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NEW YORK — The search for the next hot accessory is on.

This story first appeared in the January 20, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

After last summer’s craze for chandelier earrings and Jelly Kelly handbags, accessories makers now face the challenge of creating a hot trend to replicate the performance of those blockbuster items. For summer, many have gone down the same route, offering more dangly earrings and even more “Jelly.”

During last week’s summer market, which was held in Midtown showrooms and trade shows such as Accessorie Circuit and Accessories The Show here, trends included variations on the chandelier earring with longer, more linear interpretations, and “Jelly” plastic material featured across classifications from clutches and top-handle barrel handbags to bracelets.

“This season people reinterpreted the Jelly bag to try to get another season out of a strong trend from the last market,” said Robyn Albaum, senior account executive at Maxx New York, which offered frosted plastic barrel bags for $25 wholesale.

Other trends on tap included tweed handbags, prominent hardware details such as large circles and Gucci-like buckles, Lucite jewelry and bright colors from pink and blue to green and orange.

Retailers visiting the shows were brimming with confidence after a stronger-than-anticipated fourth quarter.

“The holiday season was great and people were buying more last season than they have in the past,” said Heidi Cohen, accessories buyer at Henri Bendel. “Earrings will still be a huge category, but they will change from chandelier styles into long linear designs. Another key trend was Lucite jewelry.”

Sunny Diego, Saks Fifth Avenue’s market director for accessories and intimates, cited Alexis Bittar’s Pucci-inspired pins and cuffs as a standout. “Prints and florals continue,” she said. “Ladylike trends still continue and everything luxury or fake luxury is the buzz.”

“Customers are looking for more unique, individual and hand-picked things,” said Beth Ann Taratoot, owner of Beth Ann Inc., an accessories and cosmetics store in Atlanta.

For vendors that source their leather goods in Italy, a key challenge is the rising value of the euro against the dollar. Many said they had to adjust their margins to keep the prices in check.

“The euro is a major concern, especially in our leather business,” said Robert Camche, partner at Sondra Roberts. “What we sold last year for $100 is now $130. That’s a challenge with a customer that is shopping price points.”

Designer Helen Welsh added: “It’s a terrible thing unless you have a forward contract. I am trying to keep the prices the same. I ship things by boat or cut margins.”

That said, vendors agreed that the strong holiday season is stimulating business, and many stores were scrambling for goods with immediate deliveries.

“Because the inventory at store level was leaner [for holiday], they have more open-to-buy,” said Roy Kean, president of handbags showroom Accessories That Matter, where top items included a fake crocodile clutch-like purse from Lodis and boxy top-zipper handbags from Ombu.

At Accessories The Show, Monsac International launched a higher-priced collection of handbags for fall delivery. The new line features Italian print calf, fake pony and zebra print skin, from $225 to $254 wholesale with distribution aimed at upscale specialty stores.

Erickson Beamon, at Accessorie Circuit, presented a Magical Mystery Tour group that features a mix of glass and vintage stones for necklaces and chandelier-like earrings with psychedelic magic mushroom drops, for $150 to $400 wholesale.

“It’s escape jewelry because people were tired of being miserable,” said co-founder and co-owner Karen Erickson.