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Fall Mart Leans To Spring

<CS:BOLD>DALLAS -- It was billed as fall market, but the retailers working the showrooms at the International Apparel Mart here still had spring on their minds.<BR><BR>The emphasis on deliveries through April was unusually strong, as buyers shied away...

DALLAS — It was billed as fall market, but the retailers working the showrooms at the International Apparel Mart here still had spring on their minds.

The emphasis on deliveries through April was unusually strong, as buyers shied away from committing to fall goods, given the difficult retail climate, sales representatives said. Some reps complained that traffic seemed skimpy even for a January market, and others said retailers bought conservatively.

Leading the bookings were treatments such as lace, eyelet and ruffles, as well as peasant blouses and whiskered denim jeans, at the five-day market that ended Jan. 21.

“They’re very cautious,” said Summer Pailet, who represents bridge sportswear labels. “People are cherry-picking the lines and taking the top-five styles from everyone, instead of going deeper and making a commitment to a collection.”

Lisa Deutsch, buyer for Joe Brand, a better specialty store in the border cities of McAllen and Laredo, Tex., said her sales have been steady and the holiday season was good. But she planned to be a bit conservative in her buy, noting that economic trends typically reach her locale after they hit the nation.

“I’m not cutting back,” she said, “and I’m increasing in basic denim because that business more than doubled last year.”

She sought whiskered, faded-leg and washed jeans from her key denim resources, including DKNY Jeans, Buffalo, XOXO, Fever and Seven. Deutsch also picked up looks that were “flirty with a twist” from Poleci, including a tiered skirt in black lace and black-and-white stripes paired with a white rubberized top. She also bought printed chiffon evening dresses from ABS and lots of Jessica McClintock’s prom styles, such as lace blouses with easy skirts.

“I’m finding a lot of pretty, feminine blouses and hip-looking voiles, sheers and prints,” Deutsch said. “We’re buying strongly in this direction.”

Calli Saitowitz, owner of three B.B. 1 Classic stores of updated and contemporary clothing in Houston, observed that fashions looked a bit cleaner and calmer, with plenty of newness. She said Eletra Casadei looked better than ever, with sexy lace tops and pants, and ruffled styles. She also praised after-five looks from WWW Collection, such as layered chiffon slit skirts and slit pants shown with a shirred lace blouse with sateen collar and cuffs. She also ordered lace skirts with ruffled jackets, and smoking jackets from Robin Gaudielle.

“I loved Ashley O’Rourk’s sexy baby-pink polo shirt,” she said. “It reminded me of all the pink tops from 20 years ago. And Votre Nom’s johnny-collar blouse is the hottest item.”

“It has to be interesting if women are going to buy it,” said Donna Duensing, president and chief executive officer of CoCo, a bridge store in Nashville.

As Duensing ordered playful dresses from ABS, including a white eyelet Fifties-style belted flare number with pleats, she noted that one of her biggest challenges was finding coordinated casual looks for women aged 35 to 45 who don’t want suits or low-waisted pants.

“I’m buying immediate, casual, easy things and some pre-fall,” she said. “I don’t bring a ton in, I reorder.”