There were a few pluses going into spring. After a brutal ’95, excess inventories were marked down and moved out. Retailers were on the prowl for fashion. Basics, they said, are played out; novelty is in.
Vendors noted an expanded East Coast presence after several market weeks were virtually shut down by the recent blizzard in New York. Jay Tandon, owner of Essential Apparel, a Monsey, N.Y., store, said he was seeking items he missed at the New York market. He said he was shopping for misses’ sportswear for summer at wholesale price points ranging from $20-$45.
“Things are getting plainer and plainer,” he said of the trend in the misses’ market.
While the first day built steady momentum, vendors expect to see stores ranging from Federated Department Stores, Belk’s, Barneys New York and Dayton’s on the upper end; Sears, Roebuck, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s on the moderate end, and Caldor, Ross, Kmart and Clothestime on the mass market end, as well as a steady turnout from specialty stores.
For most, the show’s timing is transitional spring and the collective mantra is: Stand out from the crowd.
The result was lots of new ways of telling some old stories, with innovative treatments and fabrications like patent bra tops and HotPants, laminated denim jackets, one-way stretch fabrics and double jacquards.
Lizabeth Gibson, a buyer for Nordstrom, said she was taking two days to scour the market for new and unusual lines. She said she was especially interested in new fashion from contemporary vendors.
“I’m ready to order for the right items,” she said.
Cara Stangl, a buyer for Clothestime, said she was focusing on juniors, a category she categorized as difficult, but one that may be on the verge of a spring turnaround.
“We’re just walking around looking for anything that is new,” Stangl said. “We haven’t even set up appointments.”
Marianne Johns, a dress buyer for the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog, said she was approaching vendors for a fall preview.
“Our business is very item-oriented,” Johns said. “We’re looking for the unusual — items not massed out in every retail outlet.”
Vendors also capitalized on the novelty business.
“Our bread and butter has been the ‘Pulp Fiction’ pants,” said Lorena Loor-Lujambio, national sales manager of Dollhouse, a division of Jou Jou Inc. She said Urban Outfitters has reordered the pants, which come in 100 percent polyester and stretch sateens, four times at 800 to 1,200 units per order.
Although buyers were taking notes on the first day, Loor-Lujambio said she expected to do about $300,000 in business.
“This show is a little different in that we get less paper but bigger orders,” she said, adding that it gives her company the opportunity to reach Japanese buyers and build an international base.
Tom Beaver, a vice president at Chorus Line, said retailers he has met at the market are more optimistic about spring than they were for 1995.
“I don’t see anything that says spring is going to be fantastic,” he said. “But it will at least be good. It’s still going to be tight.”
On the fashion front the top trends included:
* Black and white. Shape meets contrast in stretch, sheer and shine from black zip-front jackets with simple white cotton T’s to leather snap-front jackets and black and white plaid pants.
* Active silhouettes — bras and fitted boxers and rib knit dresses — contrast with looser shapes in casual separates, linens and cotton twinsets.
* Leaving basics behind, the jeans crowd is into prints, hip-huggers — either flared or cigarette-leg — and laminated or vinylized jackets and tops. And both the shortall and the overall are back.
* A mixed bag of easy jackets with long vests, tunics, sarongs, wrap skirts, tribal prints and batiks.
* Loose shapes come in slubbed weaves and neutral in linen jackets, flax dresses, burlap rayon jackets and lots of khakis and silks.
* Softer shoulder definition, slim silhouettes in sheer wools and silk shantung. Bronze is a hot new novelty color.
* The Sixties and Seventies obsession continues with psychedelics, citrus brights, vinyls, snakeskin, polyester, rib knits, peacoats, hip-huggers and HotPants.