DALLAS — Novelty tops, jeans, real and fake fur jackets and soft lifestyle togs led business last week at Dallas market.Buyers responded to bold prints and knitwear embellished with stars, big cat faces, grommets and quirky slogans. The palette was heavy on black, gray and pink/blush augmented by red, burgundy, mustard, emerald and olive.Spring business got off to a sluggish start in Texas because of cold, wet weather but picked up in mid-March, retailers said. Most kept their budgets flat as they shopped for fall and filled in for summer.“Last year spring started early,” observed Tricia Roberts, owner of Adelante in Austin, Tex. “This year people are now ready to buy spring.”The Dallas Market Center’s show dates were Wednesday through Saturday, but many showrooms began working with retailers on Monday or Tuesday, and few buyers remained by Saturday. The fall “mega market” annually combines women’s fashion with western wear, gifts and home products.Fashion Industry Gallery, which specializes in contemporary fashion and accoutrements, presented its customary three-day show from Wednesday to Friday.Robert Creel and his wife, Elizabeth Ward, shopped for Elizabeth W, their three-month-old store in Dallas’ affluent Highland Park.“Business is great,” Creel said as they reviewed By TiMo’s romantic floral dresses. “Our goal is to move toward emerging and young designers. We are above contemporary and below designer.”The couple plans to launch a web site in April that will allow customers to request styles to be pulled for them to try on in the store.Patty Hoffpauir, owner of The Garden Room in Austin, picked up three new lines — Scotch & Soda sportswear, Soko modern brass and horn jewelry, and washable sweaters by Brodie Cashmere.“I’m looking for things that people can wear year round,” she said. “Everyone is downsizing. The customers say over and over, ‘I gotta love it,’ so when I’m here, I gotta love it.”Dresses have become a tough sell, noted Charli Light, owner of Charli in College Station, Tex.“They’re going down, down, down,” she said. “It’s dressy tops with ripped jeans. At Trina Turk, I bought glen plaid pants, twinsets, ruffled sweaters and two dresses.”Chris Schnau and Brenda Kostohryz, owners of Hip, Chic Boutique at the Mercantile in Fort Worth, Tex., kept an eye out for large sizes as well as misses. Business has been up and down, Schnau said.“We’re trying to keep our budget the same,” she noted. “Spring is different with people buying during and after spring break [March 10 to 18] instead of before.”Salespeople at both show venues remarked that traffic seemed slower than the January show, but there were clearly bright spots.Dallas Market Center president and chief executive officer Cindy Morris said the venue saw gains in new buyers and retailers from the West, Southeast and central U.S.Johnny Was enjoyed a strong market that started on Monday, noted regional sales manager Vickie Wilde Mullen. With backing from Endeavor Capital, the brand has expanded into handbags, blankets, pillows and candles, and swimwear is next, she said.Among her customers was Mary “Pinky” Towner of Pinky’s in San Antonio, who described her store as “boho chic.” She shopped all six divisions of Johnny Was for embroidered velvet tops, printed kimonos and toppers.Brand Assembly displayed 43 lines in the sunlit lobby of the Dallas Trade Mart, which houses primarily home and gift showrooms. The Trade Mart adjoins the World Trade Center where fashion and other goods are exhibited. It was the third Dallas venue that Brand Assembly has tested since June.“It was a huge step forward in bringing the Brand Assembly concept to Dallas,” said Hillary France, co-founder and ceo of the trade show. “We’re going to be back in June, and we’ll do Dallas Market Center again in October and January.”Marco Lebel of Lebel Fashion Group exhibited nine lines at Brand Assembly, doing best with colorful, Seventies-inspired cashmere sweaters by Happy Sheep and item-driven sportswear by Zoe Karssen and Ronny Kobo.High-end western wear designer Pat Dahnke said she had one of her best markets in 33 years of wholesaling. She sells her artisanal leather, silk and suede pieces primarily to high-end boutiques and western speciality stores.“My main thing is fringe and boho chic necklaces, and that has been selling faster than anything,” Dahnke said.Michelle Wenke, co-founder of Monrow casual knitwear, was the featured designer at FIG. Monrow currently has two stores near its home base in Los Angeles and plans to open a third at Westfield Century City in June plus a summer pop-up at the Surf Lodge in Montauk, N.Y., she said.
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