Micam Buyers Buoyed by Fall Looks

MILAN — The deepening European economic crisis impacted the overall mood at last week’s Micam show here. Still, U.S. retailers attending the event remained largely positive about fall ’13 and lauded the directional looks on display.

“We continue to see support of the smoking slipper as a key trend and we loved what we saw at the show,” said Brooke Jaffe, Bloomingdale’s fashion accessories director. “Menswear looks will be key in footwear for fall from loafers to booties.”

Lisa Gorlicki, buyer for Boston-based The Tannery, said she comes to the show each season in search of new emerging trends or designers. “We are established with top-tier brands and blessed with great business, but the retail environment can shift at any time,” she said.

One label that fulfilled Gorlicki’s desire for newness was Stephane Kélian, the classic French brand now designed by Ernesto Esposito and owned by Groupe Royer.

“I loved the pointy-toe looks and shoe booties in olive green and purple suede,” she said, adding that the woven and suede creepers were also a hit. Gorlicki’s other top brand picks at the show included A.S. 98 and Vic Matie.

Tatiane Graef, buyer and manager from Chicago-based Carrara Children’s Shoes, said she gravitated to brands that would help differentiate her store from competitors. She listed Tiberio Formentini, Froddo and Biscotti as kids’ labels that made a strong statement on the show floor.

“We made a name for ourselves with high-end Italian product and have primarily stuck with these price points over the years rather than buying a lot from China,” Graef said.

The retailer’s No. 1 priority when picking up product is high quality. Many Italian brands also offer flexibility, she added, allowing her to customize fabrics, design and colors.

Paul Stuart buyer Peter Agati was scouring the floor for new factory partners as the retailer plots an expansion of its footwear department and made-in-Italy private label business under the Paul Stuart and Phineas Cole high-end men’s brands.

“The artisan factories in Italy, run by families, afford an opportunity to work directly with the people who have a great love for the product and a pride in what they have produced,” Agati said. “When you place an order, they take pride in delivering their artwork to you. They also are willing to [tailor] things according to your needs.”

On the vendor front, several U.S. exhibitors said they were focusing less on struggling European buyers and instead looking to an increasingly global buying audience. In fact, show organizers said attendees from 100 countries were on hand, with Russia, Asia and France strongly represented.

Looking around his packed booth, Stuart Weitzman pointed out representatives from stores in Asia, Australia, Russia, Canada, Nigeria and Ireland, among others. “We are seeing the world here,” the designer said.

Bob Goldman, CEO of Chinese Laundry, agreed. “Everything is changing in terms of how we sell product and who we sell it to,” he said. “But in the end, it still comes down to having great shoes.”

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