Byline: Holly Haber

DALLAS — Neiman Marcus recently staged one of its edgiest fashion shows in years and saw a direct benefit: lots of interest and lots of sales.
“It was the best response we ever got to that show,” said Todd Okerstrom, manager of couture and furs, though Neiman’s would not release sales figures.
The show, held last Thursday at Neiman’s flagship here, is an annual event benefiting the Crystal Charity Ball held in December, “was extremely well received by the women,” commented Gerald Sampson, Neiman’s president and chief operating officer. “We always do very good business in connection with all of these events. Many of the women at the luncheon were dressed in Neiman’s outfits. The business is not just the day of the event. It starts weeks before and I think we’ll see a lot of feedback subsequently.”
The show also honored 10 women named best dressed by the Crystal Charity, which is an exclusive cadre of 100 wealthy women who together have raised more than $31 million for children’s causes since 1953. After the best-dressed women paraded the aisles criss-crossing the main floor, Neiman’s held an Italian fashion show with avant-garde styles by Dolce & Gabbana, Mila Schon, Gucci and other Italian creators.
The show also served as a prelude to Neiman’s Festa Italia Fortnight kicking off Sept. 24.
Some women in the primarily middle-aged audience seemed mystified by some of the looks, which included an embroidered velvet jacket edged in chartreuse fur and a tight, thigh-high leather dress with a detachable plaid taffeta overskirt. “Interesting and beautiful clothes, but where would you wear something like that?” asked Helen Yampanis, who nonetheless planned to examine one of the furs after the luncheon.
The show wasn’t all outre, however, as the forward looks were followed by ladylike ensembles by Missoni, Giorgio Armani and others that were more likely to appeal to the 530 guests. The show was a departure for Neiman’s. In past years, it featured a single designer.
“It was a really fun show and the clothes looked great,” enthused Janie McGarr, one of the guests.
“There was a buzz in the crowd,” said Burt Tansky, Neiman’s chairman and chief executive, after the show. Sure enough, a number of shoppers checked out the styles after the lunch, including one woman who ordered a $14,000 elaborately beaded cutaway coat by Dolce & Gabbana.
“Have you ever seen so many beautiful women in one room?” Tansky asked.
Meanwhile, Sampson downplayed a report that Neiman’s might relocate its 85-year-old Dallas flagship to a site just north of downtown where a sports arena is under construction by Ross Perot Jr.’s firm, Hillwood Development.
“The Hillwood proposal looked interesting, but we don’t see any pluses right now to leaving downtown, where we’ve been for 92 years,” Sampson noted. “Downtown is coming back with the development of old buildings into lofts and hotels. We have no plans to move from downtown right now. Neiman’s is Dallas.”