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Archive for July, 2009...

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BLACK LEATHER!  The very thought conjures up fantastic images, many of them naughty, others with intense associations that make us stop and pay attention.  Black leather rarely, if ever, just passes by our window unnoticed.  It is a fabulous look.  A monied, designer look. It speaks of power, authority, mastery.

 

But black leather is also, sometimes too frequently, a dark look.  It is sometimes scary. Do we totally trust that person in black leather?  And what about the black leather uniform – all the pieces that go to make up this look?  The leather gloves. The dark sunglasses.  The silver chains of all sorts. The big watches. This is frequently a total expression look with accessories building on clothing pieces until the entire thing comes together to make a single, strong statement.  Black leather.  It isn’t for the timid!

 

Nothing is so hot as the leather jacket, that iconic biker look. Can you remember the edgy toughness of Hell’s Angels? Who wasn’t secretly thrilled by them? Who wasn’t turned on by Marlon Brando in The Wild One – it is now a classic!

   —But today’s jackets are not all that tough, at least not in that 1950s sense of the word.  Many are done in fabulously soft, luxurious calfskin and emit a shine that would almost rival diamonds.  They work with light, black as they are.  

 

                                       Zippers are Uptrending

 

BLACK LEATHER JACKETS are frequently designed with a heavy zipper look (some on the diagonal), making them a natural for one of the very trendy directionals in today’s markets: Zippers.

    —Zippers are designers’ new love interest, and they work more wonders on black leather than anything else.  Generally, the zippers are of heavy silver construction.  Ah, but look for bedazzling jeweled zippers as well.

 

It’s amazing how far black leather can go!  Now, it is being outfitted with sequins, crystals, and a bevy of other glistening gemstones. Scary now?  Not exactly!

 

   –I remember seeing Barbara Stanwick in a TV series some years ago.  She was well past 50, and she wore a totally black leather two-piece pants suit.  Granted, she was supposedly riding a horse at the time. But did she ever look fantastic!  It was the first time I ever saw a woman of her age look that vibrant, that fashionable, that sexy.  Black leather does that, for any age. 

 

Right now, black leather leggings are giving leather jackets a run for the money.  They are super hot! So are tight black leather slacks.  And tight little maxi-mini skirts. Wow!

 

                                               Soul Train

 

BLACK LEATHER WITHOUT METAL is lacking soul.  It cries out for silver, especially, but also gold.  Maybe bronze, or aluminum.  Something preferably shiny and hard.  Silver grommets on black leather are classic.  Silver jewelry with black leather practically goes without saying. It fulfills the black leather mystique.  It completes the expression.

 

HERE ARE SOME SMOLDERING SILVER PIECES TO MAKE YOUR BLACK LEATHER LOOK TURN HEADS:

 

 

 

 

  • Chain necklace with delicate links cut at angles to provide glimmer with movement.

 

High black leather boots that literally skim the skin like stockings are a big black leather expression for fall and winter. Pollini shows a great pair of boots that rise just above the knee, and have the look of a European military czar. 

 

Other black leather-plus looks include: A fabulous black alligator handle bag with gold hardware from Gucci. A little black leather belt with silver buckle from Donna Karan.  A classic A-line black leather skirt with just-above-the-knee hemline from Michael Kors.  A black calfskin maxi-mini skirt with double belted waist – it would take courage to be seen in this, and you can be sure you’ll be talked about for a long time to come.

    –Are you starting to get the idea?

   

 

                                                It Challenges

 

Black leather is everywhere and frankly, fashion would be less without it.  It gives an edge. It’s passionate, riotous. It is, frankly, so strong not everyone can wear it, and you might even say that it’ll scare away as many as it will attract.  Maybe more.  Because black leather breathes, and when it does, it seethes.  It vibrates.  It challenges.

 

Black leather has been stopping traffic through the years. It is the biker look.  Nothing else takes its place, period.  It is dominant in the official uniform of NYPD blue….and hundreds of other police departments across the country.   

 

—New York City police have the reputation for being remarkably good looking, and those black leather hot-shot uniform pieces add to the mystique dramatically.  They also go a long way toward intimidating when you’re stopped for a traffic violation. Canadian mounted police also have a smart take on black leather. Just look at them!

 

Italian haute couture designers have a passion for black leather.  Armani.  Louis Vuitton. Dolce & Gabbana. Versace. Italy has always understood the complicated and secret inner folds and labyrinths of the human psyche. No wonder they are masters of couture…and black leather!  

 

                               The Dark Side of Black Leather

 

THE NAZIS WERE skilled dark manipulators of the mind, and forged a system of psychological warfare that will no doubt be studied for many years to come. They were experts at creating fear in their opponents. By the time they marched into several European nations they had already instilled so much terror in the people, they were able to take over the countries with relative ease.  They had a reputation for incredible cruelty and violence. And, they wore a lot of leather.  Black leather.

 

Now, we don’t want to associate black leather and the Nazis too closely, but the fact is the German Third Reich used black leather insidiously in their military uniforms.  They purposely designed a look, an appearance, that seethed with power and was dangerous.  Black leather was an obvious uniform look.

 

                                         Leather and Fellini

 

BUT BLACK LEATHER is amazingly versatile, and contradictory. It is authoritative, and it represents institutional power as well as the wild side of individual freedom.  Just as it is frightening, it is alluring. It has to power to attract, to pull you in.  It is phenomenally sexy, and always has been.

 

Black leather is often what fantasies and dreams are made of; the famous Italian film maker Federico Fellini proved that again and again.  Fellini played with black leather masterfully, allowing it freedom to suggest or imply where we shouldn’t go, what we shouldn’t do, where we shouldn’t be. He knew it speaks directly to the ID.

 

GENERALLY, BLACK LEATHER LOOKS BEST WITH SILVER. BUT RECENTLY, GOLD HAS MOVED INTO ITS PROVINCE, STEALING SOME OF THE DRAMA.  GOLD TENDS TO SOFTEN BLACK LEATHER. IT IS NOT AS TOUGH OR AS DRAMATIC AS SILVER, BUT IT IS GOOD LOOKING!  TRY ACCESSORIZING WITH THESE PIECES:

 

 

 

 

  • Multiple bangles.  Choose antique gold or silver plating, ranging from simple to ornate.  Very trendy!
Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Friday, July 31st, 2009

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The nation’s largest discount retailer, Wal-Mart, is out to change the face of retailing, and it is not waiting until tomorrow to do it.  In a totally revolutionary directive, Wal-Mart has moved into the “green earth” fray, fashioning itself as a prime mover in documenting product brand “sustainability.”  The company will now rate each of the products it carries on the basis of its comparative impact on the earth’s fragile ecosystems—social, environmental, and economic.  Then, the products and their ratings are to be published on a new GREEN INDEX for review by manufacturers as well as consumers.  This is startling!

 

BUT … KEEP READING!   The Wal-Mart Index will provide criteria for manufacturers to view their “green ranking” alongside those of their competitors.  The Index will make it possible for professional buyers and consumers to make informed decisions in choosing “the best” from the many options offered in each market by major sources — many of which service our fashion and accessories industries.  The impact goes far beyond our field, and even our shores, to global concerns and goals.

 

                                               Profound Impact

 

THIS IS A REMARKABLE instance of a single retailer taking outstanding, long-term actions outside of its normal business limits, not only to benefit itself but to benefit society as a whole.  It is a prime example of good corporate citizenship.  Clothing designer Norma Kamali, herself a “green” practitioner (using organic cotton in her fashions) speaks admiringly of the Wal-Mart Index:    “The impact Wal-Mart will have with the green initiative is profound… and new innovations will be developed as we all participate in the greening of our planet.”

 

   —You’ll remember the 2006 film, “Blood Diamond,” starring Leonardo di Caprio.  This adventure film was all about diamonds mined in African war zones which were sold to help finance and prolong local warlords’ battles.  Stories of bloodshed, exploited workers and rampant smuggling led consumers to demand an end to violence and abuse, by insisting that the origin of diamonds they would purchase be certified.  The increased awareness spurred by the movie also aided international efforts to curb the trade in what was called “conflict diamonds.”

 

WAL-MART’S NEW INITIATIVE is aimed at bringing about comparable change in the way the products it carries are made and marketed.  While more and more manufacturers are already getting on board to improve work conditions, to utilize sustainable materials, and to minimize their company’s “carbon footprint” in daily operations, the discounter’s ongoing Green Index is certain to intensify their efforts.

 

 “Wal-Mart,” said one manufacturer, “is holding its suppliers accountable for the impact each has all along the chain.”

 

Wal-Mart’s actions are more than domestic.  Last fall the company conducted a “sustainability” conference in China, focused on encouraging high levels of manufacture/business practice.  One of Wal-Mart’s stated goals in devising the Index is to build a “world-class, high-value supply chain” – including its Chinese sources.

YOU CAN JOIN THE GREEN MOVEMENT BY DISPLAYING INFORMATION IN YOUR STORE ABOUT THE EARTH’S ECO-SYSTEMS.  AND, BY JUST WEARING THE COLOR GREEN: 

 

 

 

 

  • Shield-shaped earrings in rich green turquoise.  Earthy. 
     

            TREND CHECK – EXOTICA, COINS IN HIGH DEMAND
NEAR EAST MYSTIQUE: Wild prints, deep, saturated colors, and rich, bedazzling jewels:  all are on hand to give this fall’s clothing and accessories a rich, exotic flavor.  Portraits of Northern Africa and Asia fill the designers’ canvases as they conjure up new images with ancient hues and forms. 

 

Handbags feature beautifully soft leathers, heavily tooled, and fabulously colored in orange, purple, gold, blue-grey and black.  Long beads are large and drop to the waist. Exquisite metal objects with Middle Eastern scroll work hang from silver chains, tempting you to open them and discover possible fortunes. There is an unmistakable aura of secrecy and magic about it all.  Aladdin’s lamp with its power and prowess seems to await.  Who could resist?

 

BRASS COINS:  Coins of all sorts are offering a monied dimension to handbags and jewelry this season.  Look for plain, unstamped coins as well as ancient and modern coins.  It’s that circle thing.  It’s very, very big!

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Thursday, July 30th, 2009

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WE’VE TALKED ABOUT METAL many times before, but now it is getting a whole new look, paired with unexpected materials and turned into trendy, hip combinations that are exciting to see, super-fashionable to wear. 

 

And we’re not just talking about silver and gold.  We’re talking about metal…bronze, rhodium, aluminum, you name it. From shiny zippers dotted with crystals (Wow! Are they big) to metallic materials and silver-dotted shoes:  Intense metal is the look of the day.  It is so hot, you might say the fashion world has been infected with a wild metallic madness.  It spreads.  It’s contagious.  And everybody wants it!

 

Robert Cavalli has a wild-looking moon boot design on the market, made of black fur with straps of silver grommets and silver buckles, silver heels and toes. The boots glimmer.  A black stone bubble ring with criss-crossed metal strips overlay is a signature look for NOW. And, check out Dior!  Among other things, the firm has a dynamite looking pair of big black plastic sunglasses with silver returns boasting the company’s name. Very chic.

 

Then, there are David Yurman’s dog tags, color-hot.  Meant for men but sure to be bought and worn by women, these great looking necklaces are a long way from the plain matte silver tags that have been the field for so long.  In rare green and orange turquoise, red dino bone and Picasso Jasper, these dog tags hang from interesting, rich metal cord-like chains. 

 

YOU CAN GET THE NEW METAL LOOK IN A VARIETY OF WAYS. 

 

 

 

  • Horse pendant and earring set in silver plate always arouses admiration!

 

                                                 Dark Metal

 

DARK METAL IS ANOTHER HOT LOOK of the day, growing increasingly more popular as we lean toward cooler months.  Burberry features a long and large dark metal chain necklace in one of its recent ads. Giorgio Armani features rows and rows of dark metal beads on black metal chain casually strewn around the neck of one of his famous models.  This is a gorgeous look, but not for everybody!  It is very urbane, and the wearer needs a personality to fit it.

 

 

                                The Big Metal & Leather Pairing

 

METAL AND LEATHER make a riveting combination.  A cuff bracelet by CC Skye features brilliant blue leather and gold pyramid squares.

   —For a truly offbeat leather and metal combination, very bondage, don’t miss the leather body harness by Fleetilya, complete with metal attachments and worn over a viscose stretch hooded catsuit by Narciso Rodriquez.  Adding to the Prince of Darkness look: black leather boots with metal-buckled straps, by Prada. 

 

WEARING METAL ON LEATHER is another way to go.  Vogue Magazine this month features a black Marc Jacobs belt jazzed up with a space-age looking gold brooch.  Very sophisticated!

 

Elle Magazine features metal in a number of their fast City fashion rundowns:  In Los Angeles: a leather and metal cutout vest by Society for Rational Dress (we don’t get that!) In Paris:  a hot  black leather jacket with metal grommets and zippers. In London:  a calf leather bag with silver embellishment, and a very hot wear-it-out body suit in soft white with silvery metallic embellishment strips. In New York: a brass and leather belt from Pamela Love for Zac Posen.  An other-worldly leather and draped cotton tulle dress with leather belt, all by Rodarte.

 

                                             Beauty Pageant

 

Even beauty people are getting in on the metallic act.  From Givenchy comes a collection of pink and purple eye shadows with a shimmering silver finish.  They glitter, they aren’t while we’re here, don’t miss all the blushers and bronzers on the market now, most of them boasting metallic finishes for the skin to make it young, fresh, glowing. 

 

You see, it’s the LOOK. It is hard, yes, but also softened by design. Think of metal with suede, or fur, or satin, or velvet.  That’s not really biker-sharp. The look is also very glittery, even glitzy, but of a certain type.  It’s not at all the same glitz we saw last year.  This is a less feminine, not at all romantic, and a lot more Big City incisive.  

 

GET THE TRENDY LOOK BY CHOOSING PRODUCTS THAT COMBINE METAL WITH OTHER MATERIALS.  HERE ARE SOME GOOD CHOICES AT GREAT PRICES:

 

  • Crystal brooch finds garden inspiration creating a flower motif with textured metal sprigs and sparkly crystals forming a mum-like blossom.

 

 

  • Layered necklace set features stations of ivory faux pearl in three layers of handsome silver tone link chain.  Metal-gorgeous!
Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

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Part one of Wholesale Hats—Fashion Accessories for Right Now covered the important categories of ladies dress hats and cowboy hats, but the wholesale hat market has plenty more to offer, which can be a major help to summer sales for a variety of businesses.  An immediate need is sun protection and ladies that want some relief in the sun also want a fashionable look.  Nothing beats wide brims for casual ladies hats that make a fashion statement. 

 

Wide brim hats have been on a steady rise since J-Lo started the ball rolling by appearing in a sassy felt widebrim a few years ago.  The hat has actually been referred to as the J-Lo hat ever since.  Ralph Lauren gave another big boost when his spring line strutted the runways last year with models wearing super widebrims that were breathtaking.  The Kentucky Derby is the hat event of the year and recently has been dominated by widebrims.   All this translates into huge demand and brisk sales in wide brim summer hats for ladies. 

 

Ladies wide brims go from hats casual enough for the beach to dressy enough for teas, garden parties, and outdoor weddings.  No matter how they are used, these hats always add a fashionable statement to a look.  And the stylish touch in headwear won’t end with Labor Day—no, widebrim hats will continue right through fall with felt replacing straw.  Jump on this bandwagon because fashion preview shows reveal the trend is only getting stronger with brims getting wider. 

 

With all the diverse personalities in a customer base, it takes some variety in headwear to achieve a wide appeal.  Second place for fashionable ladies headwear goes to upbrims—the sassy kettle shape in hats with brims turned up all the way around.    These hats can be as fun as tropical multicolors created in durable straw or as elegant as dressy upbrims that provide sophisticated headwear for garden parties or dressy events. 

 

A fabulous statement that enters this season’s accessories has solid weaved toyo with an underbrim of plaid fabric that compliments the solid color when the brim is turned up. 

 

 

 

While new styles certainly generate excitement, natural straw with black grosgrain bands in eye-pleasing shapes provide timeless headwear that sells at a brisk pace this year and has been doing so in the wholesale hat selection for more than 15 years.  These sewn-and-braid wheat straw hats are so classic they will never disappear because of consumer’s disinterest.  No, the demand is very strong, but the handwork is done by specialists that are aging and the younger generation is not interested in learning the skill.  The day may come when these hats are no longer available simply because no one is making them anymore. 

 

Stylish hats grace the pages of fashion magazines and strut the runways, but the younger market marches to a different drummer following the lead of celebrities and MTV.  The hat preferred by celebrities this season is the fedora.  Guys and gals alike are sporting these trendy hats and the headwear industry is responding with an infinite number of styles in fedoras–everything from the fifties look in felt fedoras to stingy brims in plaids, knit, linen, and herringbone.  Fedoras are the trendy hat of 2009 and the recent loss of Michael Jackson adds even more interest with so much coverage of the entertainer wearing his signature hat—a fedora. 

 

Cabbies and ivy caps provide two more trendy hats that are very popular for teens and tweens.  Again these are hats popularized by celebrities and appeal mainly to girls.  They definitely add personality to an outfit.  Cabbies offer a wide color selection that creates individual personality with studs, stones, buckles, and rhinestone designs.  They can be as glitzy as sequin studded or as carefree as polka dots. 

 

Ivy caps are more sedate with plaid patterns, solid colors, houndstooth, and herringbone.  The trendy hat style that a girl picks probably has more to do with her favorite celebrity than any sales pitch. 

 

 

 

Straw hats are the final category that needs attention in the summer months.  We are not talking the fashionable designs covered above, but those durable, practical straw hats that protect from the sun and retail for a cheap price.   These summer hats will never grace the runways or fashion magazines, but they are totally functional and can sell in almost any retail establishment–everything including convenience stores, food markets, boat docks, and lawn mower shops.

 

Favorite styles are gamblers, pinch front fedoras, safaris, life guards, and wide brim gardening style hats.  Material is usually durable straw like lindu or rush.  These wholesale hats can usually retail for $10.00 or less and are so durable that if they don’t blow away, the customer gets more than a year out of them.  The appeal of these hats is function and low cost.  Vacationers can find relief from the sun for a ten dollar bill.  There is never dead inventory because they went out of style—these work horses of the hat industry are practical headwear immune from fashion trends. 

 

Recent reports are feeding the retail sector encouraging news about improved business climate for the fall. Things certainly seem to be moving towards a fall season than is far better than last year. But the wonderful thing about hats is that you don’t have to wait until fall.  These accessories will ring the cash register now.  Demand is there and the market is undersupplied so take a reading in your area and see if this is the accessory to boost your sales over the next few weeks.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

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A glimmer of hope is always welcome in a year like this that started out looking so shaky.  Well we are more than half way through the dog days of summer and economic forecasts are looking far more optimistic.  Expectations for fall fashion business are making major strides forward.  But we don’t have to wait for fall to enjoy an upturn in business because wholesale hats are on a big upward swing now and have shown remarkable strength all summer. 

 

First let’s look at wholesale dress hats.  Dress hats start off the spring season with Easter and Mother’s Day the two big events for dressy hat sales.  But as the summer moves along demand continues, but the supply of wholesale dress hats dwindles.   This is especially true this year because of cautious buying and low inventory levels for retailers and wholesalers alike. 

 

Demand for white church hats is especially good with many special functions in the summer calling for these dressy hats.   Classy trimmed polypropylenes provide the traditional straw look that enjoys steady popularity dating back to the mid-twentieth century.  We have stocked both trimmed and untrimmed white dress hats deep because we never seem to have enough to meet the mid-summer demand.  Here is an excellent opportunity for you to improve your summer sales by filling the vacuum for summer church hats. 

 

An even greater demand is in casual hats.  Year-to-Date statistics show casual hats within a whisker of 2007 volume and that was a record year.  This is terrific in a year when almost all categories are well behind 2007 volume.  The same statistics show that cowboy hats are leading casual hat sales with 46% of the market.  So fashion forecasters can quit writing the obituary on this American icon that continues to be a consumer favorite. 

 

What styles of cowboy hats are retailers finding move fastest?  Distressed straws—that well worn look—lead wholesale cowboy hats that are shipping. Pinch front styles with shapeable brims are best here.  Some prefer simple bands while others like the individualism that special bands can create—hatbands with the look of leather, conchos, turquoise, or wood beading. 

 

Actually western hat bands themselves are a niche market with decent demand and practically no competition.  So adding western hat bands to your selection of cowboy hats makes you look more specialized and gives your customers a creative way to achieve the rugged individualism that a cowboy hat stands for. 

 

Now back to the hats.  While distressed straws are the wholesale cowboy hats we ship in the greatest quantity, they are not the whole story.  Natural straws are very good as well and colors still have plenty of demand and dwindling supply.  The demand comes not only from individuals that prefer color in cowboy hats, but from organizations and groups as well.  Black and white are always good.  Pink cowboy hats are popular for breast cancer awareness walks; red for red hatters; fashion colors for cheerleader squads, majorettes, or band members.  Color can also designate a group such as school colors for fans at a sporting event.  Dwindling supply is the result of many wholesalers and importers dropping out of the colored cowboy hat market because they viewed the western hat business as a fashion fad rather than a steady market.  

 

Is it a steady market?  A few years ago J-Lo and Brittany appeared in shapeable straw cowboy hats and soon celebrities everywhere were wearing them, giving cowboy hat sales a huge shot in the arm.  As celebrities moved on to fedoras, newsboys, and ivy caps, cowboy hats continued to lead causal hat sales because the rugged individualism these hats present just can’t be replaced.  The cowboy hat is an American icon that immediately calls up the romantic imagination of the Wild West.  The total feeling is hard to express, but it includes individualism, attitude, survival, toughness, and a code of chivalry. 

 

Cowboy hats are still the preferred headwear of many celebrities and nearly all country music artists.  Cowboy hats are everywhere at rodeos, horse shows, and country music concerts.  And you can’t go to a festival, beach, or summer sporting event that you don’t see them.  Yes cowboy hat sales have a steady future in sales because the headwear that can compete with them for individual personality has not been designed yet.  

 

Tomorrow Part 2 of causal hats that sell right now.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Monday, July 27th, 2009

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WHAT’S THAT THEY ARE TALKING for menswear?  Orange-Red? The famous Tommy Hilfiger color (although he used it strictly for women).  Hmmm.  Actually, it looks good in many of its uses, even though we have to blink twice when seeing it in a full suit (or even a blazer, to be frank.)  Still, in T shirts and sweat shirts and bathing suits it looks sharp.  Even in wind breakers and sweaters.  Well, the whole bundle is showing up on men’s fashion cat walks, so get used to it!

 

Calvin Klein does the color handsomely in a simple, classic T shirt, while Givenchy gives the color a French flair, using it in an over shirt with tie belt and pockets.  Salvatore Ferragamo takes our breath away. He offers a full orange-red suit with black shirt, shoes, and handle bag for fall.  Fire Engines, anybody?

                 –Oh, yes. Don’t forget: women pick up a lot from men’s wear.  Look for the Hilfiger color in fashion and accessories for Milady this fall.  Lots of it.

 

                                           ATTENTION, ANYONE?

 

I have a friend who has been buying Lalique glassware for years.  She flies off to Paris once or twice a year, buys several pieces of the expensive glass.  Most of it is stacked, never opened and many boxes high, in her attic.  Other pieces are set out in display cabinets that make her living and dining rooms look like a retail store.  She calls herself a collector, but the truth is, she’s financially well off, and she’s lonely. Apparently, the firm understands that.

   To start with, Lalique sends a car to pick her up at the airport when she arrives in Paris. They also take her to lunch at a very exclusive French restaurant, discussing their newest product introductions. They give her lots of attention.  She gives them lots of money.  It’s a Partnership made in heaven.

 

SOOOOOOO….Faced with a sagging economy and depressed sales, major American retailers are latching onto the same idea.  They call it romancing the customer, and firms like Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus are embracing the strategy with enthusiasm. 

 

Intimate gatherings are the key.  They’re held in private homes, in hotels, or in stores after business hours. There are many informal fashion expositions and a lot of one-on-one consultations and customized trend presentations.  It’s a marketing strategy aimed at getting up close to customers while giving them the exclusive experience of meeting with, and learning from, fashion arbiters.

 

LIKE MOST OF US, YOU ARE PROBABLY NOT ONE OF NEIMAN’S TOP FIFTY CUSTOMERS.  BUT YOU CAN STILL LOOK LIKE ONE.  TRY THESE FOR INSTANT POSH:

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                               THE STORES

 

NORDSTROM RECENTLY held an invitation-only cocktail party for about 65 women at the company’s Dallas store, exhibiting Jason Wu’s latest collection.  “People like to shop at these events,” said designer/buyer Margaret Hinojosa de Garza. “We feel we are doing something for them, and they do feel special as a result.”  Sales don’t equal trunk shows, but these events build customer relationships, strengthen brand awareness, and help move inventory. 

 

NOT TO BE OUTDONE by competition, Neiman Marcus has also jumped on the customer relations bandwagon, hosting late-night cocktail parties in Scottsdale, Arizona with Mitchell Binder, designer for the edgy King Baby Studio jewelry.  And, as Andy Cohen, a marketing consultant in New York said, “Anything a retailer can do to create an emotional bond is a positive.”  Amen.

 

                           THE HANDS OF THE CONSUMER

 

A top Industry publication recently asked Simon Doonan — hot shot marketing guru, industry bon vivant, and marketing director of Barneys New York – about his marketing strategy for fall.  His initial blanket statement:  The era of lavish trend buying is dead.  Now, he contends, fashion is about personal expression.

 

Some more pithy Doonan contentions:  “The future of fashion lies in the hands of the consumer. It’s time to swing the spotlight away from front row celebs and back into the fitting room.  The customer is king…or queen.”

 

“I am committed to the concept of humor.  Why should fashion be a dismal, masochistic thing? When you spend your hard-earned shekels on gorgeous garments, you deserve to feel joyful and euphoric.  It should be transformative.”

 

NOTHING TRANSFORMS SO FAST AS BEAUTIFUL JEWELRY, THE KIND YOU CAN KEEP IN SPECIAL DRAWERS AND BOXES, FEELING GOOD JUST BECAUSE IT IS THERE.  WELL, HERE ARE SOME PRICE-CONSCIOUS HEIRLOOM PIECES YOU CAN KEEP OR WEAR AND STILL COME OUT AHEAD:                                                        

 

 

 

 

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Saturday, July 25th, 2009

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A BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED outfit is nice, but it becomes fantastic when given the special add-ons of accessories, the finishing touches that are like polish to metal, dew to a rose garden.  In recent seasons, accessories have become so important, they have often outdone clothing as the number one point of fashion. 

 

Think of great handbags, spectacular belts, Hollywood dark sunglasses, jaunty hats, and wild, designer shoes.  Wow! And we haven’t even gotten near jewelry yet!

 

                                                               Bags

 

HANDBAGS ARE UNDERGOING AN INTERESTING CHANGE. While big bags are certainly still high up on the designer scale, smaller, more reasonable bags are edging into the market.  These are not small, by any means, but they aren’t huge bags either.  When dangling from a shoulder strap, they aren’t likely to put your shoulder out of whack! Nor is anybody going to confuse them with a piece of luggage.

 

Tory Burch has a handsome, simple, yet LA-fast bag on the market, in gold leather with a gold-plated metal chain.  It’s a medium sized bag, full of slippery-shine and pizzazz

On a quieter side, is Chloe’s metallic goatskin shoulder bag.  It is also smaller than we’ve seen recently, and terribly attractive.

 

EVEN HANDLE BAGS ARE SHOWING UP in somewhat smaller sizes.  Look at Anya Hindmarch’s calf leather day bag, supposedly designed to carry everything Madame might need from dawn to dusk, but not really all that substantial.  This is a nicely sized creamy white bag with outside pocket, not meant to be overloaded!  Think of it as an upgraded medium-sized tote bag with lots of design and fashion savvy.  It’s a good example of what’s going on in the market now.

 

TOTES REMAIN ONE OF THE FASTEST SELLING ITEMS IN THE HANDBAG DEPARTMENT. LOOK AT THESE BEAUTIES:

 

 

 

             

 

                                          New Idea

   —A good example of how handbag designers are trying hard to find new ideas for their super-popular product is a new 2-in-1 bag by Dries Van Noten.  Now, just why anyone would want to buy this, I don’t know, but here’s the lowdown: 

                       The bag literally features one bag inside the other. 

The outer bag is unstructured and made of tan canvas with darker leather shoulder strap. Inside, there’s a dark alligator, very structured handle bag with silver trim.  It’s described in terms of “multitasking day-to-night-ness.”  You can easily create the same thing by putting a structured bag inside a tote.  That way, you also by-pass the $995 price tag!  Smart you!  

 

 

                                                       Belts

 

Even as handbags recede somewhat in size, belts are coming forward to fill the gap.  Big belts are hot. Obis are steaming.  Big leather belts with circular leather buckles are particularly popular. So are medium-sized belts in a somewhat more conventional mode, with small rectangular leather buckles. 

 

Skinny little leather belts accessorize dress after dress, suit after suit.  It is the look!  Belted.  Waist-wise.  Think of Cynthia Rowley’s cute paint-splattered white shorts with fabric tie belt.  Or, Richard Chai’s skinny black belt over a pretty floral print dress with black jacket.   Belts are IN.  Add one to an existing outfit and you can instantly update it to 2009-10!

 

                                                        Hats

 

ANOTHER REALLY HOT finishing touch to any outfit is a hat…and are they ever popular this season!  We talked about fedoras in a recent blog, but what about large, brimmed, sexy hats with lots of attitude?  Think about dark or light colored, straw or paper and polyester. 

 

LARGE HATS give a touch of demure sexuality, and dress up an outfit in seconds!  For an extra bit of personality, you can wrap a long scarf around the hat, letting it fall down the back or side.  That gives you a quick change as well as fast high style!  If you’re the kind of lady that enjoys turning heads when you walk into a restaurant, this Southern-Belle type of hat is for you!

 

If you are looking to give a special finishing touch to a casual fall outfit, think of caps. A newsboy cap tends to be flattering to almost everyone. It expresses a relaxed attitude with fashion.  Very sophisticated!

 

EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO THE RACES, CAPS LOOK RACY AND ATHLETIC.  CONSIDER:

 

 

 

  • A pretty pink ball cap with ANGEL spelled out in sparkling, embroidered letters.

 

 

                                                            Shoes

 

Probably the only thing you can say about shoes right now is that they are wardrobe leaders.  They are also high, very high, and more often than not, platform.  Most of the hottest shoes are super high heeled sandals, in a bevy of colors, the brighter the better.  Straps are another frequently encountered embellishment, running across the instep, and up the ankle.    

 

   —By now almost every major designer has put his/her imprimatur on the newest super-high, often platform, stiletto shoes.  Don’t be too shocked by the price tag, which can run into the high hundreds and even thousands for these newest shoe wonders that run from plain leather to foot-extravaganzas with crystal and gemstone embellishment.    

 

                                                    Ankle Bracelets

 

Looking for something to add even more fashion to the super NOW shoe? Think about ankle bracelets!  They are sexy on a bare leg, wild over a pair of black leggings or boots. 

Worn with the newest strappy stiletto sandals, they are fashion-hot!

 

HERE ARE SOME IDEAS FOR SHOE ADORNMENT:

  • Ankle bracelet with choice of a dove, butterfly, or dragonfly dangling from the silver-plated chain.  You just have to see it!
Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Friday, July 24th, 2009

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GOING TO COLLEGE?  What excitement!  But even the most privileged fashionistas are going to have it tough this year, mainly because money is tight and mom and dad aren’t going to be all that happy about laying out a lot of cash for trendy and status clothes that may well be outdated by next year. Take heart.  You can still get The Look you want without major expense. It will just take a little more work.  And shopping savvy. 

 

First think about what you’ll need. NEED.  That’s an important word!

   –I am reminded here of just how simple or complex that can be. Some years back I was at an exclusive health spa and I had with me a wardrobe of different fashion pieces, aimed at covering every social possibility I might encounter.  A very pretty young woman fresh out of Vassar College shared a cottage with me.

 

                                          Aran Island Sweater

 

It was autumn, and the first day she wore a pair of tight jeans, a T-shirt, and a heavy knit white Irish fisherman’s sweater, one of those great looking, admittedly expensive, sweaters they hand make on the bleak Aran Islands off the Irish  coast.  She looked terrific!

 

The thing is:  The next day, and the next, and the next, she wore the exact same thing!  And every day she looked as good, if not better, than the day before.  The end of the week, still wearing the same outfit, she packed up a tiny little duffle bag, probably from Louis Vuitton, and headed off home, easily leaving behind a reputation for being the best dressed woman there.

 

It takes a rare kind of talent to pull something like this off, which I didn’t have.  But this young woman was from a level of money I could only dream of, and there was a message there for me.  You, too, can learn from it!     Keep the story in mind while you plan your college purchases.

 

                                            Economics I

 

You can start your list of things to take to college with some obvious basics.  Sunglasses, for instance. Prada has a dynamite-looking pair of sunglasses with plastic tortoise shell frames, big, dark lenses, very Jacqueline Kennedy-esque.  You can buy Prada, or buy a smart copy.  Either way, you get a lot of fashion mileage for the money.  A watch is an absolute necessity.  Maybe three or four. This is an accessory you can accessorize, with more bracelets surrounding it.

 

IF YOU’RE SMART YOU’LL HAVE ECONOMICS I ON YOUR CLASS SCHEDULE:  GET THE MOST FOR EVERY DOLLAR.  SOME EXAMPLES:

  • This round watch case has a stunning metallic green face and is styled for changeable bands. Trendy!

 

 

 

.

A laptop with a carrying case and cell phone are two more essentials.  An MTV player is wishful thinking:  Put it on your Christmas “want” list.  Boots are also “must haves.”  Cozy boots for cold climes, and stiletto-heeled high black boots for Saturday night action. What loving parent could deny you?  Some more ideas:

 

SCHOOL BELLS START WITH DENIM. This is where to put your money.  Get a good pair of tight-legged pants that fit you perfectly and that will wear and wear and wear.  If you can’t afford designer jeans, opt for Levi’s, still classics. If they are dark blue and anything but skin tight, put in a crease.  It makes them look classy and costly.  Washed denim is another wardrobe item to put you high on the college social ladder.  Rip them, shred them, work them through until they look disastrous.

–To go with denim?  A t-shirt wardrobe, in long and short sleeves.  You can get these anywhere.  Think discounters like Marshalls and TJMaxx. 

 

THE PERFECT LITTLE BLACK DRESS. It’s in every high fashion publication every autumn, and it is an essential. This is your entry into society! Make it simple, with a not-too-short hemline. Dress it up, dress it down.  Add a jacket.  Add a scarf. Play with jewelry.  Wear it with stockings or leggings.  Match it to great flats, and super high, high strappy heels.  Never wear it to class.  This is strictly for Saturday Night dates and special awards ceremonies (you’ll hopefully be center stage at many).  

 

   —At this point, like my Vassar friend mentioned above, you’ll really have everything you need.  But here are a few more ideas, anyway:

 

                                      Haight-Ashbury, Revisited

 

SEPARATES like mini Prairie skirts (that allow you to go flouncy during the week), a tube skirt, a couple of pair of wear-with-everything leggings (make at least one black), a pair of short shorts, and a white shirt:  these are the makings of an impressive 2009-10 college wardrobe. Get very personal with a couple of offbeat choices, like a great silk skirt in a graphic African pattern.  You can also dip back into the 60s for a Haight-Ashbury long skirted flower child look. It’s fun!  Pick up a scarf at a thrift shop!

 

A REALLY GREAT BLAZER, preferably classic, double breasted (but it’s your choice) will spice up almost everything you own.  You can go very bohemian here, with roll-up sleeves, a brown textured basic material, and leather buttons.

 

A LIGHTWEIGHT, TIGHT-KNIT CARDIGAN works where jackets and coats don’t. If you can get one of the terrific French ones that sometimes come on the market, it’ll handle all situations.  Can’t locate one?  Get a European boyfriend and “steal” his. 

 

A HOT TRENCH COAT is a really good investment. Keep this as iconic as possible, preferably very WWII London blitz-style. Color it tan, and be sure it has a tie belt, unless you’re 20 pounds or more overweight.     

 

                                    Accessories That Talk

 

Probably the smartest thing you’ll have to learn during your first few months on campus is how to accessorize everything to make it Talk.  Because that’s what you want your outfits to do: Talk about You.  You want them to say you’re:  Hot.  Edgy.  Scholarly.  Romantic.  Intellectual. Traditional. Way-Out-There-Modern.  Classy.  Reserved.  Hard-to-Get. Easy-to-Love.  You choose it.  Then choose the outfits and accessories that’ll promote the image you want.

 

–This, again, reminds me of a story about a pretty young Jewish girl I knew in college who dressed in the most exotic fashion, as if she just left Bombay.  Everyone just assumed she was a Hindu princess; who would imagine she came from the Bronx?  But that’s a story for another day.  In the meantime, what about those accessories?  Here are some ideas:

 

 

 

 

  • This hot little go-everywhere evening clutch comes in shiny faux croc and the newest modest size. Choose from several trendy colors. Use it day and night.
Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

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PARTIES ARE ALWAYS FUN, and what could be better than a costume party planned around the theme of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that delightful comedy by William Shakespeare? 

 

Here is all the drama and intrigue for a stellar evening of entertainment and fun…or a retail store display theme for a collection of spectacular masks!  Shakespeare took inspiration for his play from “The Knight’s Tale” in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales,” and expressed as its main statement that LOVE TRIUMPHS ALL.

   –But what mischief and madness goes on until we get to that conclusion!  

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream involves two couples whose romantic intrigues are complicated, confused, and thoroughly hilarious. Their volatile experiences take place in Athens, Greece, in the middle of a forest, at night.  And, as the Bard so aptly puts it:

 

                             “The cause of true love never did run smooth.”   

 

Oh, that is an understatement for all times, as we discover with these star-crossed lovers.

 

                                       Wild, Annual Festival

 

HOW SHAKESPEARE CAME TO THE IDEA of setting his play in the middle of a forest in the middle of the night in the middle of the summer is not too difficult to figure out, when you realize that, in ancient England, it was believed that on a Midsummer Night, the fairies and witches hold their wild, annual festival. 

   —And, yes…the play is all about fairies, romping, playing, dancing, loving and being generally naughty and charming in the middle of their forest kingdom on a warm summer’s evening.

 

The characters in the play are nothing short of fantastic, and offer wonderful opportunity for party guests —  choosing who they want to be, based on the play — to dress up in spectacular wonder.  Not the least of their outfitting just has to involve masks.

 

JUST LET YOUR IMAGINATION RUN WILD WITH THESE MASKS!  THEY MAY BE VENETIAN, BUT THEY FIT THE FESTIVITIES OF ATHENIAN FAIRIES TO A “T”.

 

  • Butterfly mask is a creation of pure imaginative design.  This beautiful style in butterfly shape is done in molded acrylic and blends with the forest theme perfectly!

 

 

 

  • White Venetian Mask, with gold or silver highlight.  Ahhh, with brilliant white ostrich plumes rising 10 inches above the eye mask, this is an elegant mask for the Queen of the Fairies!.

 

                                                   Synopsis      

 

FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T too familiar with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you might offer a sheet with the play’s synopsis on it, included in your invitations. No, you don’t have to write it yourself; you can pick it up on the Internet. 

 

Or, you might make this party an intellectual pastime, and have a scene or two from the play enacted for your guests’ entertainment.  If the party is for youngsters, well…this is an ideal way to turn an educational pursuit into real fun!  Let them reinvent the play in their own modern terms.

 

WHATEVER YOU DO, A Midsummer Night’s Dream offers great party fare.  It is also made up of a bevy of fantastic characters, one more intriguing than the other.  There is, to start with, a full band of fairies.  Then, there is Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, legendary queen of the Amazons, and Theseus’ fiancee. And, let us not forget Oberon, King of the fairies, and his Queen, Titania. So…not only do we have a forest, we also have royal courts!

 

                                       What Roles They Play!

 

THE MOON-STRUCK LOVERS include Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius, whose escapades are confused and complicated, but who eventually come around to a happy ending.  They are strange and crazy and mixed up – but, what roles they play!

 

And then, there is perhaps the most famous character of all, Puck, the court jester.  Puck is a mischievous fairy, and he delights in planning pranks on humans.  And ahhh, what pranks he pulls….

 

HERE IS A GREAT MASK FOR THOSE WHO CHOOSE TO PLAY THE PART OF PUCK, SURELY THE MAIN CHARACTER FROM THE PLAY:

 

 

AND, GIVING AN ARTS AND CRAFTS DIMENSION TO THE DRESS-UP FARE, HOW ABOUT THESE GREAT MASKS:

 

  • Comedy or Tragedy, in classic Greek design.  These unpainted masks are for those who want to create their own look.  They add a delightful extra to the party planning!  Great for any one from the fairy band!

                                                     

                                                          Finale

                                                             

So clap your hands.  Enter the forest.  Let your friends and clients, foes and competitors all dress up in masked disguise lest we discover too soon who they might be.  Before we discover too soon what Shakespeare saw in the most famous quote from this engaging play:                      

 

                                       Lord, what fools these mortals be!

 

       — But does it matter?  The play’s the thing!

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

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CONTRARY TO EARLY EXPECTATIONS, optimism was the reigning mood at a number of important fashion expositions held around the country recently.  Buyers were careful how they spent their money, true, but they also expected their customers to respond well to good merchandise and right prices, and that attitude buoyed up show sales and made for much more enthusiastic market experiences.

 

At The Designers & Agents, Focus Apparel and Accessories Trade Show in Los Angeles, one vendor pointed out that many retailers are also dealing with very low inventories, and they have no choice but to buy if they intend to open their doors. 

     –Responding to this, one retailer said, “That’s true, but I am only buying what I absolutely know will sell.”  In other words, buying was careful here, and few were going out on a limb buying something that looked good but may have had questionable retail appeal. 

 

Even so, novelty was the big selling point in Los Angeles.  All kinds of embellishments, aimed at putting glitz and glamour into the wardrobe, were popular.  Apparel with sequins sold well, along with embroidery and crystals.  An especially hot number for dresses, separates and accessories:   metallic materials.

 

TISH YOUNG OF MICHELLE MASON’S boutique said anything short and sexy was selling well.  That meant leather, especially, but at good prices.  “Cheap” is how one retailer put it.  And that was what he was looking for in price tags:  low, lower, lowest. Casual sportswear, particularly anything under the $50 tag mark, moved fast.   

 

YOU CAN HELP YOUR BUYERS TO OFFER EXCELLENT QUALITY AT LOW PRICES.  TRY THESE PRODUCTS:

 

 

 

                                                 Feminine Touch

 

BROOCHES WERE AN UNEXPECTED POPULAR item in Los Angeles, as well, giving a feminine touch to many man-tailored pieces. Skinny jeans were hot, but that’s more or less what everybody expected them to be.  Plaids were very big, with an eye on fall and winter dressing. 

 

Moderately priced handbags moved up in customer appreciation, with wholesale prices ranging from $25 to $300. The big trendy color in handbags was gray.  As one vendor put it, “It’s a nice option as a neutral, instead of always doing black or brown.” Statement necklaces with large agates were major numbers at a Texas-based jewelry concern.

 

An Arizona-based jewelry designer said that jewelry pieces selling for $300 or more would have to wait for more a favorable economic environment.  Right now, he saw jewelry pieces –especially rings – at a $12-$15 wholesale price as popular choices.

 

                                                     Dallas Expo

 

NOBODY WAS ACTUALLY SINGING “Happy Days Are Here Again,” at the recent FashionCenterDallas market run, but retailers at the show were shopping…and that’s

“real cause for applause” as one vendor put it. 

     –Retailers said they were looking for “feel-good” fashions at reasonable prices. “Nothing over $500,” an industry observer noted. 

 

Cindy Morris, chief officer of the Dallas Market Center, said the mood was positive at the show and traffic was steady, with retailers open-to-buy.

 

“The middle of the country remains better off than anywhere else,”                   she pointed out, adding that she expects the second half of the year

            to do very well.    

 

ON THE ACCESSORIES CIRCUIT, faux crocodile handbags rang up high numbers.  Most buyers wanted them in rich, even hot colors, like blazing pink or summer-sizzling greenMultiple bracelets also came in with a strong popular vote, along with statement necklaces.  Big to very big chandelier earrings, Victorian-inspired, India-Indian, and modern designs further helped boost the importance of accessories to a high market point.  Color was a major buying factor, especially electric blue and plum.

 

COLOR ALWAYS HELPS PRODUCTS MOVE BETTER!  CASH IN ON THESE HOT, COLORFUL ITEMS:

  • Fashion ring with amethyst center stone surrounded by clear crystals.  Choose your gemstone color!

 

 

 

  • Designer purse in soft, genuine-looking leatherette.  Color options.

 

                                           Starting to Percolate

 

WHILE BUSINESS ELSEWHERE in the country remained mostly in the doldrums, here in Dallas, things seemed, at least, pretty good.  Pam Kramer of Ferrell & Kramer showroom asserted, “Things are starting to percolate again.”  Sara Leboeuf of Moseley & Hollard said, “You do have to work harder” but customers are coming in. 

 

Dresses sold well at both the Dallas and Los Angeles markets.  Geometric ivory and black prints were strong, along with stretch silk twill shirt dresses.  Metallic dresses couldn’t have been better.  As one vendor said, “They sell and sell!”  As in Los Angeles, casual styles sold best in Dallas.

 

     –One retailer with a “retired age” customer base said she was looking for “fun little items.”  She was excited by a black cotton blouse with an attached obi belt in tomato and orange. 

     –Another retailer said she was looking for studded skinny belts in a variety of colors.  She said she was interested in items that were dressy-casual. 

 

ONE OVER-RIDING CONSIDERATION at the markets had to do with the color green — not in money, however, but in ecology.  A surprising number of retailers expressed an interest in ecologically correct merchandise, saying they did not want to buy or sell products that had a negative effect on the earth. Kathy Means, of Kathy’s Boutique in Athens, Texas, was interested in organic cotton cardigans from Eco-Centric.  Her business, she said, was “equal to or slightly ahead of last year.”

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009