Fashion Coterie, and designers are ready to showcase more than what was on the runway last week.
Cynthia Steffe, Rebecca Taylor and Betsey Johnson are just a few of the 1,030 exhibitors expected at the spring edition of the Fashion Coterie trade show, which begins its three-day run Tuesday. For designers like these, the turnaround can be daunting: they just wrapped up their fashion shows and are now preparing their booths for a rush of buyers. But with 66 new exhibitors showing at Coterie this season, there is plenty of competition — Levi’s, Chip & Pepper and Generra are among those that will show for the first time.
“We are remixing all of the lines to make Pier 90 and 92 more equal destinations for really cool, fresh contemporary collections,” said Elyse Kroll, president of ENK International. “I want these two piers to share the strength in contemporary and now I can do this since we opened more space on Pier 90.”
Traditionally, Pier 94 and Pier 92 were the strong piers for the Coterie. When more exhibitors were added last year, Kroll opened Pier 90, allowing an even larger show. Still, Pier 90 seemed skimpy compared with the other two sites. Kroll will change that with the spring 2004 show, making them equal with names like Theory, Joie and Seven For All Mankind on Pier 90 and Custo Barcelona, Miss Sixty and Catherine Malandrino at Pier 92.
Also new to Coterie is the Brazilian lounge, sponsored by ABIT, the Brazilian Textiles & Apparel Industry Association, which helped to bring 13 Brazil-based designers to the show. A wait staff in the lounge will serve traditional Brazilian drinks throughout the day, beginning with juice in the morning, a soft drink in the afternoon and a cocktail in the early evening. Also in the lounge will be flat-screen TVs showing Rio fashion week on rotation.
Designers showing at Coterie are bringing an array of new trends with them. Juicy Couture, the Los Angeles-based chic loungewear firm, has developed quite a bit in the past few months. Now that it is owned by Liz Claiborne Inc., co-founder Gela Taylor said she and partner Pam Skaist-Levy have the financial freedom to turn the line into a complete lifestyle brand. Taylor said they will use this Coterie to show off their traditional Juicy sets in thinner terrycloth fabrics and lightweight denim jeans, bikinis and dresses.
“We are still working with what we have become known for,” Taylor said. “It’s still very feminine and comfortable, but we just have so much more and such a variety.”
She said they will preview a small line of the new accessories line to come in mid-October, which includes small leather goods, flip-flops and terry totes in bright colors to match the sets. Taylor said the company is beefing up its mix of products in preparation for the first freestanding Juicy Couture store in Las Vegas, which is planned for an October 2004 opening.
“We just could never have done anything like this without Liz Claiborne,” Taylor said. “And they have been just fantastic partners. They just sit back and let us do our thing.”
Also looking forward to the Coterie is Julie Weston, owner of the San Francisco-based Weston Wear. The company, which has become known for its printed nylon mesh tops, will feature a larger collection this season offering a series of tops that are made thin to allow for easy layering, but also some skirts and dresses to work with the tops.
“It’s sort of basics with a twist,” Weston said. “The tops are available in about 14 or 15 colors, so they can be mixed or matched.”
Weston said for the first time in many years, she is offering a variety of colors. “These colors have been waiting in the closet for so long,” she said. “I loved the Eighties when there was so much color. Now, we can be free to use color again. It’s about time.”
Also looking to the Eighties for inspiration is Charlotte Ronson, designer of C. Ronson, a contemporary sportswear line based here.
“It’s sort of Eighties, but more feminine and girly,” said Ronson, pointing out items like the sporty pink hoodies with screen-printed girl rock stars on them and open-neck sweatshirts in colors such as pink, gray and white.
While Ronson still considers her company to be a small one, she has some major financial backing since Rocawear purchased the firm earlier this year. Since then, Rocawear helps with production and manufacturing, allowing for Ronson to slightly lower her prices.
“We are trying to keep the prices down, but we are still a small company, so they can’t be too low,” she said.
Also at the Coterie, Ronson said she will have her new line of shoes, which are made in fabrics that work with the collection and a small line of men’s wear, which will launch at Bloomingdale’s in November.
For the Los Angeles-based Joie, spring means light fabrics — something Joie Rucker, co-president and designer, can’t wait to introduce at the show.
“I am focusing on featherweight fabrics, light jerseys, super-fine cashmere,” said Rucker, citing super-thin jersey tops appropriate for layering, a light terry group, and yoga and beachwear she will bring to the show. “I am also showing jeans made of an ultra-light denim from Europe — great for the spring.”
Rucker said the colors for the spring include bright pink, strong turquoise and deep iris. She said the line will mix the bright color pieces with olive green and steel gray. Rucker said she will show a new collection of T-shirts, super-light suede skirts, and dresses in chiffon and crinkled silk fabrics.
She said although Joie is a young company, celebrities from Cameron Diaz to Gisele Bünchen have taken to the line — something that has certainly helped to get the word out.
“When they wear it, people start paying attention,” she said. “That has helped us out a ton.”
It’s a similar story for So Low. The Los Angeles-based company hit the big time when teen superstar Hilary Duff chose a So Low terry miniskirt for the movie poster from “The Lizzie MaGuire Movie.” Since then, other celebrities have caught on.
“Without a doubt the celebrities have helped our business,” said Laura Chambers, president of the contemporary firm. “It helps on the West Coast in particular and this young customer watches what the celebrities are wearing. They really pay close attention.”
As a result, Chambers said business has been increasingly strong during the past six months. So Low also offers other knits, wovens and jerseys. This season Chambers said So Low’s trends range from Mod to Hawaiian prints and colors. The sets are made to mix and match with stripes and polkadots on pastel colors. Miniskirts are still hot, she said, causing the company to offer halter minidresses for the spring.
“We can’t seem to make enough minis,” she said. “The more we produce, the more are in demand.”