Exhibitors and buyers who attended Nouveau Collective this month are being resourceful as they navigate stiff economic headwinds.

This story first appeared in the May 26, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Marjory Warren, owner of Marjory Warren The Studio, a specialty store on Madison Avenue at East 88th Street, said of her business strategy, “Everything has a style, but it is not trend-driven. You can wear it this year or next year.”

Tencel separates from Tianello and tops, blouses and cargo pants from Gertie’s were among her show picks.

Buyers at Crayola Sisters’ booth were in search of immediate orders from the Cordelia and Azmina contemporary sportswear labels, said sales rep Lynne Andresevic. Blouses, skirts and jackets wholesaling between $30 and $180 were popular and “price was not an issue,” she said. “People are tired of not buying anything and they need some immediate gratification.”

Many shoppers want to move on from buying accessories, which have been bestsellers in recent seasons largely because of their affordable price, and are ready to trade up to higher price points for apparel, Andresevic said. She expects sales to increase 15 percent compared with last year.

“The beginning of this year was very soft, but things have picked up quite a bit since then,” said Andresevic, who has worked in the apparel industry for 18 years. “There is less negativity. People are seeing this as a chance to breathe. The manufacturers that were going to go out of business already have. Now all of us are just running to chase business.”

Stores checking out sportswear at Bryn Walker, a wholesale operation that also has boutiques, liked the looks of sweaters and easy-wear fabrics such as cotton, linen and Tencel. Separates, which have become more popular in recent seasons, should continue to be important, said Charlie Albert, New England sales rep for the brand. “People are using more ingenuity to put together their own outfits. Retailers tend to do what they like.”

This spring’s seasonal weather has helped stores attract more shoppers and generate more reorders, Albert said. “There are people who have a knack for retail. They know their customers,” he said. His Dedham, Mass.-based firm also reps Asia Eye and Jag Jeans.

Ella Vickers, whose namesake company specializes in bags made from recycled sails, said she picked up two new accounts at Nouveau Collective. In November, Vickers, a former professional sailor, opened a store in Greenwich, Conn., where the company is based. The brand also has a store in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and is looking into potential retail sites in New England.

To spruce up its display at the trade show, Ella Vickers set up its home decor products: a director’s chair made from sailcloth, a shower curtain and an assortment of pillows including deck pillows. Stores ordered the brand’s rope totes, zip totes and rope handbags, which wholesale from $60 to $79.

Nouveau Collective is the only traditional trade show in which the company participates. To try to broaden her customer base, Vickers said she has started showing her collection at art shows and juried trade shows.

“We’ve been very busy,” Vickers said. “People have been finding out about us through our reps, these shows and even our Web site, which needs to be done over.”

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