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DALLAS — Winners of the Dallas Fashion Awards have a sense of what women want.
This story first appeared in the November 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
From Max Azria, who received the Fashion Excellence Award from the Dallas Market Center for his revival of the Hervé Léger collection, to the eight merchandise categories, these companies have a finger on the buying impulse.
The winners were selected in a poll of retailers and presented at a black-tie gala Oct. 25 at the Dallas Market Center. Here, a look at the honorees:
FASHION EXCELLENCE AWARD: Herve Leger by Max Azria
As designer, chairman and chief executive officer of BCBG Max Azria Group, Azria has developed 22 fashion brands, but the one drawing a lot of attention lately is Hervé Léger.
Azria bought the French house famed for the bandage dress from The Seagram Co. Ltd. in 1999 and dismissed Léger. He dabbled with retooling Léger as a bridge collection, but it wasn’t until Azria and his wife, Lubov, creative director of BCBG Max Azria Group, last year restored the brand to its pricier designer roots that it took off. Retailing for $800 to $5,000, Léger is sold at top international retailers including Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Holt Renfrew, Harrods, Selfridges, Lane Crawford, Isetan and Harvey Nichols Dubai.
“The bandage technique is something that can be interpreted in so many different ways — every season we make a new statement while maintaining the core of the brand,” Azria said. “We are really beginning to push the envelope with our accessories” and footwear.
ACCESSORIES: Sondra Roberts
Sondra Roberts won its second Dallas Fashion Award for detailed leather handbags that retail from $300 to $500 and are sold at about 5,000 specialty stores.
The company was launched in 1980 by Sondra Camche and her sons, Robert and Glenn, with a black snakeskin sling bag that was picked up by leading retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman.
“We’re not the largest company on the block, but we quietly do a nice business between branded and private label,” said Glenn Camche, president and co-owner with his brother, Robert. “We follow the trends. We go to Europe for leathers, shape and fabrication and reinterpret [what we’ve seen] in our own designs.”
AFTER 5: Marc Bouwer Glamit
Marc Bouwer created Glamit about two years ago as a spin-off of his designer collection, and the sexy silk dresses are sold in hundreds of independent stores as well as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Holt Renfrew.
“It was the right look for the right price point,” said Evelyn Anastos, executive vice president, noting cocktail dresses are $395 to $550 and gowns, $595 to $1,000. “Our dresses and gowns use a 23-mummy silk, a much higher quality than standard, and we design all the beading ourselves.”
Bouwer’s partners in Glamit are Robert and Elaine Lai Rosen and Paul Margolin.
Zelda is best known for jackets detailed with embroidery, appliqués and leather trims, but it will grow into a full bridge collection for fall 2009.
The company hired Patricia Redmond, former design director at Dana Buchman, to round out Zelda with modern sweaters, blouses and pants, said Joann Casa, senior vice president. Retail pricing will be about $500 for an outfit.
“We wanted to be more brand based, so we are selling not only jackets but all the components of a true brand collection,” Casa said. “You will see a big evolution of what we stand for next fall.”
JEWELRY: Devon Leigh
Devon Leigh Sedlacek wanted to be a producer and screenwriter and “never in a million years” thought she would be making jewelry. But when her own necklace got attention on the red carpet, she began selling them first at the farmers market in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park and then at her own store, which opened in 2002 in Los Angeles.
“My signature is hammered gold [vermeil], and I mix a lot of metals with gemstones, a lot of geode slices, so it’s bold but still feminine,” Sedlacek said.
NM Direct and 750 specialty stores sell the line, which retails from $230 to $1,200.
“We hand make everything in the back of my store, and they all look handcrafted,” she said. “If people are spending money now it is on something special.”
CASUAL CONTEMPORARY: Taka
The colorful motifs and cultural heritage of Turkey are the main inspirations for Taka, which is designed by 29-year-old Tania Eskinazi in Istanbul. In business since 2005, Taka specializes in dresses and tunics in engineered prints on silk, cotton and wool fabrics. They typically retail from $200 to $350.
“It is a very family oriented business,” said Krista Ward, who represents Taka at Moxie showroom in Dallas. “She designs her own prints with inspirations from Turkish mosaic tiles and tulips, which are the national flower of Turkey. It’s bohemian chic.”
Taka sells to 500 specialty stores in the U.S. plus 40 accounts worldwide. Taka has introduced handbags and jewelry.
Kensie’s spring sportswear and dresses in cotton, silk and linen typically retail at less than $100.
“It’s feminine, confident, very fashion forward and our price range is very affordable,” said Lani Karls, vice president and creative director.
Liz Claiborne Inc. bought Kensie and its sister brand, Mac & Jac, three years ago from Karls, who launched them with her husband, Eric. Kensie is sold in major stores, including a shop-in-shop at Macy’s Herald Square, and to specialty accounts.
MODERNWEAR: Lynn Ritchie
Lynn Ritchie said her business is well positioned because her printed silk knit sportswear and dresses offer fashion at affordable retail prices — from $50 to $80.
“It’s full-speed ahead,” said the designer, who started her line 19 years ago. “Despite the economy, we have a strong reorder business and we are doing OK in these challenging times.”
Some of Ritchie’s bestsellers feature a sheer printed net layered over a different print on an opaque knit, all in silk.
CHILDREN’S WEAR: Florence Eiseman
Florence Eiseman has produced dressy clothes for well-to-do children since 1945, but this year it stepped out with updated silhouettes and fresh hues of turquoise and green.
“I think we won for being a classic traditional product with modern features and fabrics and colors,” said Frank Botto, who bought the company 16 years ago. “We’ve tried very hard to be true to our customers and to what Mrs. Eiseman made us.”
The average spring dress is $120.