It was a busy week in New York for women’s trade shows with Designers & Agents, Coterie, Woman, Capsule and Cabana all taking place around town.
Walk-throughs at the various trade shows revealed brisk traffic and lots of writing for fall merchandise — ranging from cashmeres to swimwear to outerwear.
Designers & Agents, which ran Saturday through Monday at the Starrett Lehigh Building and 547 West 26th Street, for example, attracted a steady stream of better specialty stores throughout the three-day show. “It was the third show in a row we were expecting to hear bad news, but we’re hearing business is good,” said Ed Mandelbaum, owner of Designers & Agents. The show featured 178 ready-to-wear and accessory designers, about the same as a year ago. The show is comprised half of European brands, and half U.S. brands. Mandelbaum called the show “a serious writing” show.
“It’s such an international mix here,” added Meryl Mandelbaum, managing director of D&A. She said the show attracts resources from Italy, France, Japan and Turkey. When asked about specific trends at the show, she said, “It’s all about the mix.” She said the retailers, and ultimately the customers, like to make it their own and add their personal vision.
Craig Wright, owner of Dragon Diffusion, a Belgian-based company that specializes in handcrafted woven-leather bags, said he was doing well with Japanese-style basket bags. Over the weekend, he said he saw 90 percent of his regular accounts and 10 percent new accounts. He has been showing at D&A for four years. He makes his bags in India. The bags wholesale from $140 to $180, and are sold in stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Galeries Lafayette, Matches.com and Net-a-porter.
“It’s a different vibe from other events. It’s not like a fair, it’s better,” said Hannoh Wessel, owner of H + Hannoh Wessel, a women’s collection. He said Harris tweed was selling well in different colors, and ribbed wool and cotton looks. He was having a successful show with his coats, jackets, dresses and knitwear, that are made in Italy. Coats wholesale from $300 to $400, jackets are around $200, pants go from $109 to $120, and dresses wholesale from $150 to $200. “Our regular accounts come back each season, and we add about three to five new accounts,” he said. Last year, the brand opened stores in Paris and Brooklyn. Business grew 35 percent last year. Among some of its accounts are Lost & Found in Los Angeles, Atlantic in Nantucket, Muleh in New York, and Baby & Co. in Seattle.
Kayin Wong, a buyer for Misook.com, a fashion e-commerce site, said about her first visit to D&A, “We are looking for knitwear and women’s wear that’s younger, and basic items to pair with knitwear and jackets.” Ingrid Yeo, another buyer for the retailer, said she liked the jackets that she saw at Elsa Esturgie. “Their jackets are nice to layer with,” Yeo said.
Susan Amenta, owner, and Jane Walker, manager, of Texture, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based retailer were at D&A looking to buy knits and travel wear. They said they liked the hand-crocheted scarves and bags at Sophie Digard Creations. They also liked Jack Gomme’s bags. Walker said the purses weigh absolutely nothing and “they’re great fashion but very practical. They do a coated linen, which is phenomenal.”
Over at Coterie, which ran at the Javits K. Javits Convention Center Monday throughout Wednesday, buyers were scooping up cashmeres, outerwear and lots of neon.
Danielle Licata, president of Coterie, said it was a successful show, with traffic and exhibitors at the same level as last February. “We had an uptick in U.S. contemporary, and a downturn in international exhibitors,” Licata said. She said what was very well-received was the panel discussion held after hours on how to utilize influencers. The show also had a live photo shoot happening on Tuesday that live-streamed content that buyers could follow and learn about the brands. In addition, Coterie launched an app at the show. “Sixty percent of those who attended downloaded the app,” Licata said.
At Coterie, Cheryl Sugel, owner of Millie Rae’s, a women’s specialty store in Westport, Conn., said she was interested in all the neon details she was seeing, as well as all the neutrals. “Business [at the store] is pretty good,” she said. As far as whether she was buying skinny or wide-leg pants, Sugel said she was leaning toward the skinny silhouette. “We’re in the Northeast, where it’s cold and it’s hard to wear wide-leg pants,” she said. Emily Black, assistant buyer, said, “I like the grandfather button trend that’s happening,” which she called a nice accent.
Rusty Lester, owner of Frances Kahn, a women’s specialty store based in Richmond, Va., said he was shopping Coterie for “full-blown fall.”
“I’ve never seen so many coat people. Plaids are huge everywhere,” he said. He said the show was “cashmere galore,” and the Italian collections look good. He’s buying both skinny and wide-leg pants. “We’re seeing shorter jackets, which look better with wide-leg pants,” Lester said. “There are lots of prints and lots of color for fall,” he said.
Susie Lodge, a buyer for T.J. Maxx’s Canadian division, said she was searching for “anything new and aspirational and directional prints.” She said the store does a lot of cashmeres and she was looking for novelty jackets. “I’m loving the pops of color,” she said, adding that she was seeing lots of neons and updated animal prints.
Meredith Moore, owner of Sophia Lustig in Toledo, Ohio, said shoppers are favoring a more relaxed look with softer dressing, and one that is not so buttoned up such as scuba-inspired looks from Marie Saint Pierre. In search of more contemporary labels and “a lot of accessories,” Lustig planned to check out Alice + Olivia, Sarah Pacini and some denim lines.