By  on September 6, 2005

DALLAS — Buyers invested in eye-catching items like lace-trimmed tops as they shopped the multiseason market that ended Aug. 21 at FashionCenterDallas.

Many retailers concentrated on holiday deliveries of festive, novelty clothing and accessories, while others were on the lookout for early spring, investing in colorful prom dresses, knitwear and walking shorts.

The bohemian trend so prevalent the last few markets morphed into Sixties hippie styles, with plenty of tie-dye and colorful embroidered flowers and slogans such as "peace" and "love" sprinkled across denim and sportswear. African-inspired prints and Mexican embroidery and smocking were also evident.

Key sportswear silhouettes included cropped pants, from Bermuda shorts to gaucho pants; short jackets, and flirty skirts.

"People want what's different, and they're interested in novelty and bling," said Diane Khoury, owner of Khoury's in Sulphur, La.

Buying budgets ranged from flat to up as much as 8 percent, reflecting the stores' performances so far this year.

"The buyers were very positive and optimistic about the balance of the year," said Brad Hughes, who represents contemporary and bridge collections at his namesake showroom. "There was a whole group buying prom and another group focused on items, T-shirts and jeans. I opened about 25 new stores in our territory, which is good for fashion."

Sales representatives reported mixed results. However, the Dallas Market Center, parent of FCD, said registrations were up.

"Overall market attendance increased more than 8 percent over last year," said Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of the Dallas Market Center. "This includes a 68 percent increase in international buyer attendance, plus elevated attendance from all regions west of the Mississippi River."

Buyers were upbeat about the market's offerings.

"I think spring looks better this year than last year — there's a lot of novelty out there," said Sylvia Johnson, owner of Sylvia in McAllen, Tex.

Addressing misses' and contemporary customers, Johnson sought sportswear and accessories for holiday and spring. She praised Nougat's beaded pink silk chiffon tunic, A Priori's beaded peacock jeans, beaded separates by Bentley A. and Elliott Lauren's sleeveless knit tops with beaded necklines. Her sales are up 3 percent so far this year, with a budget to match."I have a professional clientele, so I'm looking for career dressing," Johnson said.

John Maguire, eveningwear buyer for Tootsies, a four-store, high-end chain based in Houston, shopped for holiday and resort with a flat budget.

For holiday, Maguire liked Kay Unger's red velvet jacket with a printed satin tie over red satin pants, and Dina Bar-El's black satin gathered camisole over a leopard print pencil skirt with lace trim, as well as her bias-cut charmeuse skirts with georgette godet inserts. He also cited Badgley Mischka's new collection, but said he wished there were more sleeves in the line for women who want that coverage.

Connie Sigel, owner of Elements contemporary store in Dallas, said she was avoiding overly trendy merchandise. "I don't want my customer to think, 'I bought that at Elements, and now it's over,'" she said.

Her business is up about 10 percent this year, and Sigel was rounding out her holiday inventory and scouting for spring with an open budget.

"My favorite was M Missoni, which was very hip for spring with their trademark knits and new body styles, and chiffon pieces like sexy cutaway tops," Sigel said. "And Nicole Miller Collection looks really good, especially the medallion-print, Empire-waist long dress. I'm also doing a lot of tops because it is such a denim world out there."

Sigel liked lingerie-inspired tops by Only Hearts and Supplex knit tops by Susana Monaco, as well as jeans from Paige Premium Denim and True Religion.

Cynthia Gross, buyer for five boutiques in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess luxury resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., perused the market for spring sportswear. Planning a 5 to 8 percent sales gain, Gross favored black T-shirts decorated with crystal tennis rackets by Tee for Tu, Forwear's lace-trimmed tops and David Kahn jeans.

"I'm looking for item-driven, distinctive, quality merchandise at good prices," she said. "Everything goes back to denim."

Sheryle Wright, buyer for M.L. Leddy in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, caters to an affluent clientele who visit the city regularly for horse shows. Specializing in custom-made cowboy boots and saddles since 1922, Leddy's has developed a successful women's fashion department in the last five years.With an eye on holiday, Wright wrote an order for Liz Logie's crisply tailored silk shantung blouses and Beth Frank's tooled leather belts with elaborate metal buckles, one with a sparkling cross. She also had her eye on novelty tops by Alberto Makali and embellished jeans by Brazil Roxx and A.Z.I.

Susan Wiggins and Jo Parker, partners for 18 years in The Wishing Well in Cleveland, Miss., said the economy in their farming community of 15,000 is strong.

"We dress for weddings and funerals, church, football games, work and everything else," Wiggins said. "People still buy a lot of clothing. They won't be sloppy."

Focusing on holiday and spring, the pair favored cropped brocade jackets by True Grit, pants by Margaret M. and sportswear by Eileen Fisher.

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