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Buyers at Dallas Mart Seek Brighter Looks

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.<BR><BR>Favored...

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.

“Everything has looked the same for so long,” said Borisov. “My customer is looking for a change.”

She hopes to meet the challenge with casual contemporary styles with lightweight cotton separates, including hemlines that either hover above the knee or at the ankle.

“That midcalf stuff just doesn’t cut it,” interjected Angie McDonald, a buyer from Colours who accompanied Borisov to Dallas.

Barbara Simon, owner of Barklee Collection, Ardmore, Okla., scouted for clean and structured looks to stock her better-to-bridge-price store and said she planned to spend 10 percent more than a year ago.

Among styles getting her attention were Tamotsu’s taupe, natural and graphite silk acetate suits and sportswear; Anne Pinkerton’s cognac, sage and natural short silk sarong skirt, long jacket and drawstring pants, and cotton separates from Canvas Backs. Since she does a good deal of custom ordering for customers, Simon noted she often takes paper home before completing her buy.

B.J. Thomas, owner of the better-to-bridge store carrying her name in Myrtle Beach, S.C., sought summer and early fall styles that were classic and tailored with an even budget.

She planned to leave paper before departing Dallas, and early favorites included the mango wool crepe suit with gold frog closures from Bicci; the strawberry silk suit from P.S.I. and coral, red, blue, black and white two-piece looks from Albert Nipon Suits cut from fibranne, rayon crepe and cotton ottoman.

She planned to check out simple gold fashion jewelry from Ron Rizzo and slightly more glitzy jewelry from Duane Fitzgerald.

“No color is not my style,” said Ann Hartley, who owns a women’s store and a children’s store here carrying her name. “I’m so sick of all the neutrals. I’m seeking colors like yellow, pink, orange and purple.”

With an even budget, she checked out colorful cotton and rayon sportswear from Wahala and cotton and linen sportswear with ethnic patterns from Deborah. Hartley doesn’t typically leave paper at market.

Cheryl Davis, owner of Attitudes, Lake Jackson, Tex., voiced frustration about the uncertain economy and cited it as the reason for her flat budget.

“I’m trying to play it safe, but I still need fresh stock,” said Davis.

She planned to leave paper for lightweight, easy-fitting cotton, linen and rayon looks that would counter the humid South Texas summer heat.