Designer Dana Buchman hits the road to stay in tune with her core customer.For the bridge designer Dana Buchman, personal appearances are the ultimate in reality shows. Rather than staging lavish runway events in New York during the collections, she prefers personal appearances to reach the "real women," who are her customer base. With at least 15 stints per year to promote current merchandise, Buchman, the mother of two teenagers,also hosts trunk shows to generate future orders. Maintaining that the personal appearance is a dying art among many designers, she stresses profitability. "This is the best way to get to know the women who really wear the clothes," said the designer, who mingled with customers all day on Sept. 4 at Neiman Marcus Atlanta. "The women at this event look great, but they don’t resemble much of what we see on runways or in fashion magazines, which are all tied up in entertainment and celebrities. I design for all ages, all sizes, and all women who love fashion. I notice what they’re wearing and get feedback for my collection."In addition to an in-store luncheon and runway show for the fall collection, she hosted a cocktail party for 150 of her best customers in the evening. She also uses the events to pump up sales associates, who are designated as "Dana’s Divas" after they hit a certain sales level. A black-and-white zebra-striped grouping made its national debut in the Atlanta store.The pants are a lightweight wool ottoman fabric in winter white with blackstripes, that sell for $298. Pants are paired with black knit pieces.The event, a benefit for Atlanta’s Foundation for Medically Fragile Children, kicked off a seven-store series of Buchman appearances across the country.In addition to Neiman Marcus and Saks, the designer turned up in department stores including Dillard’s. Along with boosting current merchandise, she hosts trunk shows for women to place advance orders for upcoming seasons. "Women are sometimes intimidated by Neimans and Saks, because they think everything there is so expensive," she saidAlthough her collection is less flashy than some, Buchman said classic and wearable doesn’t mean boring."Women want novelty and new fashion now, not basics," she said. "Who needs another basic suit?"Everything in the fall collection included textures, including feathers, flocking and embellishment, and feminine details, such as ruffles or lace. With plenty of black, the collection also included camel mixed with winter white, and powdery blues or fuchsia. Jackets return, both long and short, and sweaters take on treatments such as leather or beaded embellishment. Pants included slim, equestrian-style trousers given names like "Aphrodite" or "Venus." "Nothing is overdone — it may be just a small row of beading on a hem to make something special. It’s my little gift, my message in a bottle to customers," she said.

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