NEW YORK — A feeling of a return to normalcy pervaded the latest round of apparel trade shows here. There was consistent talk of a pickup in order writing and consumer spending, and little discussion of the recessionary blues that dominated shows the last few years. Even the buzz surrounding higher raw material costs got little play, as record prices seem to have stabilized somewhat and ready-to-wear and contemporary vendors have adjusted pricing strategies and turned to cotton blends and alternative fabrics to deal with the sticker shock.
Department and specialty store buyers were busy writing fall orders at the Fashion Coterie, which took place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and Pier 94.
Some 1,400 lines were displayed between the two venues, including such first-time participants as Cluny, Cynthia Steffe’s new line; Erin Fetherston; Diesel Black Gold; Joy Cioci, a former assistant to Olivier Theyskens who has launched her own line, and Notify. One of the highlights of Pier 94 was a separate area called TMRW, which gave a platform to young, progressive talent. The group featured 33 lines, including THVM Atelier, The Riff, Whit, Bolongaro Trevor, Anagram and Alex & Eli.
Some of the busiest booths at the show appeared to be Elizabeth & James, Tibi, Alice + Olivia, J Brand, Hard Tail, Milly and Desigual.
“It’s been really good,” said Susie Greenstadt, a sales representative for such lines as Velvet Heart and Biblelot, which were displayed at Javits. “Traffic has been better than expected. People have been ordering about 50 percent spring, and 50 percent fall.”
Key Trends and Vendor Highlights:
• Skinny and straight boot-cut jeans and flares. Randi Siegal, owner of Rapunzel’s Closet, a women’s specialty store in Palm Beach, Fla., said she did a lot of denim buying at the show, particularly skinnies and straight boot cuts, as well as a few high-rise flares. “We still just bought clean washes in the skinnies and straight, and are trying a wide-leg flare in a clean dark wash from J Brand because it’s our best-selling denim brand. Citizens of Humanity had some great clean washes,” and she also bought black and charcoal corduroys at AG and Citizens of Humanity.
• Animal prints in knitwear, jackets and dresses. “Ella Moss had some great fall sweaters and reasonable prices,” Siegal said. “Vince had lots of great sweaters, too.” In addition, she said, “Joie had some great floral prints…and we love the Joie Soft line. It’s been doing very well for us.”
• Mixed textures, hand-knit sweaters, cardigans, tunics and turtlenecks: Nicole Raithel and Jordan Chadwell, owners of Meringue, an Atlanta-based specialty store, cited Fair Isle sweaters and chunky and hand-made looks, notably sweaters at Splendid and Ella Moss, and Patterson J. Kincaid’s Bambi line of animal prints.
• Outerwear, ranging from three-quarter-length toppers and military and aviator jackets to anoraks, capes and furs. Chadwell said she liked the anoraks she was seeing, as well as fox fur trim outerwear at Patterson J. Kincaid.
• Slinky and sexy tops, as well as vintage blouses and exaggerated necklines.
• The Desigual line: “The collection is gorgeous,” said Ana Santos, buyer for Tehen, a specialty store in Cherry Hill, N.J. “It’s a little more sophisticated [this time].” Others lines she was ordering were Ronen Chen’s “simple and easy knits” and Mackage’s “beautiful coats.” Harry Shiroff, chief executive officer of Tehen, added that the Haute Hippie line at Pier 94 “was fabulous.”
• ABS dresses: Holly Green, owner of Infinity on Madison Avenue, said, “This happens to be the best line they ever had,” citing a slinky black jersey long-sleeve dress with leather trim as a standout.
— Lisa Lockwood
DESIGNERS & AGENTS
Vendors at the three-day Designers & Agents show at the Starrett-Lehigh Center and the Chelsea Art Museum offered a sophisticated palette for fall, underscoring that contemporary’s old jeans-and-T-shirt image has been overcome. Vendors noted an increase in orders, particularly from international stores, and buyer traffic was up by 5 percent, tieing with D&A’s largest show, even though it ran over President’s Day weekend.
As in past seasons, stores were looking for pieces with that extra something special to sway customers to spend. Nicole Bilzerian, co-owner of the Martha’s Vineyard boutique The Great Put-On, said, “You have to know your customer and your market, and have quality pieces that are interesting and special. For me, it’s about what looks great and what stands out. Knits and accessories are trading.”
• Boho chic, from floor-length floral dresses to artisanal, native-inspired prints.
• Knitwear in a variety of forms, from fine knits for elegant coats to crochet details.
• A renewed focus on textures and patterns, including sweaters with a handmade feeling and raw finishes.
• Min Young Lee’s fall collection, at the Noëtic Showroom, had a bohemian touch, with romantic white cotton voile and metallic lace dresses, for $150 wholesale, a silk cotton hand-embroidered top for $125, and color-blocking for silk dresses at $190. “I find my inspiration in my friends, my life, arts and design,” Lee said of her collection, which is made in India.
• 4 Love & Liberty, at the Johnny Was Showroom, took a romantic turn using silks, chiffons, laces and eyelets, including an embellished soft cotton T-shirt with a mesh and stone overlay for $55 to $65 wholesale; a three-quarter-length silk tunic with eyelet detail for $79, and supple leather handbags for $139.
• Clover Canyon, a new line by Rozae Nichols, made its debut at D&A as part of the show’s collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which also featured Esquivel shoes. The colorful line is positioned at the opening price point of contemporary, with eclectic, multiprint dresses, tops and pants, including a Deco-embellished chiffon dress and a paisley jersey top.
• Lilith, the popular Paris-based mix-and-match label, skewed more modern, with updated silhouettes and shorter skirts.
— Marc Karimzadeh
Now in its third season of showing women’s wear in New York, Capsule is feeling quite at home in the field. The trade show, which wrapped up after three days at an industrial-like West Chelsea space, had about 2,500 domestic and international buyers roaming the three floors to look at upscale contemporary labels. The show had 145 exhibitors — up from 120 last season — from Rogan, Trovata, Osklen and Albertus Swanepoel to Rachel Antonoff and Samantha Pleet.
• Outerwear Inside: Heavy gray wools dominated the offering, giving the clothes the kind of wintery feel that is typically less common in the contemporary sector.
• Special Coat: Dresses replaced coats as the key item of interest, from long, tailored versions to peacoats.
• Men for Women: Men’s wear details made their way into women’s designs, from tailoring to textures like herringbone weaves.
• Billy Reid, the Florence, Ala.-based designer who took home the top prize at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund last November, brought along a more extensive collection than he did during New York Fashion Week. Among the bestsellers was a trenchcoat with a pleated back detail with a dress that buttons out of the coat for $350 wholesale. “Stores are responding to outerwear, including coats and blazers, and the more tailored pieces,” said Spencer Singer, Billy Reid’s store director and account executive.
• Rachel Antonoff presented a quirky, irreverent take on clothes, including bestsellers such as her Macy Cat felt skirt with a cat ear pocket detail for $126 wholesale; her Kelsy washed silk dress for $119, and her short Tenn Tom flat chiffon dress with charmeuse detail for $176. “It’s been a very good show,” Antonoff said. “I picked up several new stores.”
• Penfield offered herringbone down vests with new color combinations, such as orange or purple with brown leather details.
FAME & MODA MANHATTAN
While some vendors at Moda Manhattan and FAME remarked that business was a bit slower than last year, organizer Business Journals said attendance was up 26 percent at the event, also held over President’s Day weekend at the Javits Center.
“People are pretty much done shopping in spring,” said show manager of contemporary brand Luluvia Steve Lee, who noted that after a long season of trade shows, there could be some “buyer fatigue.”
In a booth teeming with buyers, Connie Kye, designer and owner of Kyela Clothing, a stylish misses’ brand that wholesales for $59 to $110 and features jackets made from organza polyester and dresses with bold, lively prints, said, “This year, sales are up 30 percent since January. I got the price. I got the stuff. They can buy plain somewhere else.”
• At FAME, vendors displayed a mix of funky basics from cowl-neck sweaters to feminine, romantic tops and dresses adorned with lace detailing and ruffles.
• Pastels and natural colors for everyday wear.
• At Moda, designers like Patty Kim of West New York, N.J., exhibited fall and winter trends, including fur vests, blazers and colorful quilted jackets.
— Alexandra Steigrad
THE TRAIN & THE BOX
When Muriel Piaser envisioned a concept for The Train and The Box trade show, it was to transport New York buyers to Paris with an eclectic mix of European fashions from emerging and established designers. The exhibitions director, who also curates Prêt à Porter Paris, characterized the show as having a “creative French touch,” and said traffic had increased in single-digit percentages over last year.
Held in the Terminal Warehouse Building and showcasing about 100 brands, the number of visitors increased 18 percent to 4,000.
Knowing the customer is tantamount to success, said Lesley McEntyre, a saleswoman from Moloko, a trendy Paris-based bridge collection. “There’s intention in every aspect of our design,” she said. “Every season, we have more new clients.”
• Tops and dresses made from silk, organic cotton and organza with ruffles and pleats, to give a sense of “romanticism,” according to Les Ours designer Sandrine Lhostis.
• Dark colored basic, but stylish, separates to pair with retro-glam jackets and vests.
• Accessories, ranging from Fifties-inspired Parisian pill box hats and headbands from designer Benoît Missolin, to jewelry from Lizzy Couture that mixes antique and vintage objects.
DESIGNERS AT THE JUMEIRAH ESSEX HOUSE
The Designers at the Jumeirah Essex House show featured 18 resources catering to specialty store buyers, many of whom were more upbeat about business since shoppers are starting to loosen their purse strings again.
Retailers checking out Victoria Lopez-Castro gravitated toward a $1,100 black gown with a white ruffle, a $725 silver sequin cocktail dress and a $825 black cocktail dress. Lopez-Castro, who also owns a store in Coral Gables, Fla., is now focusing on wholesale to boost sales.
Sophy Curson, whose family has owned a Philadelphia store by the same name for 82 years, said purchases are picking up. The company also has a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., boutique. En route to Kevan Hall and Roberto Quaglia, she said, “I don’t know if it’s cabin fever or that everything has been recycled too many times, but occasions are being celebrated again.”
At Algo of Switzerland, three different styles of five-button, fitted wool jackets wholesaling from $850 to $1,180 were top show picks. Vice president of sales and marketing Nicolas Goetschel noted the stock market’s improvement has encouraged some to spend more. But he and his parents, who run the 100-year-old, family-owned, Zurich-based firm, are adding e-commerce to the brand’s Web site this month.
Steven Salpeter, owner of Raffinalla, based in Montreal, reached out to numerous stores before the show and wound up opening 10 new accounts.
• Black is a given for evening but a variety of other colors such as metallics, red and sapphire are resonating with shoppers.
• Cocktail dresses, gowns and classic high-end jackets.
• Separates with unusual detail such as laser-cut styles.
— Rosemary Feitelberg
Resourcefulness seemed to be the name of the game at the Atelier Designers trade show at the Doubletree Times Square hotel.
Rather than be resigned to “the new normal,” several showgoers said they are being proactive about encouraging shoppers to visit their stores more frequently. Amy Brill, who owns the Ithaca, N.Y.-based sportswear label of the same name, said, “Stores are placing smaller buys and are looking for more immediates to keep people coming in. And it seems like they want all the seasons all the time.”
Brill, whose show standouts included handmade sweaters with linen webwork, said stores are responding more to American-made products. “I make a point of telling them that everything in my line is American made, even the yarns,” she said.
Kiki Verveniotis, owner of Norwalk, Conn.-based Go Lightly, said, “We are all working twice as hard for the same buck. The trick is not to do something that somebody else does better than you do.”
To try to be more competitive, she does not require minimum orders and she has reduced her overhead by being a one-woman operation, a decision she made prior to the 2008 financial fallout.
Ken Brown, owner of Uru, a San Diego sportswear label, said stores’ budgets seem to be loosening up and retailers are being more loyal to their top-performing resources. An $86 red silk jacket, a $100 ruffled print jacket and a $120 tank and pants ensemble were show standouts.
Emanuel and Kathleen Fresko, whose KEF Sales showed Crea Concept and Guido Lombardi, said they saw 60 clients during the three-day show. Knitwear separates, easy dresses and tops with interesting details were top picks.
• Increased interest in colors like papaya, greens, taupes and gray blue.
• Demand for an assortment of knitwear, especially fitted cardigans and sweater jackets.
• Greater loyalty to a more select number of proven resources.