NEW YORK — Novelty separates, nautical looks and lacy numbers led the trend parade at the third edition of Femme, which saw a brisk showing of buyers.

The show, which premiered last May as a combination of the former Style Industrie and Fashion Boutique shows, ended its three-day run Jan. 7 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

Daniel Sudhoff, who owns the 22-year-old Vermont Trading Co. with his wife, Laura, placed about 100 orders, mostly casual sportswear items. “We also see a lot of people here from around the country.”

Retailer Lisa Lehar, a partner at International Boutique in New York, said: “I found amazing, beautiful items and have placed six orders so far,” adding that she planned to purchase about 60 percent of what she needs for fall at Femme. “Especially after Sept. 11, people want pretty things. So I’m looking for soft, feminine things, sometimes even a little dreamlike. Things that are happy and uplifting.”

Dawn White, owner of Dawn in Onley, Va., said she was impressed by the structure and breadth of offerings for summer and early fall at the show.

“It’s glamorous and well put together. The atmosphere is also very upbeat,” White said. “It’s good because retailers want to be in New York now to buy. By the end of the show, I will have bought a lot.”

Mary Jane James, who owns Island Silk in Greenport, N.Y., was perusing sailor-inspired striped cotton tops and navy sailor cropped pants by the 100-year-old French firm Saint James.

“I’m looking for novelty items,” said. “I have a resort shop, so these would be perfect coming off the boat.”

Vendors were upbeat about the turnout.

“The show has been great, especially compared to the end of last year,” said Thomas Smith, an account executive for the moderate-to-better line Jonden by Linda Leal. “The business has been really steady.”

Among the looks Smith said most impressed buyers were microfiber separates, printed lace tops, nautical-inspired tops with stripes and novelty items.

On a similar note, sales manager Stacie Browning of the Newport, R.I.-based better firm Fjall, said she was satisfied with the show’s turnout and the amount of orders written. Hits at her line included cashmere separates and fake shearling jackets.

“People that are writing are writing just as much,” Browning said. “But during the last Femme show [in October], we did phenomenally, too, with spring and summer.”

Camille Candella, marketing director of the Women’s Group of shows for Advanstar’s MAGIC division, which produces Femme, said: “Overall, we were not knowing too much what to expect, but a lot of [buyers] wrote business, and [vendors] didn’t expect that. Stores were optimistic about the economy+they were hungry for immediate goods, things like blouses and dresses and knits. One customer wrote 130 orders in one day. We were happy to see people were traveling to New York to do business.”

Meanwhile, at Nouveau Collective, which ended its four-day run at the Park Central Hotel in New York on Monday, immediate deliveries and good pricing seemed to be the top priority for buyers.

Exhibitors, who offered mostly contemporary apparel and some accessories, said that because buyers had stayed away in October, they are now facing low inventory levels and are scrambling for immediate merchandise. “Holiday business has actually been good, but we are more keen on pricing,” said Suzy Little, owner of specialty store Cousins in Charleston, S.C.

“Most stores are looking for spring because they were so tentative in the aftermath of Sept. 11,” said Rebecca Bruce, designer at Becke, a contemporary apparel line, where the top item was a boucle black coat, which also can be worn as a cardigan, at $112 wholesale.

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