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The Long, Hot Season: Buyers Applaud Spring But Gripe About Shows

A brutal show schedule with many off-site venues; hot, humid weather, and snarled traffic as a result of the United Nations summit left retailers feeling...

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A dramatic dress by Bryan Bradley for Tuleh.

Photo By John Aquino, George Chinsee, Robert Mitra, Thomas Iannaccone and David Turner

A neutral dress on the Marc Jacobs runway.

Photo By John Aquino, George Chinsee, Robert Mitra, Thomas Iannaccone and David Turner

One of Michael Kors' camouflage looks.

Photo By John Aquino, George Chinsee, Robert Mitra, Thomas Iannaccone and David Turner

Refined simplicity from Roland Mouret.

Photo By John Aquino, George Chinsee, Robert Mitra, Thomas Iannaccone and David Turner

A long beige gown by Brian Reyes.

Photo By John Aquino, George Chinsee, Robert Mitra, Thomas Iannaccone and David Turner

NEW YORK — A brutal show schedule with many off-site venues; hot, humid weather, and snarled traffic as a result of the United Nations summit left retailers feeling cranky last week, but nonetheless bullish about spring.

Given the continuing strength of the luxury market, retailers said they expect their open-to-buys to be at least a few points ahead of last year and perhaps more if their companies are opening new stores. After all, the euro is dropping against the dollar, meaning designer goods might be less expensive come spring, and fashion shoppers continue to trade up.

"Our current business is extremely strong in all parts of women's apparel and fashion accessories," said Bloomingdale's chairman and chief executive officer Michael Gould. "We will continue to intensify the programs that are working for us. Next year will be a major year, as far as Bloomingdale's goes."

Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said the collections she saw bode well for a strong season. "Usually, spring is rather ho-hum," she said. "We've seen two directions — a return to modernism and the pulled-together feminine look. It will be good for business. The season has a lot of appeal."

One concern for stores was the plethora of neutral shades that could turn into a sea of blandness on the retail floor. "As much as a problem as black is this fall, ivory or taupe will be for spring," said Michael Fink, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. "It doesn't have that pull if everything is the same color."

Jeffrey Kalinsky saw a silver lining in all the beige.

"I think neutral colors are refined and there's always a way to make them sing other than having carnival of colors," said the owner of Jeffrey New York.

Beneath the overall optimism, however, was a strong feeling among buyers that New York Fashion Week is at a crossroads as the shows increasingly get taken over by the celebrity phenomenon. It raises the question as to what the runway is for in the end — so designers can show and sell their latest collections, or simply to provide a photo op for the tabloids? Some retailers said they were shoved into standing room so celebrities could get prized seats. One prominent retailer was rudely told she'd have to stand at the Donna Karan show. "I buy so much Donna Karan," she said, adding, "This is embarrassing."
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