Re­tail­ers Eye Wicker, Cro­chet, Bright Col­ors for Spring

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY KELLIE ELL

Man­u­fac­tur­ers might still be anx­ious about what ef­fect Trump’s tar­iffs could have on their bot­tom line, but fash­ion­istas and re­tail­ers are on the hunt for next sea­son’s big­gest trends. Like wicker hand­bags, cro­chet cover-ups, bright col­ors and denim, all of which were on dis­play at this year’s spring 2019 New York Women’s Jan­uary mar­ket­place.

The an­nual event, a col­lec­tion of five trade shows, ran Sun­day to Wednes­day at the Ja­cob K. Jav­its Cen­ter in Man­hat­tan. Man­u­fac­tur­ers and fash­ion brands showed off their spring and sum­mer lines, while re­tail­ers combed the racks for ready-towear ap­parel and ac­ces­sories.

Both Fame, a se­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary and streetwear brands, and Moda, which fea­tured slightly up­scale ap­parel, had more than 100 ven­dors dis­play­ing prod­ucts at each show. Re­tail­ers also showed up in in­creased num­bers. Over­all at­tendee reg­is­tra­tions for all five trade shows un­der the UBM Fash­ion um­brella was up 10 per­cent through Mon­day.

“At­ten­dance at the show this sea­son has been really pos­i­tive,” said Danielle Li­cata, pres­i­dent of East Coast women’s In­forma, which ac­quired UBM Fash­ion. Li­cata pointed out that re­tail­ers were wait­ing in line to get in Sun­day morn­ing be­fore the event opened.

Per­haps the most rec­og­niz­able de­signer at the two shows was Nicky Hilton, who was in New York to un­veil her col­lec­tion Nicky Hilton x Tolani Pass­port Col­lec­tion, a re­cent col­lab­o­ra­tion with de­signer Alka Tolani. The so­cialite said the ap­parel line was in­spired by the places she’s trav­eled in­ter­na­tion­ally over the last two sum­mers.

She couldn’t re­mem­ber ex­actly just how many stamps she’s added to her pass­port of late, but said she did have a fa­vorite des­ti­na­tion.

“I love Italy,” Hilton said, hold­ing up a few fa­vorite pieces, such as brightly col­ored tu­nics and bo­hemian-style one­pieces fit for an Ital­ian win­ery. “And I love Ital­ian food. I love pasta.”

Denim was fea­tured at mul­ti­ple booths through­out the venue as well, from cut­offs to rhine­stone-stud­ded jeans, an ex­ten­sion of last year’s denim craze.

“Peo­ple talk about the denim trend go­ing away, but it’s never go­ing away,” said Pam Be­nassi, co-owner of the North­brook, Ill., cloth­ing store Duo. Be­nassi and her busi­ness part­ner flew in from Chicago to at­tend the shows.

“We sell jeans ev­ery day,” Be­nassi said. “Ev­ery­one needs a good pair of denim for Satur­day night. You can’t wear Lulu out.”

Mean­while, palm trees, flamin­gos, floppy hats and pri­mary col­ors, all seem­ingly in­spired by re­sort life, were on dis­play.

An­drea Rosen­berg, owner of New York’s HipChik, said her blaz­ers with in­spi­ra­tional quotes along the back, like “Break the Rules” and “Own It,” have been a hit. Rosen­berg said women wear her blaz­ers for all of life’s many events, in­clud­ing dates and job in­ter­views.

She is stead­fast that she wasn’t in­flu­enced by Me­la­nia Trump’s ap­pear­ance in a Zara jacket last sum­mer that read, “I really don’t care,” along the back. The First Lady donned the $39 coat on a trip to see mi­grant chil­dren at the Texas-Mex­ico bor­der.

“I did the op­po­site of her. I’m very pos­i­tive,” the de­signer said. “I don’t watch the news. I live in a bub­ble.”

But that’s not been true of ev­ery­one. Ven­dors through­out Fame and Moda were on edge over the still-un­cer­tain tar­iff sit­u­a­tion.

In Novem­ber, Pres­i­dent Trump said he would im­ple­ment an­other round of tar­iffs on $267 bil­lion worth of se­lect Chi­nese im­ports. The levies, which in­cludes ad­di­tional du­ties on hand­bags, would in­crease to 25 per­cent, up from 10 per­cent.

Then last month, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seemed to come to an agree­ment with Bei­jing — at least tem­po­rar­ily — agree­ing to hold off on tar­iffs for 90 days while the coun­tries con­tin­ued ne­go­ti­a­tions. Still, Trump has warned that if ne­go­ti­a­tions don’t go well, then the tar­iffs will be­gin in March. As the ten­sions play out, ap­parel and ac­ces­sory brand man­u­fac­tur­ers are left won­der­ing who will shoul­der ad­di­tional costs.

Hilton didn’t want to com­ment on the sit­u­a­tion. But other ven­dors said they’re wor­ried.

“Right now it’s touch and go,” said

Peter Kim, owner of Street Level Hand­bag, a Los An­ge­les-based ap­parel com­pany. Re­tail­ers were buzzing around the brand’s wicker, wo­ven hand­bags.

“Un­til now in the busi­ness, the tar­iffs have been pretty much the same,” Kim said of his 10-year-old com­pany. “We’ve been able to fac­tor them. Now it’s up in the air.”

James Gar­vey, di­rec­tor of sales at Do+Be, a con­tem­po­rary women’s ap­parel brand, pointed out that even if tar­iffs don’t make their way into the tex­tile busi­ness, they’ll still likely im­pact in­di­vid­ual fash­ion la­bels at some point.

“You can’t sep­a­rate out tar­iffs,” Gar­vey said. “If there are tar­iffs on steel, in­evitably it will im­pact prices in other in­dus­tries. It’s just a mat­ter of time.”

He was just one of many ven­dors that said he doesn’t think re­tail­ers and con­sumers will be will­ing to pay higher prices if tar­iffs go into ef­fect.

“Smaller com­pa­nies like us are go­ing to suf­fer with smaller mar­gins,” he said. “Some of the big­ger com­pa­nies are go­ing to be able to ab­sorb the prices for a while.”

But Scott Lester, a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the hat com­pany Dorf­man Pa­cific, said con­sumers will con­tinue to pay.

“Our hats sell,” he said of the hat col­lec­tions, which in­clude Ken­tucky Derby hats, fe­do­ras and Meghan Markle-in­spired fas­ci­na­tors. “Maybe they just won’t sell as many as be­fore.”

He ad­mit­ted a 25 per­cent tar­iff would be too much for the hat com­pany to ab­sorb, even if the com­pany raised its prices.

Some brands have started mov­ing pro­duc­tion out of China. One such com­pany is ap­parel and ac­ces­sories brand Muche & Muchette. Muriel Zer­doun, one of the de­sign­ers and founders of the Mi­ami-based com­pany, said in the last three months Muche & Muchette has moved about 50 per­cent of its busi­ness out of China to places like In­done­sia and In­dia. Los An­ge­les-based ap­parel brands Chaser and Salt­wa­ter will also likely em­ploy the same method if push comes to shove, said Hadi Salem, owner and founder of the brands.

“In the end you just have to adapt,” Salem said. “The re­al­ity is that man­u­fac­tur­ers can’t raise their prices be­cause re­tail­ers won’t pay more. There are other coun­tries that don’t have tar­iffs.”

But fash­ion man­u­fac­tur­ers are still won­der­ing if Trump’s tar­iffs will hurt their bot­tom line.

The Fame trade show dur­ing the spring-sum­mer 2019 New York Women’s Jan­uary mar­ket­place at the Ja­cob K. Jav­its Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

Muriel Zer­doun, one of the de­sign­ers and founders of the Mi­ami-based com­pany, with a few pieces.

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