Byline: Julie Vargo

DALLAS — After several seasons of minimalist chic, Southwestern women are ready to pour on some details. And accessories designers and retailers couldn’t be happier.
“We are seeing such a good increase in accessories sales — particularly in fine jewelry,” said Christine Bailey, accessories buyer for Barbara/Jean, a specialty boutique in Little Rock, Ark. “Price doesn’t seem to matter. People are ready to accessorize again.”
While customers are still following a less-is-more philosophy, they are opting for fewer pieces, but buying better quality.
“The jewelry is clean and still relatively small,” said Bailey, whose business has seen a 10 percent increase year-to-date over last year’s sales. She cited success at prices ranging from $250 for earrings to $1,800 for pearls.
At Neiman Marcus, the customer is responding to the Victorian influence, scooping up chandelier earrings and romantic necklaces in long or short lengths.
“This trend marries well with the men’s wear influences we’re seeing in ready-to-wear,” said Sharon Jester Turney, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of accessories for the Dallas-based specialty retailer. “Women are leaning toward feminine accessories to offset the tailoring, and as a result, the jewelry category is really happening.”
This season, women gravitate toward fashion jewelry studded with semiprecious and precious stones. Gleaming gold and polished silver gather strength. Mixed materials like horn, resin, wood and leather play off the texture found in handbags and clothes.
Forget the matched sets — customers are mixing pieces with aplomb. Small earrings team with bolder or beaded necklaces and a bunch of bracelets for a fashion home run.
“It’s an infusion of large pieces with small,” said Melissa Geiser, fine accessories buyer for Stanley Korshak, here. “The focus is on stones. Earthy jade, carnelian and smoky topaz are popular. We’ve also done well with tanzanite and gossamer garnet mixed with pearl.”
Designer-driven jewelry offering unique, handcrafted style also gets a thumbs-up. Must-have names include Steven Lago, John Hardy, David Yurman, Rebecca Collins, Wendy Brigode and Stephen Dweck.
Designer Dian Malouf has discovered that demand for her signature pieces is stronger than ever.
“Women are looking for quality and are interested in buying individual looks,” said Malouf, who sold five rings at $3,000 each to one customer at a recent trunk show at Saks Fifth Avenue in Houston. “I am doing a lot of pieces in pearls and have found good customer response.”
Stanley Korshak sold more than $100,000 worth of Loree Rodkin’s Old World gold-and-stone jewelry designs during the first two weeks of September.
“Our jewelry business is picking up 120 percent over plan for the month,” said Geiser. “We are 45 percent over last year’s numbers and 30 percent over plan to date.”
Jewelry isn’t capturing all the accessories business. Shawls, stoles and scarves wrap up their share as well.
“The category is strong, and the focus is still on texture and embellishment, like fringe and beading,” said Jester Turney of Neiman’s. “They offer the customer fashion and newness to update her look.”
The scarf trend has even tied up a few new customers. “We are seeing women buy scarves who never bought scarves before,” said Barbara/Jean’s Bailey. “But it’s not the traditional silk or satin charmeuse scarf that’s doing well. It’s all about texture and interest — like cut velvet on chiffon.”
Lush cashmeres; rich, fringed velvets, and airy, beaded chiffons also rate raves.
“These scarves are very ornate, with long fringe and tassels,” said Geiser. “They are designed to make a statement, and in some instances, the wrap actually hides the outfit it is accessorizing.”
Jester Turney believes her business is booming because the product performs a function.
“It’s about uniqueness, beauty and personal style,” she said, noting the department has seen double-digit sales increases for the past three years. “Accessories help women define their clothing and style.”
Designer Malouf agrees.
“I think they are going back to the comfort of expressing their individuality with accessories. “For a while there, everything was generic, but that’s gotten tiresome.”

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