1 March 2016
Bold Prints Prove Popular, Although US Fashion Buyers Remain Timid
While bright and bold prints proved the best sellers at New York's recent Moda fashion event, large orders were still something of a rarity, with many buyers still wary of committing, despite optimistic signs elsewhere in the sector.
Bright and bold prints were the order of the day at New York's recent Moda fashion show. While some lines were finding success with quirky and characterful animal prints, for others it was elegant geometrics that seemed to strike a particular chord.
Overall, there was little consensus as to the current state of the market, with some exhibitors seeing increased confidence among buyers and consumers, while others still saw the sector as nervous and lacking its pre-Credit Crunch vigour. As ever, high-end items were the least affected by general economic concerns, with the more affluent US shoppers notably keen to spend.
In terms of the bold, colourful prints, these were evident in the collections of many exhibitors. Animals and objects seemed particularly in demand, a trend picked up on by Love, Lilly, a Connecticut-based resort wear line. Acknowledging the popularity of prints, Lilly Sprat, the Founder of the company, said: "Our tiger dress has been our most popular. We are kind of known for our bright and fun prints. We also do a lot of animals in bright pinks and greens."
Animal motifs were also proving popular for Katherine Way, owner of Florida's Katherine Way Collections. She said: "All of our octopus prints are doing amazingly well, it's more of the whimsical thing. We also have a few new dresses – our Jackie and dress and our Nantucket dress. Both of these seem to be doing really well."
Other fashion lines were finding greater success though more abstract patterns, while still following the print trend. Mallika Thomas, Founder of Florida-based Haute Latitude, said: "Our geometric prints have been popular. I also have a few block prints, which are also very much in demand."
Geometric prints were also proving popular for New York's Dizzy Lizzy brand, particularly when it came to lightweight ladies' tops. Angela M, representing the brand, said: "This year, we have a new sleeveless little flyaway. All the girls are wearing leggings, so we came up with a very cute little sleeveless flyaway tunic and it seems to be a hit. We always do very well with our little sundress, partly because it fits the small, the medium, the large and the extra large."
Despite the profusion of prints, a number of simpler styles were also in evidence. Gina Pizons, a Partner in Toronto-based Two Women and A Trunk, saw loose fits and flowing lines as proving particularly popular with customers. She said: "Customers look at us and think: 'That's comfortable, but has some edge.' That's working really well for us."
Many at the show noted the need to adapt collections to meet variations in tastes in the different markets across the US. Andria Lieu, a Chicago-based fashion designer, said: "There are regional differences in colour tastes. The east coast prefers earthier colours, while the south likes brighter neons."
According to a spokesperson for New York's Piaffe Professional brand, retailers in the Big Apple cater to tastes quite distinct from other regions. She said: "New York stores like stuff that is more artsy, they like a lot of black. When you start going to stores that are in the south, in Florida say, it's more about bright colours, very loose fitting and lightweight."
MacKenzie Ferreira, a Store Manager for a Three Islands outlet in Rhode Island, also saw a distinct difference in preferences across the country. She said: "The styles vary. On the east coast, it is more about dresses. Down south they prefer the short sleeve thing, more of the summery stuff. Up here we want to be able to wear things all year round."
Ferreira was not alone in recognising the need take into consideration the very different weather conditions across America and the way they influence regional preferences. Sprat, for instance, produces different fabrics in order to target different US regional markets. Explaining her thinking, she said: "We offer three different weights of fabric – ultra light-weight, mid-weight and heavier weight. Ultra lightweight works for Florida customers, while our heavier is for Nantucket."
Similarly, Thomas sees Haute Latitude's signature as popular on one US coast, but not on the other. She said: "The line is very preppy, suitable for the resort buyers along the east coast. We tried to branch out into the west coast last year, but we quickly realised the west coast audience is very different to the east coast audience.
"It's all about the colour range – something that sells very well on the east coast, people won't even give a second glance to on the west coast. The east coast is more bling, while the east coast is more subtle."
Dizzy Lizzy's Angela M also saw a difference in customers' colour preferences across the country, saying: "In the south our turquoise and our fuchsia sells well and we always have blue in the line as that's the American colour. It sells all over the place. Also, we always have our black and white transitions for our New York girls."
Again noting the regional preferences, Way believes that local tastes are a tendency, rather than a set of hard and fast rules. She said: "In the north east, you will see a bit more of the whimsical look and more of the darker colours whereas, down in the south, you see more of the brighter colours, the pinks and greens. They buy it all, but you just see a little bit more of a pattern."
The North American market is, of course, not confined to the United States, with Canadian shoppers also having their own distinct preferences. Expanding on this, Lysa Trottier, Executive Assistant to Canadian designer Simon Chang, said: "Canada is more fashion forward. They are open to more colour and lengths are a little bit shorter in Canada. In the Midwest, they are a little bit more basic, more conservative, not outgoing."
Chang's designs also sell beyond his native continent, including the Middle East, where other sensitivities come into play. Trottier said: "In the Middle East we have to be careful because they can't be sleeveless, so we do have our cover-ups."
In term of the overall state of the market, opinions were somewhat divided. Angela M was at the more positive end of the spectrum, saying: "Our orders are very positive. In 2009, it was maybe US$1,200 per order. Now, the stores that have been with us from the beginning are placing $2,000 orders."
Justin Goff, Co-Founder of Three Islands was also optimistic, if a little guardedly so. He said: "I would say business is up a little bit, definitely up from the 2009 low point.
"Stores, though, are hesitant when it comes to large orders. They used to buy a lot, now they just want to buy a little bit and hope you have stock.
"We sell to a lot of bankers' wives type customer, so it's a little more resilient. It's good, but it still seems like it's a bit on shaky ground."
Pizons of Two Women and A Trunk was also seeing good signs, despite a relatively slow start to the event. She said: "I do quite a lot of trade shows and the Vegas show was a slow show. This one is as well, but the orders are much larger, so I am more positive.
"We actually manufacture out of Canada. We used to do it overseas and, because of that, we had to increase our prices, but there wasn't even a flinch from buyers, so that is extremely positive. It's tells me that people are spending again."
Moda 2015 was held at New York's Jacob K Javits Convention Center from 19-21 September. More than 900 accessory and apparel lines featured at the event and its related shows.
James O'Donnell, Special Correspondent, New York