DALLAS — So many executives of Neiman Marcus turned out for the recent Dallas Fashion Awards that it almost seemed like a Neiman’s gala. They came to honor two of their own: Gerald and Debbie Barnes, who were presented with Personal Style Awards at the annual black-tie dinner held in the International Apparel Mart.

"I think this is another case of my riding on my wife’s coattails," Gerald Barnes, a 20-year Neiman’s veteran, said modestly. He is senior vice president and general merchandise manager of NM Direct, the catalog and e-commerce division of The Neiman Marcus Group. His wife is a former buyer of European ready-to-wear collections for Neiman’s.

Even Dallas Mayor Laura Miller weighed in with kudos to the couple, albeit via videotape, in a witty tribute.

"I have two great regrets," Miller said. "The first is that I have a $95 million shortfall [in the Dallas city budget], and the second is that I couldn’t be at the Apparel mart tonight. While I was on the campaign trail, Debbie called me and asked, ‘Do you need to borrow some clothes?’ She lent me a black Chanel suit and a purple Chanel jacket — which are still in my closet — and that’s why I won. And Gerald comes home from work and makes dinner wearing a suit and tie because he’s very fashion retentive 24 hours a day."

"It’s a great event," enthused Burt Tansky, chairman and chief executive of NMG, who led the Neiman’s contingent along with Karen Katz, president and ceo of NM Direct. "It’s a tribute to the mart. It’s well attended. I’m going to kick back and relax and enjoy the evening."

Winners in the 13 DFA categories are determined by a vote of retailers who shop the mart. Victors included Oscar by Oscar de la Renta in the designer category; Joseph Ribkoff for dresses; Eric Javits Hats won for accessories, and longtime Dallas designer Dian Malouf took the prize for jewelry.

"I’m going to make a ring out of this," said Malouf as she held up the trophy.Seven jeans took the contemporary title, while the junior contemporary prize went to Nally & Milly, and Christine Phillipe triumphed in sportswear. In the rtw categories, Casadei prevailed for special occasion, Scala Eveningwear for prom-pageant and Mori Lee for bridal. Nick & Nora won in intimate apparel.

"Did you know that men buy more intimate apparel for their wives than any other fashion category?" asked Mike Mullins, vice president of special projects for the Dallas Market Center, as he presented the award.

In addition, Barry Bricken earned the men’s wear trophy and Chicken Noodle won for children’s.

"I won’t tell anybody, Burt, that you buy my khaki pants because they’re not Italian," Bricken quipped to Tansky from the stage.

Brighton was presented with a unique award for Accessories: Achievement, that recognized the company’s meticulously crafted leather goods and jewelry, innovative marketing and attentive service to retailers.

Sela Ward and Narciso Rodriguez provided a little star power to present the Fashion Excellence award to In Style magazine.

"It seems like everybody today is obsessed with what people are wearing, and who is to blame for that?" Ward asked in her remarks. "In Style magazine…In Style has been good for Hollywood — we’re certainly learning how to dress better. You make us look good and feel good, and like any proper Southern girl, I simply had to return the compliment."

"What other city could host the Dallas Fashion Awards, the Texas Stampede rodeo and a Harley-Davidson road trip all in the same weekend?" mused Hal Rubenstein, fashion features director of the magazine, from the podium. "In Style loves Dallas because you love clothes and you will think of any excuse possible to dress up."

Until this year, the mart has always presented its Fashion Excellence crystal obelisk to a designer.

"We have been thinking for a while of a way to give the awards a twist, and we thought, wouldn’t it be great to honor someone who supports fashion, who supports the business?" Mullins explained. "What they feature sells. And they are so aware of that."The evening benefited the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, which auctioned denim jackets embellished by the DFA finalists. A separate silent auction of various goods supported the scholarship fund of the Dallas chapter of Fashion Group International.

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