Byline: Wendy Hessen

By the time the first frost hits the air, cold weather accessories are often stacked high on selling floors. Even when the weather cooperates, stores have just a few short weeks to move those mountains of hats, scarves and gloves onto the heads and hands of chilly consumers.

This retail landscape has traditionally been dominated by generally basic styling, more often than not provided by a host of private label resources. But like just about every other accessories classification, brands have recently turned their eyes toward the cold weather arena. Come this fall, two major labels — Nine West and Anne Klein 2 — will unveil their take on keeping warm stylishly, and another major player, Echo, will greatly expand its offerings. Following, a rundown on their strategies.

The handbag and footwear behemoth, which has morphed into a full-fledged sportswear firm under its new ownership by Jones New York, hopes to dominate the cold weather category as well, according to Mary Bell, president of licensing for Nine West.

“This is a comprehensive collection reflecting the Nine West lifestyle in gloves, knits and scarves,” said Bell.
Nine West’s collection places a tremendous amount of focus on innovative yarns and materials, all of which are being produced under license by Fownes.

“Trying to capture all these Nine West customers on the main floor means addressing both generations X and Y and the baby boomers,” said Bruna Maney, vice president of merchandising and marketing at Fownes. “Nine West is about fashion with a purpose — warmth.”

The line focuses on two areas: leather or fabric gloves, and coordinates. Gloves will feature leather from the venerable English firm, Pittard’s, and includes unlined driving styles, microfiber or fleece-lined gloves and details such as pinking, topstitching and lacing. Wholesale prices range from about $15 to $18. In the one-size-fits-all category, Nine West will offer a glove in Malden Mills Powerstretch Polartec with patch palms and trim in leather, which will wholesale for $13.

Coordinates will address themes from classic to techno in materials including lambswool and acrylic blends, 100 percent wool, a lambswool and cashmere blend trimmed with leather and a 100 percent super-soft microfiber that is available in 22 colors. Patterns range from tweeds, jacquards and hand or machine knits, to fake fur, Tactel, Lurex and space-dye handknits, all with the Nine West logo on a plate or leather patch. Wholesale prices range from $6 to $14.

“Cold weather accessories are a natural extension for us,” said Merle Sloss, president of licensing at Anne Klein. She said the Anne Klein 2 offering will be loosely inspired by the label’s ready-to-wear, coat and soon-to-be-launched fur collections. And special items, rather than basics, will be the focus.

“It’s not a matched line in terms of using the same prints, but there are synergies, and it all works together,” said Sloss. “The color palettes, especially, will come from the ready-to-wear and our coat lines.”

Key themes for the debut line, being produced under license by Collection XIIX, include men’s wear looks in wools and acrylic and cashmere blends in herringbone, houndstooth and tweed, many with details like leather trim. To capitalize on Anne Klein’s strong eveningwear business, there will be plenty of glamour looks with metallic washes, sequins and beading, some with fur or leather trim.

Retail price points for pieces from mittens to wraps and bias-cut scarves range from $20 to $150. Sloss said the line will initially be targeted to roughly 250 better department store doors, but within three years could reach nearly quadruple that number.

Although Echo has dabbled in cold weather accessories through its line of acrylic gloves and scarves, fall will mark a significant expansion of the company’s offerings.

In addition to the main Echo line, which launches this month, the more luxurious Echo Collection also bows, with deliveries slated to begin next August.

“We’ve added new materials including reversibles, lambswool with angora and nylon, mercerized merino woolens, baby alpaca, goat suede lined with cashmere, and a lot more in the way of details, patterns and mixes,” said Lynn Roberts, vice president of the family-owned firm. “For a long time, this category was more of a basic, but it’s not just about warmth anymore — there is now much more fashion. Even our soft knits aren’t basic; after all, they come in 24 colors.”

Roberts said items include gloves, wraps, ruanas, ponchos, oblong scarves and bias-cut shapes. Cashmere will be a dominating material in the Echo Collection line, although velvets, cashmere and silk blends will also play a major part, she said. Color figures prominently in both lines, and patterns include graphic Op Art looks, herringbones, plaids and stripes. Wholesale prices range from $6 to $42 in the main line, and from $50 to $250 in the Collection line.

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