NEW YORK — From cool T-shirts to slinky jersey dresses, the Designers & Agents Annex fashion trade show here offered cool, contemporary clothes that could easily grace Lindsay Lohan or an Olsen twin on a spree along L.A.’s trendy Robertson Boulevard.
The show, held Jan. 7-9 at the landmark Starrett-Lehigh Building, even had a real-life dose of Hollywood glamour this time. On Sunday, the show got a surprise visit from Renée Zellweger, who, by vendor accounts, was browsing through the aisles and walked out carrying a black leather handbag with grommets given to her by vendor Jane August. Zellweger’s visit generated a lot of excitement at the show, though vendors were already buzzing from a strong start in the New Year and high hopes for the summer season, which was on offer here.
Annex featured some 50 booths with about 80 labels. According to Ed Mandelbaum, who cofounded the show with Barbara Kramer, this summer edition attracted about 1,000 retailers.
Kramer said, “Everyone is relieved that we are finally over the last year, and there is a feeling of anticipation about 2006. I feel that buyers who traditionally used to do their big investments for fall and spring now increasingly spread their dollars more evenly throughout the year.”
Ed Bucciarelli, president of Limited Brands Accessories and president and chief executive officer of Henri Bendel, was at the D&A Annex looking for new takes on accessories.
“Fashion has been moving in the bohemian and embellished direction for a while, and we are looking for the new direction,” he said. “We believe it will be more cleaned up and feminine.
“This show has been a pleasant surprise,” he added. “We liked several lines, including Rebecca Norman’s jewelry and Mark Bernstein’s belts.”
Emily Chen, a buyer for specialty store Big Drop, was also looking for accessories at the show, though she hoped to find novel separates and ready-to-wear as well.
“Right now, I am looking for easier tops, like T-shirts and cute dresses, particularly jersey dresses that women can wear both during the day and in the evening. I am also looking for accessories. I have seen a lot of African-inspired accessories, which I have done already, and I am looking for something new.”
Top trends at the show included T-shirts and dresses, many of which had a bohemian or ethnic-inspired feel. Jersey was a key fabric choice for many vendors, who used it for dresses and tops, either as a solid color or a whimsical floral print.
Nanushka, based in Budapest, premiered at Annex with hopes to break into the U.S. specialty store market. The collection featured asymmetric designs in fabrics like cotton and satin, jersey and sweatshirt fabrics that recalled Norma Kamali’s Eighties sweatshirt collection. Comfort is a prerequisite for women today, explained Nanushka USA’s president Zsofia Alfonso. “Our life is playing out at such a faster pace that everything we do has to be done in comfort,” she said.
Nanushka’s wholesale prices range from $20 to $60 for tops, $30 to $150 for skirts and $60 to $150 for jackets. According to Alfonso, first-year wholesale projections are $1 million.
Also new to the show was Los Angeles T-shirt line Garcon, which offered loosely tailored jersey-blend T-shirts with details such as gathered sleeves. Wholesale prices range from $29 for a tank top and $38 for a long-sleeved thermal top to $48 for a hooded top.
“T-shirt lines like Garcon are doing very well, because the body is not too fitted, so it’s simple and easy and practically a no-brainer,” said Rhea Williams, a sales executive at the Noëtic showroom, which represents the line. “We are also still selling a lot of dresses with slightly shorter hemlines than the floor-length designs last winter.”
Meanwhile, June, a contemporary brand here, offered bohemian silk chiffon print blouses and skirts alongside paper-thin and crinkled leather jackets. Wholesale price points range from $54 for a silk chiffon blouse to $130 for a suede jacket and $242 for the paper-thin leather jacket.
“For us, it’s getting a little more casual as we go into fall, and it’s also more about the processes of garments,” David Fahrer, an owner of June, said. “We try to add interest to the materials with faded and dyed leathers.”
Brianne Tursi, owner of Seamless Showroom, noted, “I feel that pretty, feminine, flowery and bohemian dresses are important for summer when people want to feel comfortable in their clothes.”
Among Seamless’ top-selling pieces was a slinky jersey “Goddess” dress by Michelle Jonas, priced at $95 wholesale. “Jersey is big. Fashion is changing into something more casual and practical,” Jonas said.