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NEW YORK — It’s not all doom and gloom. After holding off on spring orders at earlier shows, buyers came back with substantial immediate orders at January’s installment of Moda Manhattan and FAME.

Dresses continued their hot streak — this time in narrower silhouettes and bright colors and prints — at the shows, held simultaneously Jan. 6 to 8 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

“I found some great stuff and left a lot of paper, buying more than I normally would,” said Lisa Schroeder, owner of a boutique catering to women in their 30s and 40s in Saratoga, N.Y. “Dresses were strong again, in bright yellows and greens and corals, plus fun prints with geometric shapes and influences from the Seventies, which I know my customers will love.”

The tough retail conditions have encouraged buyers to order closer to delivery dates, as to better gauge the state of their business and which trends have taken hold.

“A lot of retailers waited quite late to place orders because they weren’t sure how sales would be, so vendors are very happy because people have been leaving orders for immediate delivery and spring,” said Ann Caruso-Marsh, director of sales for Moda Manhattan.

Caruso-Marsh, who identifies trends for buyers, said in addition to cheery print dresses, other clear trends for spring included cropped jackets, tribal prints and textured fabrics like seersucker.

“We find a lot of buyers have put off their spring buys, so we’ve been selling [for Jan. 30 deliveries],” said Patric Kilcullen, whose New York showroom represents Luii Jacket, which showed at Moda. The line’s designer-inspired item jackets, which wholesale from $22 to $45, sold strongly in bright turquoise and berry, as well as white and khaki.

Anna Maria Bishop, account executive at New York-based dress resource Donna Morgan — whose dresses wholesale from $59 to $79 — said 90 percent of the buyers who visited placed orders at Moda.

“Color is what is driving sales — yellow, orange, pink, then a whole brown story and tribal prints,” said Bishop.

Janette Richards, a sales representative for the Los Angeles line Lapis, said that of 50 buyers who visited her Moda booth, 48 left orders, mostly for March and earlier, for the line, which wholesales from $24 to $44. Dresses in bright prints, eyelet or brightly colored solids with embellishments were hits.

This story first appeared in the January 16, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Moda traffic was spottier for Chalet, a Toronto-based contemporary line, which wholesales from $48 to $98. “I was a little surprised that people were interested in our more conservative looks over our trendier pieces,” said Michelle Zhang, project coordinator for Chalet Ideas. For example, a cream-colored, high-necked dress did well, Zhang said.

Some buyers found they had waited too long. Suzanne Cvetas, a buyer for Nouvelle Eve, a contemporary boutique in Omaha, couldn’t find the immediate goods she wanted to spend her higher open-to-buys on. “The spring was all color and print — and it was all too much for us,” Cvetas said. “Nothing stood out because it was all the same. When we wanted to pick up immediates, the best styles were already gone. It’s very tricky.”

Nearby FAME transitioned into a cohesive show of junior and young contemporary lines. “We are trying so hard to create a great vibe at the show and also a great business environment — there can often be a disconnect between the two at junior-young contemporary shows, but I think we got it right,” said Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc., which owns the shows.

At FAME, dresses were still strong, but the look is evolving, noted Alexandra Drori, a sales representative for Fashion Spy, a junior line with its showroom in Dallas. “People are very into dresses, but they are trying to get away from the trapeze into something more fitted,” Drori noted. In particular, Fashion Spy dresses, which wholesale from $30 to $50, did well in white and yellow and with flutter sleeves.

“Yellow still seems to be the best color, now that people have gotten used to it,” said Ines Lee, sales manager for Los Angeles-based junior line Unyx, which wholesales from $20 to $50.

Miami-based resort line Elan, which wholesales from $10 to $25, attended FAME for the first time. The company’s long dresses did well, both in white and in prints.

New York-based junior line Soundgirl, which wholesales from $19 to $58, enjoyed “fantastic traffic” at FAME, according to sales representative Lauren Gorayeb. “We had a lot of interest in vintage-y shifts for summer,” she said.

Junior line Young Essence did well with its bright printed dresses, which wholesale around $40. “It’s been all about brights, prints and things that pop,” said Jaime Martin, sales manager for Young Essence.

Attendance at the two shows exceeded last January’s record turnout, according to Jones.

“When you come into a market like this, when economic news is so negative, it can dampen your spirits, but buyers have shown up in record numbers,” Jones said. “Buyers realize that their only chance is to have new fresh merchandise for their stores. Cutting back is a self-fulfilling prophecy. More progressive stores have always bought that way, but it seems like more and more of the marketplace is adopting that philosophy.”

Business Journals’ biggest change will come with the March 2 to 4 Moda, which broke away from the traditional February block after Coterie moved up its dates by two weeks, and is already double the traditional size of Moda’s February show. To be held at the Javits center, rather than the Metropolitan Pavilion, there will be more room for additional vendors, and each day Business Journals is adding more space, said Jones.

Spring Trends At Moda, FAME
– Dresses
– Bright and tribal prints
– Yellow
– Pink
– White
– Textured fabrics like seersucker and eyelet

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