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NEW YORK — Amid snowstorms and frigid temperatures, the thawing economy was front and center at the latest round of apparel trade shows in Manhattan. Buyers seemed buoyed by a solid holiday season, seeking out fresh trends for spring and summer to entice their customers’ revived interest in fashion. There is still concern about high raw material prices and the slowness of the recovery from the recession, but the turnout and order writing was as robust as it’s been in some time.

This story first appeared in the February 2, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

INTERMEZZO
Despite an impending snowstorm, buyers shopping Intermezzo Collections last month had warm summer days on their minds.

Retailers said they were pleased with the way 2010 turned out, as well as the state of current business. Most said they weren’t that concerned about the rising price of cotton and had found lines that were well priced at the show. Booths such as Splendid, Minnie Rose, Hard Tail, J Brand, Waverly Grey, Milly and Ella Moss were bustling with activity at the ENK International-produced event, which ended its three-day run Jan. 11 at the Show Piers.

Susan Greenstadt, owner of Susan Greenstadt & Associates, a rep firm for Bibelot and Velvet Heart, summed up the feeling at the show: “It’s tough to get people kick-started in January, but they are writing. I do feel a renewed optimism. All my stores are in better moods. They have a good outlook for 2011.”

Most retailers said they were shopping for fill-ins for spring and summer merchandise.

Key Trends:
• Long, flowing skirts and dresses.

• Cute tops to wear out at night.

• Easy, bohemian styles.

• Contemporary knitwear, including wraps and ponchos.

• Long walking shorts for summer.

Exhibitor Highlights:
• Gypsy 05’s contemporary collection of tops and long dresses. Lori Goldstein, owner of Great Stuff, which has specialty stores in Greenwich and Westport, Conn., and Chappaqua, Rye and Scarsdale, N.Y., said of the line: “It was soft, easy, a little bit edgy and hippie to make it interesting.”

• “Great” tops and fake shearling vests at Robbi & Nikki, a Los Angeles resource designed by Robert Rodriguez, were on the shopping list for Allyson Bass, owner of Frances Heffernan, a high-end women’s specialty store based in Winnetka, Ill., who was combing the show with her buyer, Jamie Pawlow, for items for its younger-skewing contemporary store called Frannie. She also liked the day dresses at Ali Ro and looks from contemporary label Waverly Grey. “We do well with them. It looks beautiful, and we’re bringing it in [for the first time] for spring,” said Pawlow.

• Avenue Montaigne pants. “They’re a no-brainer,” said Bass. “They fit. We mix their pants with high-end sweaters such as Bruno Cucinelli.”

• California contemporary resources Velvet and Graham & Spencer, as well as Alice + Olivia and Billy Blues pants were high on retailer Pam Katz’s list. The owner of First Impressions, a specialty store based in Lafayette Hill, Pa., said she was searching for “fabulous, great tops,” and those that are batik-y, gauzy and colorful. She was also on the hunt for long shorts, flowing, easy skirts and wide pants.

— LISA LOCKWOOD

 

DESIGNERS & AGENTS
Contemporary, one of the hottest areas at fashion retail in recent years, continues to move along at a healthy clip — at least where vendors and retailers at the Designers & Agents summer show were concerned. The exhibit, which wrapped up its three-day run at the Starrett-Lehigh Center on Jan. 11, is smaller than its spring and fall counterparts, and a nice alternative to their sometimes frenetic pace. Many used the exhibit to order immediates, as well as summer clothes that transitioned into the pre-fall season.

While business is not back to prerecession levels, many retailers adjusted their plans and inventories after a healthy holiday season and were hopeful the momentum would continue. Joan Shepp, owner of the namesake Philadelphia boutique, was looking for items with a feel-good factor.

“It has to be something new or different to give shoppers a reason to buy,” she said. “People are buying what they love and what makes them feel good. I think customers want to believe it will get better.”

Key Trends:
• Floral Prints: Whether on dresses, blouses or accessories, the trend for floral is quickly turning into a summer evergreen.

• Textured leathers: Designers played with their leather options, from perforated to crinkled.

• Separates: After seasons of the dress dominating trends, separates are gaining prominence, particularly skirts, which are poised for a comeback.

Exhibitor Highlights:
• Illia, based and produced in Los Angeles, recently opened a boutique on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach, Calif. It offered its take on textured and perforated leathers, and bestsellers included a crunched leather vest for $129 wholesale and a crunched leather dress with zigzag stitching for $175. “It’s been a lot about vests,” said Jill Yee, who co-designs Illia. “I also feel that skirts are coming back.”

• At Archerie, New York designer Jillian Grano offered dresses made with vintage floral prints from the Forties, and bestsellers included a reversible cotton voile double-layer dress for $135 wholesale and a floral cotton satin dress for $88 wholesale.

• India is all the rage, and Virginia Witbeck, a Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein alum, is using some of the country’s talent for prints for a summer lifestyle collection. Bestsellers included black-and-white hole-lace poplin pants for $92 wholesale, and a gold sunburst print dress for $133.

— MARC KARIMZADEH

FAME AND MODA MANHATTAN
Vendors at the Fame and Moda trade shows adorned the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center with a swath of prints, pastels and retro-fitted looks with accoutrements such as ruffles and pleats. Held Jan. 9 to 11, the shows drew droves of buyers, who were eager to get their hands on upcoming spring and summer trends.

Key Trends:
• Longer hemlines, long, flowy dresses and bell-bottom pants.

• Prints, florals, bold colors and pastels.

• Basic blazers and jackets with looser shoulder lines.

• Lightweight materials like chiffon and cotton.

• Details such as ruffles, pleats and fringes on skirts and shorts.

• “I think the thing this summer is shorts with embellishments,” said Ark & Co. designer Maria Stanley. “Light pink is also a popular color.”

• “People are looking for dressier tops for spring and knits and crochets,” according to Samantha Barcellos, a saleswoman at Renée, who touted the brand’s top seller: a white open weave cardigan.

“People will buy, but you have to be creative,” said Bonnie Bredt, a buyer at Moda, who added that her business, Marstee, had begun to improve after a “terrible” first week in January. “Last year my business was up 17 percent versus 2009,” she said.

Esley account executive Eunice Kim said her brand, which markets itself as “luxurious comfort,” had to raise its prices due to higher cotton costs. This coincided with the hiring of a new designer, who subsequently revamped the assortment to cater to a more upscale clientele.

“It hasn’t been as busy as last year, but each customer is ordering more,” Kim said, noting that Esley was logging a greater number of e-commerce orders, due in part to the exposure of the trade shows. “Our Internet business almost makes more than half of our business.”

In general, the mood at the shows was upbeat and orders were better than last year.

— ALEXANDRA STEIGRAD

NOUVEAU COLLECTIVE
Buoyed by the promise of a new year and the prospect of an economic turnaround, attendees at this month’s Nouveau Collective were eager to find fill-in and spring-summer items.

As more consumers are showing renewed interest in shopping, stores are trying to coax them with e-mails, phone calls and tweets. Nanci Prezioso, who had driven 10 hours from her Tecumseh, Mich., store, The Wild Iris, summed up the sentiment of many at the show when she said, “I used to go to work to make money. Now I go to work to figure out how to make money.”

Key Trends:
• Staying connected via Facebook and Twitter to keep customers up-to-speed about new products. At The Wild Iris, that means designs from Windhorse, Sacred Threads and Flax.

• If you call them, they will come, according to Marlene Sobel, a partner in Creative Jewelry and Apparel in Jenkintown, Pa. However, shoppers are now more inclined to make impulse purchases, motivated by quality, not price, she said. Casual sportswear from Sacred Threads, Zashi and Gerties are essentials

— ROSEMARY FEITELBERG

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