NEW YORK — Moda Manhattan made its debut on the trade show scene here with positive reviews.

Moda, which overlapped Femme and ended its three-day run Jan. 8, featured about 100 juried vendors showing better and ready-to-wear collections. Buyers seemed content with the vendor assortment of summer and early fall merchandise and the polished look of the show.

“The presentation at Moda is good, attractive,” said Maria O’Leary, owner of Nuevo Mundo, a 35-year-old specialty boutique in Alexandria, Va. “I’ve seen some things that speak to me. I’m looking for forward-looking, professional clothes, not regular suits, but ones that can be worn by professional women in Washington.”

Although noting that retail business seems to be bouncing back, O’Leary said she’s still exercising caution with her purchases.

“If I don’t love it, I don’t buy it, and I’m not taking as many risks,” she said.

While praising the show’s comfortable format, Celine Gordon, owner of Celine’s Collection in Fairhaven, N.J., said she, too, is doing more looking than buying in light of the slowed-down economy.

“Last year, I came to the shows and bought a lot. But now, because of the economy and Sept. 11, I’m having to pull back. I don’t buy as much, and I’m more conservative,” said Gordon, whose boutique carries lines such as Poleci, Cynthia Steffe and Shin Choi.

Exhibitors said business was better than expected.

“This has been a pleasant surprise; they’re buying,” said Karen Parker O’Brien, representative for blouse maker Finley, based in Dallas. “We’ve had wonderful business, and overall, I hope the show continues because stores are looking for a brand-new venue that is fresh and new to the industry.”

O’Brien said she was also impressed with the buyer turnout, with retailers traveling from Arkansas, Michigan, Illinois, Florida and California.

“This is a new show, and therefore, buyers didn’t walk around with dazed eyes,” said Linda Cox Dina, New York sales representative for Spanner, a better firm based in Canada.

Britton James, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc., which produces Moda, said that although the plan is to grow the show, its direction will not change.

“What we have found is the better people want to be with the better people,” he said. “And we feel Moda’s core constituency is definitely a juried market in better and ready-to-wear.”

Attendance for Moda and its accessories show totaled 8,394, according to a spokeswoman for the show, including attendees from 41 countries and 44 states.

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