Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — With a battery of trends to choose from and the economy continuing to show strength, buyers hit the aisles of Style Industrie scouting for spring items that would help make their registers ring.
“It’s a high time for fashion. People are very receptive to all the new styles. Offerings were more boring two years ago,” said Sheila Erickson of Nonchalance, a store in Morristown, N.J. “It reminds me of the Sixties, when no one had any home decorating sense and then everyone got into it.”
Personal style is the new mantra, and its being analyzed and explained in magazines, television, Web sites and advertising. Consumers are responding to the information with a greater interest in creating their own special look, buyers said.
“People want what’s original. They want to look original,” said Suzannah Fischer, owner of O’Suzannah, a specialty store in Charlottesville, Va. “In a world full of Gap jackets and J. Crew pants, they want something different that’s not so theatrical that they can’t wear it to work.”
Erickson and Fischer were two of the buyers shopping during the three-day Style Industrie show, which closed Sept. 25 at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The latest edition focused on immediate fall goods and spring sportswear and accessories.
Fischer noted that her own small town is “pretty hip culturally,” which might explain why her shoppers are buying more impulsively. In search of unusual items, Fischer said Jill Anderson’s “modern, feminine and funky” skirts and suits, including a few styles made of lawn-chair fabrics, were among her favorites. She also liked the dresses and skirts at River Road and Fork.
Shopping with her daughter, Kristin, the owner of Nonchalance, Erickson said they bought Night Light’s suede skirts and jeans-style jackets, Goldex Enterprises’ handknit beaded tops, Andrea Masano’s linen sportswear, Sue Wong’s dresses, Mannequin’s dresses and Allen by ABS sleeveless tops and patterned skirts. Sales have been “brisk,” with many shoppers showing more interest in feminine, contemporary looks, they said.
Anita Pesot and Maryann Guillemin, buyers for Elizabeth Maar Boutique, a 1,200-square-foot store in Haverford, Penn., said sweaters, jackets, pants, skirts, dresses, shoes and accessories were on their shopping list. Rico Handknits was one resource they planned to check out, and they also hoped to find a few new lines.
Having seen sales climb by 25 percent compared to last year, the pair said shoppers are buying everything, including collections.
Guillemin said suits are making a comeback and clothes are in again.
“It’s a fun season with all the leather, fashionable pieces and colors. The customer loves what’s out there,” she said. “The clothes look great.”
Alaina Impellitteri, co-owner of Medusa’s, a 1,200-square-foot store in State College, Pa., said she was on the lookout for dresses, “little sweaters,” and handbags. Unlike previous seasons when relaxed dressing was the rave, now women are looking for clothes with a little more structure, she said.
Sales are running 30 percent ahead of last year, due partially to doubling the store’s square footage by relocating to a new site, she said.
“We’ve increased traffic and we’re getting a lot of tourists,” Impellitteri said. “When people go on vacation, they want to bring home something new and different, especially if they live in a small town where everyone wears the same things.”
Grace Loeffler, owner of Boutique de Jolie Madame, a store in Orange, Conn., said there is more interest in dressier clothes, especially day-into-evening looks. In addition to checking out Sue Wong’s collection, she said she was looking for at least one or two new resources.
“Customers feel the strength in the economy is going to last longer than just a boom,” Loeffler said. “The real estate market is also strong, which has brought a lot of movement to the area.
“Customers in my area are a little more interested in luxury merchandise and items. They’re now more relaxed about adding items in accessories and clothing. That makes me more relaxed as a buyer — for the moment. Let’s hope it lasts.”

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