By  on April 12, 2007

Denim is a key ingredient at LFT Lifestyle Fashion Terminal, the 30,000-square-foot fashion emporium in Victory Park in downtown Dallas.

Divided into a series of shops, LFT has a central area called The Market, where 30 brands of women's and men's denim hang from a rotating dry-cleaning rack. T-shirts are folded into plastic crates on a belt of steel rollers that surrounds the rack. But the look isn't entirely industrial: A water wall flows within the 4,000-square-foot area.

The store, which opened March 31, is the brainchild of Ort Varona, who has a chain of Octane premium denim and casual sportswear shops in Dallas, Denver and Austin, Tex., plus the Premium 93 designer boutique in Dallas. LFT is backed by Hillwood Capital, co-developer of Victory Park, the $3 billion mixed-used project anchored by the American Airlines Center, home to the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.

Varona projected that LFT would generate $400 a square foot in sales within a year.

"It's a collection of small boutiques and they generate very high per-square-foot numbers," he said.

Nina Knell, the women's denim and contemporary buyer for LFT and Octane, said, "Our denim business has been very good. That's what people come to us for. We try to cater to those girls."

LFT and Octane target 20- to 40-year-olds with up-and-coming brands, skipping widely distributed labels like Citizens of Humanity, Seven For All Mankind and True Religion.

"We want to provide our customers with a different outlet for jeans, maybe the newest ones that look good that people don't really know about," Knell said.

She was enthusiastic about Justin Timberlake's William Rast, Ksubi, Rich & Skinny, Hudson, Goldsign and Paige Premium Denim, and has Odyn on order for fall. Jeans prices range from $160 to $230.

"The way I bought for LFT was more special pieces that are not so common," Knell said. "There's a straight-leg skinny black jean with a little bit of shine to it by Proportion of Blue that not a lot of people have."

She also has royal blue jeans and overalls on order from Ksubi, and purple in stock. Knell praised the resurgence of raw denim, which she said holds its shape and fit better. Clean dark blue denim is selling well.For fall, Knell invested more than half her buy in classic boot cuts, rounding them out with trouser jeans and skinny styles.

"I think it's all about the boot cut again, and the higher, the better," she said, citing rises up to the belly button. "For ladies right now in the denim market, I'm sick of showing my butt. I love the trouser jean, which I think is a little more sophisticated."

She's had trouble, however, with denim jackets.

"It's a scary market for me," said Knell, who shops markets in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York. "It has to be the perfect denim jacket and I haven't found it yet. The fit has to be very feminine, not so boxy."

T-shirts and dresses round out the mix at The Market, from Beard and Bangs, Rebel Yell, Bobi, T Luxury and Andrea S.

"I have a new line called Planet Blue Life for the girl who wants the most fabulous sweat outfit," she said. "They do a great safari jacket in sweatshirt material with lace. It's a great swing top to wear with skinny, rolled sweatpants and it will be a fun piece with leggings."

LFT also specializes in contemporary fashions, with boutiques for 12th Street by Cynthia Vincent, Chip & Pepper, Diane von Furstenberg, J. Lindeberg, James Perse, John Varvatos, TaylorByrd and Z Zegna. Varona's Premium 93, a young designer store at West Village in Dallas, is represented with substantial space at LFT.

There are plans for the addition of a day care center for shopping parents, a cafe and a hair salon this summer.

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