By  on June 10, 2008

DALLAS — Retailers shopped FashionCenterDallas with an eye on looks that would appeal to shoppers enduring tough economic times, whether it was summer immediates, fall fill-ins or holiday party styles.Embellishment and rich jewel tones and tropical brights often played a determining factor in whether stores made orders.Fashion must-haves at the four-day market that ended June 1 included colorful and embellished bohemian and peasant-style tops, fitted and bolero jackets, cropped pants and jeans with higher waistlines and back-pocket detailing.Designers featured retro looks, including Thirties-style slinky silk eveningwear in silver, gold and beige, Forties-era strong-shoulder jackets, Fifties full-skirt romantic dresses and Sixties mod-print short skirts, tops and fitted dresses.Many buyers reasoned that cash-strapped consumers won't purchase apparel unless it fills a need in their wardrobes and has feel-good vibes, such as bright paisley and geometric prints, beaded and embroidered tops and dresses, and tailored trouser pants, denim jeans in new washes and detailing, and sophisticated velvet and metallic holiday party dresses."Fall and holiday collections looked really vibrant," said Sonia Steffes, owner of Sonia Says, a specialty store in Athens, Ga. "Customers will respond to all the bright colors, funky prints and detailing and embellishment. These trends evolve each season with different colors and different embellishment, so they look fresh and can be dressed up or down, providing more value for the price of the garment and a reason to buy."Steffes shopped for fall and holiday apparel and accessories, especially versatile styles that pack easily for travel. She bought Dominique Di Sentino's casual and dressy sportswear and dresses with subtle embellishment, Allure's cropped pants and fitted jackets, and Magaschoni's party dresses in fuchsia and lime with metallic details and ilk satin beaded dresses.In accessories, Steffes bought slim leather clutches and portfolios, colorful printed gloves and double-handle handbags in bright colors such as gold and fuchsia from several vendors.Although the Southwest economy has been somewhat resilient and buoyed by historically high oil prices during the economic slowdown, buyers were cautious and focused on finding compelling collections with salable trends. The goal is to keep inventories fresh and enticing to customers."This region of the country remains economically stable and that fact was reflected in the even traffic for the show," said Cindy Morris, chief operating officer at the Dallas Market Center, parent of FashionCenterDallas."They're looking for styles to make their stores a destination for new must-have fashions, even at higher price points, which consumers are willing to pay if the look is right," said Brad Hughes, owner of Brad Hughes & Associates.Diane Bunker, who coowns Spinout, a Tyler, Tex., specialty store, with her daughter, Donna Alfred, picked up Juicy Couture's dresses and tops with charm details, Yoana Baraschi's yellow and black dresses and Free People's peasant tops."Tyler, Tex., is located in the midst of an oil patch and with record oil prices we're not feeling the recession here," Bunker said. "Women are still buying if the look is enticing enough. They're aren't mentioning cutting back."Alli Burks, assistant manager at specialty store Blinc in Plano, Tex., bought Spy's jeweled tops, along with denim jeans with subtle sheen and sexy dresses from a range of vendors."We cater to a wide range of customers and they all love vibrant but tasteful prints and colors," Burks said.Nicole Nutt, owner of Elle Boutique in Austin, Tex., shopped for contemporary styles, including Donna Morgan's romantic and tailored dresses and jackets that are good for day into evening, Muse's animal-print dresses, Parameter's printed and embellished tops, colorful tailored shirts from Finley and jeans from David Kahn."Fall and holiday are always very important seasons in Austin as we have so many younger customers with all the universities here, as well as politicians," in the state capital, Nutt said.

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