NEW YORK — The fall installment of ENK International’s Fashion Coterie is about both the old and the new, and this season will be no exception.
Coterie lures companies back year after year, but also regularly introduces new labels to buyers from around the world. The exhibition also gives vendors a major read on how retailers are performing and their outlook for next season.
“Fall Coterie is our biggest show of the year,” said Kelly Shelsky, executive vice president of Cousin Johnny, the knit and sweater collection here. “We always do more than $1 million in-hand at the show.”
Shelsky said Coterie is a good show for the company because of its user-friendly atmosphere.
“The venue is just great. Customers can come in and sit down and talk,” she said. Cousin Johnny has shown its wares at Coterie since the company’s inception 10 years ago. “We started with Coterie at the Plaza Hotel, then moved to the Piers in a booth that was 10 feet by 10 feet. Now, we’re in a custom booth that measures 20 feet by 15 feet,” she noted.
This fall, Cousin Johnny’s collection includes key pieces such as multicolored sweaters, argyles and shrugs. “And anything with stripes,” she added.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Cousin Johnny will donate 100 percent of the proceeds from its Milestone sweater group to the Trust for Public Land, the only national nonprofit organization working exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well-being.
Alice & Olivia is another company that started showing at Coterie during its first year of business.
“I launched the company three years ago and started Coterie that same year,” said Stacey Bendet, designer for Alice & Olivia here. “We were brand new, and everyone was rushing to buy our pants.”
Bendet said fall is her company’s busiest season, and Coterie plays a major role in the fall rush. “We do a tremendous amount of business at Coterie,” Bendet said. “Coterie is all about small businesses.”
Bendet said she expects Alice & Olivia to generate between $8 million and $10 million in 2005.
Bendet will introduce Alice & Olivia’s first denim collection at Coterie. “Everyone’s doing torn-up denim styles,” said Bendet. “We wanted to do denim that reflected the Alice & Olivia girl.”
The denim collection will include eight styles and will wholesale from $75 to $90. Bendet said “cool layered looks” will be big for fall. The Alice & Olivia fall collection will include cashmere hoodies and embroidered sweaters.
Designer Nanette Lepore uses Coterie as a measuring stick. “It gives us a great reading as to what’s going on with our line,” Lepore said. “By the end of the week, we can be ordering fabrics and knowing which colors will be stronger. It’s a good gauge for business.”
Lepore said she expects her wholesale volume for 2005 to reach $50 million. “Excluding licensing agreements,” she noted.
“We’ve had 30 percent to 50 percent growth annually for the past three to five years,” she said.
Lepore first showed her collection at Coterie in 1990. For fall 2005, the collection will include key pieces such as brown and blue tweed suits, rich velvet and embroidered pieces, and coats. Currently, the Nanette Lepore collection can be found at over 650 specialty stores worldwide. In 2005, Lepore hopes to open a store in London and add a shoe license. “That would be a great thing to complete the line,” she said.
As for the new firms this season, there will be plenty for buyers to choose from.
“This fall line is really the first line that I could call a collection,” said Eve Chrust, founder and designer of the Eve*Lynn collection. Chrust started thinking about doing her own collection in January 2004, and officially launched at Coterie in September 2004. Until last May, Chrust was a literature major at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
“Coterie puts you on the map,” Chrust said. “At your first show, people come into your booth, look around, and they love what you’ve got, but nobody buys. However, after they see that you have staying power, buyers see that you’re responsible and that you will ship and that your line is getting better.”
When Chrust launched at Coterie six months ago, she said she had a huge response from buyers in the Asian market. “I didn’t write that many orders, but the attention was definitely there,” she said. Since then, Chrust has signed on a sales representative to focus solely on Asian markets, especially those in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Chrust is introducing a military-inspired collection for fall. The pieces are vintage and completely reworked in New York. The collection, she said, is based on a theme of masculinity versus femininity. “It’s half Botticelli, half skull and crossbones,” she said. The collection is heavily influenced by punk rock.
“I’ve always had an affinity toward punk rock and rock ’n’ roll,” she said. “I feel like punk rock has become more of a trend than a genre.”