By  on January 31, 1994

DALLAS -- Breezy separates and sportswear groups, with buyers showing a growing appetite for bright hues after a steady diet of neutrals, marked the action at the International Apparel Mart's summer and transition market last week.

Favored fabrics included cotton, silk, linen and rayon, and citing the dearth of color in their stores, a number of buyers said they were booking tropical brights, such as mango, strawberry and papaya, as well as navy and metallics.

The five-day market officially ended Jan. 24, but many showrooms remained opened the following day, primarily for appointment-only business.

Retailers brought a mixed set of attitudes to the five-day market which ended Monday. Some, still uncertain about the economy, kept budgets about even with last year. However, others were considerably more upbeat, citing hikes in their open-to-buys of 10 to 50 percent.

Such disparity also was reflected in the market traffic, which typically is slow at the January show. Though this year was not much of an exception, some showrooms hummed throughout and "Parking Lot Full" signs were apparent during a couple of peak hours.

Robbin Wells, vice president of marketing at the International Apparel Mart and Men's Wear Mart, said 9,001 women's and children's wear buyers from 5,278 stores had registered through Jan. 25. She didn't release comparisons with last year, pointing to the Mart's stricter qualification requirements for entry instituted last September.

Among those shopping the showrooms with an optimistic bent was Genny Schoonover, owner of Genny's, Leawood, Kan., seeking spring and summer silhouettes with a budget up 47 percent.

"Business was ahead 58 percent last year, and we're up 47 percent so far this month," explained Schoonover, who credited the surge to aggressive marketing that includes lots of trunk shows.

Though she hadn't yet placed orders, Schoonover liked periwinkle, aqua and papaya cotton and rayon separates from Johnny Was; cotton separates in muted shades from Fitigues; jade sueded rayon sportswear from I.B. Diffusion; cotton gauze separates from Color Me Cotton and loden and graphite textured cotton sportswear from Sangam.

Tonya Borisov, owner of Colours, Houston, hiked her budget 50 percent, citing customers' increasing willingness to spend and her recent store relocation.

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