic was much heavier than it was last September,” he said.
Michael Casey, a San Francisco-based eveningwear designer, also saw ballskirts selling.
“It’s funny because I keep hearing that ballgowns are out,” he said. “But I am selling them.”
In fact, Casey’s biggest sellers were a green taffeta ballgown and a tan and brown ballskirt with matching bustier.
“I was far busier than I was at the August show,” he said.
It was the first time that Camille Jumelle brought her social occasion dresses to the show, but according to Bonnie Maiden-Fountain, the company’s president of sales and marketing, they seemed to have left a good first impression.
“It was our first time on the East Coast,” Maiden said. “I was told that we probably wouldn’t have any orders taken, since it was our first time here, but some orders were taken.”
Maiden said there are three main fabrics used when creating the eveningwear: matte jersey, iridescent chiffon and taffetas.
“There’s lots of detail in the dresses,” she said. “But there is just enough detail to catch the eye, because what you really want to show off is the body.”
At the Rihga Royal Hotel, organizers for two other shows encompassing mostly West Coast designers reported remarkable seasons as well.
The Atelier Designer Collection, with 44 resources had a “fabulous” market, said Susan Summa, group coordinator. “It was our best show yet.”
Echoed Ann McKenna, organizer of the 21-vendor Pacific Designer Collection, “Everybody did well. We registered 200 new stores.”

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