Fall is shaping up to be a strong season in the contemporary market. Although the season got off to a slow start with unusually warm weather, business now appears to be percolating at retail – and the cold snap across much of the country over recent days could add a further fillip.
Modern suiting, novelty knits, straight and wide-leg silhouettes in pants, midi-skirts, faux fur jackets, leather dressing, animal prints and tie-dyed styles are among the looks that are selling well around the country, according to a spot check of retailers.
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Store executives said vendors are offering a lot of the innovation in the market this fall, and that customers are experimenting with new looks to spruce up their wardrobes.
“Business has been strong. I think the styles this year and the trends are very enticing and new and are something they don’t have,” said Samantha Greenes, buying director of Blue & Cream, which has two stores in East Hampton and Manhattan, in addition to an online business. She said that contemporary designers have elevated their styles and trends so it’s more attractive to people who might have bought designer.
Here’s what stores had to say.
“Head-to-toe leather dressing (including vegan leather) is a top trend we’re loving from brands like Ganni, Frame and Nanushka,” said Alexandra Willinger, buying director for secondary, sportswear, denim and outerwear, of Intermix, the 35-unit women’s specialty store retailer and online business owned by The Gap Inc. The trending colors of the season are coming from brands like A.L.C., Ulla Johnson and Zimmermann in new neutrals like camel, caramel and ivory — and emerald is having a major moment, she said. “We’re also seeing a lot of animal prints beyond leopard, and dresses, sweaters and tops with puff sleeves,” she said.
Overall, they’re seeing “incredible growth” on the web, where the new denim edit and exclusive brands, washes and fits are being well received, she added.
Intermix recently launched its night-out collection with dresses from Jonathan Simkhai, Retrofete, Cushnie, Rotate, and Ronny Kobo, among others. Bestsellers this season include the exclusive double-breasted blazers from Veronica Beard, and novelty sweaters from brands like 3.1 Phillip Lim, 10 Crosby Derek Lam, A.L.C. and the company’s Intermix cashmere v-neck in many colors. Among the new brands to Intermix doing well are Nanushka, Paris Texas, Aje, Rotate Birger Christensen, Retrofete and Sabina Musayev.
Olive & Bette’s
Stacey Pecor, owner of Olive & Bette’s, the four-unit contemporary retailer in New York, said the store is having a strong fall and is doing well with such brands as Autumn Cashmere, 27 Miles Malibu, Cocoon and Brochu Walker. Specifically cashmere and “anything tie-dyed has been amazing,” she said. She added that styles that look different are selling in the knitwear category. In pants, Olive & Bette’s is having a good season with Avenue Montaigne’s plaid styles.
Pecor’s customers are also buying Frame’s novelty denim, and the store continues to sell AG. Wide-leg pants from Habitual, Frame and AG are checking.
In the dress category, the retailer is having success with Shoshanna designs. Dresses under $400 are selling well, in particular from Misa Los Angeles and Poupette St. Barth. Another strong line has been Linda Richards furs. Pecor said that graphic T-shirts and the skirt category have been seeing a lot of action this fall. Skirts are selling from miniskirts and florals to midis and bohemian styles. “The best skirts are coming from Misa,” she said, adding that Love Shack Fancy, Poupette St. Barth, Go Silk and Brochu Walker also are doing well. Overall, she said the business is consistent with last year.
“I think we got off to such a slow start due to the weather, it was so hot for so long. But with a little bit of change in the weather, things have started to pick up dramatically,” said Rusty Lester, owner of Frances Kahn, which has three Virginia-based stores in Richmond, Roanoke and Virginia Beach. He said he’s had early success with Rag & Bone, especially its jackets (“they seem to be making a comeback for us,”), Iro’s mini-sportswear collection, and 10 Crosby Derek Lam, whose plaid jackets are doing well. “Plaids are selling well overall and in that line, jackets are selling,” said Lester.
Two other brands whose jackets have been selling are Veronica Beard and L’Agence, as have their jeans and blouses. “They’re famous for their Seventies silk skirts and jeans,” he said of L’Agence. The jeans retail from $225 to $275, and the silk shirts are $325 to $425.
In the pants category, there’s been some interest in wider leg styles, “but it’s not off to as fast a start as the industry would have hoped,” he said. He said L’Agence’s wider-leg cropped pant is doing well but “the skinny jean is where it’s going, worn with a great plaid or checked jacket.”
According to Emily Holt, owner of Hero Shop, the San Francisco-based women’s specialty store, preppy (often striped) basics, with some playfulness, like Kule sweaters and x Karla striped Ts, have been strong sellers. In addition, houndstooth and men’s wear fabrics — like a full-length gray houndstooth wool coat by Ganni, which she said, “is way too heavy for a California climate, but clients went crazy for it anyway” — have sold well. Navy plaid, skinny, kick flare pants by Mother and Nili Lotan’s Chelsea trouser also have been bestsellers.
Embossed croc, a luxury look at a more digestible price, like a bordeaux colored pencil skirt from Tibi and chocolate brown Mansur Gavriel tote, are selling well. Other bestsellers are straight and wide-leg jean silhouettes from Trave, Levi’s and Mother. She said jeans are checking with stretch, but moving away from skintight skinny. She also noted that novelty prints in dresses from HVN’s Tarzan and cherry prints in particular, as well as sweaters from Replica’s Chelsea Hotel and Mother, embroidered with handwriting and doodles, are top sellers.
“Our customers are always interested in buying things they really can see themselves living in, that they can (and want to) wear the next day to whatever myriad of responsibilities or engagements they have,” said Holt. “As their lives become increasingly busy, we’re sending out what I call care packages more frequently. These are bags, delivered same day to clients’ offices or homes, sent upon request when clients need something for a specific occasion or just a refresh. They’re filled with pieces I think will suit the client’s taste, lifestyle, budget and body shape. They keep what they want and we pick up whatever doesn’t work. We try to make it as easy and efficient as possible and to meet the client where they are.”
Blue & Cream
“The season’s been really good,” said Samantha Greenes, buying director of women’s wear at Blue & Cream, which has two stores in East Hampton and Manhattan, as well as e-commerce. At this time of year, knitwear always does well, especially styles with a little edge, she said. She’s having success with a plaid cashmere knit and leopard-printed cashmere from R13. “Faux leather is really strong for us,” said Greenes, citing Nanuskha. The brand does all faux leather, such as the high-waisted faux leather trouser for $350 and the puffy faux leather bomber jacket for $550. She is also doing well with faux fur outerwear from Apparis.
A strong category for the stores this season has been skirts, from mid-length to maxi, such as those by Misa.
The retailer’s customers are into matching sets, and printed blouses and skirts from Zimmermann. Love Shack Fancy’s moody florals are doing well for fall. She said their customers like the high-waisted wide leg pants and long, straight legs. “Skinny is out. They want something different and new that they don’t have,” said Greenes.
According to Greenes, high-waisted, wide-crop jeans from L’Agence have been strong sellers. She’s also done well with Re/Done’s high-waisted wide leg. “They’re known for cropped skinny but they’re going into wide leg,” she said.
Working women have been buying modern suiting, and blazers paired with a skirt or pant, she said, pointing to Smythe’s plaid and herringbone jacket. Another good seller has been 3.1 Phillip Lim workwear separates.
Sari Sloane, owner of The Westside, which has four stores in the New York metropolitan area and Los Angeles, said that it’s doing well with cashmere sweatsuits from its own Westside label. Denim from brands such as Re/Done and AGolde have also sold well. “We’ve been selling a lot of rigid Nineties jeans, as well as all different styles,” she said.
Last month, Westside launched a web site, thewestsideshop.com.
Sloane noted that knitwear is selling well, too, citing Eleven Six, which looks like hand-knit sweaters in cashmere. After a long, extended summer, she’s started to sell a lot of outerwear from brands such as Apparis faux fur and Bacon, which is a puffer in faux shearling. “We’re able to dress women in this casual, but luxe kind of way,” said Sloane. “We’re having a very strong fall. I attribute it to the neighborhoods we’re in and a really strong customer base and following. The customer is coming to us as a one-stop shop for lifestyle.”
Shari Kaynes, owner and president of Shari’s Place, which has six women’s specialty stores in the New York metropolitan area, Greenwich, Conn., and Palm Beach, called the top trends for fall “finishing touches.”
“We are loving animal print accessories; shawls, bags, coats and shoes, funky cowboy boots with leather and suede pants, baby blue and pink tailored shirts under suede, and wearable jewelry (not the kind you keep in the vault),” she said.
Bestsellers for the season so far have been skinny, straight-leg, suede pull-on pants by Shari’s Place, the in-house brand; chunky sweaters from Alanui; cashmere wraps from Carolyn Rowan and Colombo, and blazers, an exclusive collaboration with Belvest, that have funky linings and classic tailoring. The stores are also doing well with Barbara Bui and Golden Goose blazers.
“Business is steady, but we are expecting a strong holiday and fourth quarter,” she said. Favorite vendors are Alexandre Vauthier, Oscar de la Renta, Giambattista Valli, Carolyn Rowan, Temperley London, and Jenny Packham.
“It’s been a really good season,” said Sarah Holmes, contemporary sportswear buyer for Julian Gold, the women’s specialty store retailer with units in Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Midland, Tex.
“For us, a hot category is our dresses because it’s party season,” said Holmes. By Johnny has been a big seller. In the contemporary sportswear area, the retailer has been doing well with Tanya Taylor. “Our customer really likes it,” she said, noting this year the brand is doing brights all year long. “We really like her blouses and her dresses. Her dresses are transitional and more cocktail/evening as well as daytime/luncheon.”
Julian Gold is also doing well with silk skirts and sweater combinations. “Lots of clients ask for it. Temperature is not a consideration, our customer is responding to trend,” she said. As far as the skirts, silk straight bias skirts are doing well, as are full and short skirts. Vince and Theory skirts are selling well, she said.
One new line, Cqy denim, has been a strong performer. It is a rigid denim with some stretch. “It’s a good crossover to get people more into structured denim. I would say we’re trending more toward straight leg, not skinny leg. We have customers picking up on the wider-leg trend, especially in the Austin store, which is more forward,” said Holmes.
She said the retailer received a collection from Misa Los Angeles recently, and sold 60 percent by the end of the day. “It’s huge in San Antonio. We sold a lot of satin-y/silk blends in a high-waisted palazzo pant, and sweaters and blouses always do well.”
Holmes said they’re having a lot of success with Apparis faux furs. “It could be 102 degrees outside, and people will still buy it,” she said, adding that she has placed reorders for Apparis’ styles. They offer a fluffy faux fur coat that retails under $300. They also do faux mink with a hood, and a mid-length jacket in leopard print called the Margot.
Forty Five Ten
Kristen Cole, president and chief creative officer at Forty Five Ten, the Dallas-based specialty store with seven units in Napa, Aspen, Dallas (three), Miami and New York, called the contemporary business so far this fall “great.” “Our emerging designers are an essential part of our luxury to advanced contemporary mix,” she said, adding the biggest trends clicking with customers are minimalism, romanticism and suiting.
She noted that the retailer has had great success with its exclusive collaboration pieces, having done artist exclusives with Katie Stout, Katherine Bernhardt and Caitlin Keogh. She also noted that the retailer’s new curated designer vintage category has been a hit since it was introduced last spring.
Forty Five Ten brings in about five new brands a season, per category. “Marine Serre is one that we are all loving that we have just received for fall,” she said. Compared to last year, Cole called the contemporary business “strong.”
“We’ve seen a lot of our customers gravitate to midiskirts and mididresses, and they wearing them with sneakers and an oversize sweater,” said Rebecca Wierda, owner of Leigh’s, a 13,000-square-foot luxury women’s boutique in Grand Rapids, Mich. Among the brands that are selling well are Ba&sh, Olivia Rubin, a new brand from the U.K., and Self-Portrait. She said both solids and animal prints are selling well. “Ganni is really big with animal prints and leopard,” she said.
Another top seller has been rigid denim. “Re/Done does that best. It’s selling like crazy and the customer is really embracing it.” She noted that straight leg, rather than skinny, is selling.
She noted that eco-friendly and sustainable looks are clicking with her customers, citing Designers Remix out of Copenhagen. “They’re very environmentally friendly and give a great fashion product, and our customers feel good about what they’re doing,” she said.
Overall, Wierda said it’s been a strong season and the retailer has elevated its price points, moving more toward advanced contemporary. Jonathan Simkhai and Veronica Beard are doing great, she said. “She [Beard] does the best jacket out there. And the dickey can zip in and out,” said Wierda. Designers such as Beard and Great American are embracing that curvier, sexier body. Both are offered up to size 22. “They’re bringing a ton of fashion for that curvier girl and it’s selling,” she said.
She also loves military green this season, and the utilitarian looks from Zadig & Voltaire. “They have a utilitarian look, and a cool, edgy thing going on.”