ITEMS, NOVELTY DRAW BUYERS AT BOUTIQUE SHOW

Byline: Melanie Kletter

NEW YORK — After a tough spring-summer selling season, many smaller retailers are just starting to feel confident again this fall and are looking forward to a healthier holiday and spring period.
That was the sentiment from buyers at the International Fashion Boutique Show, which ended its four-day run on Tuesday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.
“The summer nearly killed me, but things have been picking up,” said Maria Giordano, owner of Ria Gio, a retail store in Philadelphia.
Retailers at the show said they were stocking up on last-minute holiday items and also starting to prepare for spring, although many vendors, especially those catering to junior customers, showed only a smattering of spring merchandise, preferring instead to offer items for the current holiday season.
Giordano and other retailers said they were on the hunt for new and fresh items that would help set them apart from the pack.
“I am also looking for the same bodies but in new fabrics,” she said. “Also I am searching for new accessories, which now account for about half of my sales and have been selling great.”
Roberta Giordano, owner of Bobbi’s, a two-store chain based in Brooklyn, said she was still stocking up for the holidays.
“I am looking for fun and edgy pieces,” she said.
However, many vendors described the show traffic as “sluggish” and said buyers seemed more cautious than last year in regards to placing orders. The time period for the show is not historically a strong buying season, as many retailers are tapped out for the end of the year and aren’t quite ready for spring buying, vendors and retailers said at the show.
Many vendors were continuing to concentrate on themes and trends that have been popular in recent months, such as denim in all shapes and styles, geometric shapes, interpretations of suede and Eighties-inspired merchandise.
One Clothing, which has had some recent management shakeups and is now facing a lawsuit from its former president, Sherwin (Ace) Ross, is focusing on shiny looks and gold heading into holiday and spring, said Amy Gallagher, manager of the New York showroom.
Geometric prints, cotton stretch twill pants and denim bottoms with a cut-off waist are some other key looks.
Azzure, a denim firm, offered a variety of innovative denim looks, including patchwork bottoms with raw and sandblasted denim and a matching jacket.
“Dark denim is dead, and there is a return to more regular, stonewashed jeans and sandblasted looks,” said Ruben Campos, Azzure’s president and designer.
The company, which launched at retail about a year ago and also offers men’s products, recently moved into a new showroom at 1385 Broadway. The women’s line is now sold in about 200 doors, primarily trendy boutiques and specialty stores. In addition to denim, the firm offers related sportswear, such as logo mesh shirts.
“Many girls want a whole collection with tops and bottoms,” Campos noted.
Hybrid, a streetwear firm making its first appearance at the Boutique show, offered a variety of looks with an Eighties feel, such as a bright blue button-down shirt with a skinny green tie, and short skirts with a plaid print. Other offerings include the company’s innovative Tyvek material, a thin synthetic developed in conjunction with DuPont.
Hybrid also recently moved to a new showroom on West 36th Street. The company earlier this year became a division of Astral Apparel LLC, a New York-based manufacturer.
Illig, the fast-growing streetwear firm, displayed a full range of offerings for spring, including sweater tank tops in a puckered acrylic material, stretch denim and nylon cotton bottoms with a “rave” feel.
Illig started selling women’s apparel about two years ago and is now distributed in about 250 boutiques and in Urban Outfitters, according to David Alpern, Illig’s sales director.
“I think people are more cautious in what they are buying for spring, but overall I think spring will be okay at retail,” Alpern said.
Allen by ABS showed a variety of trendy items, such as geometric-print skirts and shirts, camel-neck sweaters, capri pants with frayed edges and shirts with tuxedo-style ruffles down the front.
The collection hit stores in March and is now in about 450 doors, including large department stores such as Dillard’s, Nordstrom and Dayton Hudson, as well as in some specialty stores, according to Tracy Schimko, an account executive for the firm.
The products are 30 to 40 percent less expensive than ABS’s signature line and range in wholesale price from about $22 to $69.
There was also some news on the show front. Advanstar Communications, the operator of the show, will have only three Boutique shows next year, compared with five this year, according to a show spokeswoman.

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