By  on April 11, 2005

DALLAS — The first anniversary of FashionCenterDallas at the World Trade Center here was marked by strong traffic and orders at the four-day market ended April 3.

Sales representatives said business met or exceeded the results of an outstanding debut show a year ago. However, some retailers were not as optimistic in their approach, with budgets running from slight decreases to small gains reflecting solid but not spectacular results for spring.

“We are pleased that the attendance numbers matched last year’s record-setting markets, which included the grand opening of FashionCenterDallas,” said Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of the Dallas Market Center Co., which manages the wholesale complex.

FCD’s permanent showrooms are 98 percent leased, and the complex has seen “impressive growth” in its temporary exhibits, particularly the juried Scene show, she said. The DMC’s experiment to overlap the fashion market with the gift and home show earned mixed reviews. Some buyers felt it was convenient, while others said it was tough to get everything done and parking was difficult. Initial feedback was positive, the DMC said, and while it’s still seeking more input from retailers and exhibitors, it is likely that the shows will coincide again next March.

Embellishment ruled again, sparked by crystals, sequins, beads, embroidery and lace. Retailers said shoppers have responded well to the sparkle in spring clothes.

“It’s all about the details right now, the little things that take it from being ordinary to special,” said Brad Johnson, owner of Ambrosia showroom, as he inverted the cuff on a Robert Graham tailored shirt to reveal a contrasting print.

Glam rock and rodeo influences infected denim and casual tops, spicing them up with floral-and-vine sparkle or themed embroidery and appliqués. Small studs dotted leather jackets — 2,000 of them on one number from Double D Ranchwear.

Jackets made a big impact, especially hip-length, fitted styles accented by two or four pockets and touches of embellishment. They were cut from luxurious brocade, velvet and bouclé fabrics, reflecting an abundance of texture. In addition, knee-length pedal pushers won kudos as a welcome variation on the cropped pant.

Among the key looks were Empire-waist chiffon tunics daubed with glitter, bias-cut silk charmeuse dresses and gowns and colorful printed full skirts accented with beads, such as a bevy of styles by Basil & Maude. Real and fake-fur jackets and trims remained important, often in novelty colors.In accessories, wood and turquoise jewelry led the pack, as well as kukui nut necklaces, layered necklaces, gold jewelry with vividly colored stones and chunky bangles and belts with big, glitzy buckles or jeweled links. Leather handbags decorated with studs and other hardware also did well.

For Mary Catherine Vaughan, owner of B Jewel in Aspen, Colo., all the glitter was ideal.

“I started selling jewelry and adorned products two years ago when it wasn’t such a fad and now it’s perfect for me,” she said.

Vaughan planned to order fitted tops with lace and embroidery by Mandalay, hand-painted tops with crystals by An for Me Jeans and jeans by People of the World.

“December, January and February were all really great, and the summer is phenomenal,” she said. “With the food and wine festival and jazz festival, summer is becoming as big as winter.”

Abdul Rahman Kaloti shopped for fall gowns for Black Boushiya, his chain of nine eveningwear stores in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Black Boushiya deals primarily in dresses for weddings, at which women celebrate at a party separately from men, he explained.

“Business is not so great,” Kaloti said. “We are affected by [unrest in neighboring] Iraq. People are scared and they don’t spend as much. They are altering old dresses.”

Though he cut his budget slightly for fall, Kaloti wrote orders for dresses by Alberto Makali, Dina Bar-El and Tadashi.

MaryBeth Johnston, owner of MaryBeth’s contemporary and bridge store in Dallas’ upscale Highland Park neighborhood, said her 14-year-old store is holding its own this year.

“I try not to worry about the economy, there’s nothing we can do about that,” she said. “I focus on having lots of special events and bringing vendors in to talk to the girls about the products.”

Johnston was enthusiastic about distressed and embroidered jeans by Stitch, embroidered sweaters by Relais and embroidered jackets by Biya and Johnny Was. As she admired a chocolate pointelle fitted knit top by Lili Lelande, Johnston said her belt business had never been better, led by Victoria Sears’ chunky jeweled buckles and styles with vintage fabric straps by Beth’s Addiction.Edwina Griffen, owner of La Crème in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., said her business was ahead 10 percent this year, which she credited to a shift toward more contemporary styling in her better-to-bridge boutique.

“Denim is getting more fun,” she said, noting she had picked up 10 Feet and James Jeans.

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