IN THE MARKETS
Byline: Stacy Bonner
D&I FASHION FORGES AHEAD
ATLANTA — New-York based D&I Fashions recently expanded its offerings with a revamped David York line and a brand-new line, Bieff Basix by Neil Bieff, which was originally launched last fall. The phenomenal success of D&I’s first line, the four-year-old David David, made the expansion possible.
David David is known for its novelty-embellished sweaters and decorated denims and is expected to gross $10 million this year. The line features petite, misses’ and large sizes. This spring, the line will feature light denims in white, rose, blue and maize, and a denim group including vests, T-shirts and shorts with blue, red, pink and yellow bandanna trim.
David York has existed for over a year, but was given “a younger head” and more contemporary look this fall by designer Darena Yee. The line specializes in suits and dresses for the customer of all ages, “but with a younger state of mind; this is not a missy look,” notes Larry Palnick, national sales manager of D&I. “Tailoring is our claim to fame. It’s a look that the contemporary woman is looking for,” he says, adding that buyers from Barneys New York to Currents in Hilton Head, S.C., praise the clothing’s fit. “Our customers love the detail, the design and the incredible fit — if it says a size 4, it’s a size 4,” says Cindi Hindman, buyer for Savvy, a specialty boutique in Laguna Niguel, California. “Working with consistent high-quality fabrics allows the garment to tailor well,” says Yee.
David York is also available in petite. “We noticed a lack of updated, hip clothing for petites. I’m petite, myself, and there wasn’t a lot of hipness out there for me,” says Yee. “Specialized petites is virgin territory,” says Palnick. “What little there is out there is very expensive.” Spring colors include blush, rain, wheatgrass, putty and chino in talcum cloth and triacetates. The line features stylish career dresses and retro dresses such as a Forties waist jacket over its own halter dress. “We offer updated alternatives in career dressing. Women can be more creative now with what they wear, but still be perceived as professional,” says Yee. “Our customer can forget what she’s wearing because she’s so comfortable, but still look her professional best the whole day.” The line is ideal for mixing and matching, adds Palnick. “A working woman can buy three pieces and put together a variety of outfits.” Wholesale prices range from $55 for the signature miniskirt to $145 for a long jacket, with dresses at $75 to $90. The line is made in the United States with imported fabrics and will be featured in Barneys, Bullock’s, Macy’s, Burdine’s and specialty stores, hanging beside Parallel, Laundry by Shelli Segal and Product. Retail sales of $3 million to $4 million are projected.
Bieff Basix is an item-driven line of eveningwear by couture designer Neil Bieff. “Neil’s designs usually retail for $2,500. This is a line for ordinary people who want an elegant, chic look,” says Palnick. The spring line features separates in black, blush, champagne, coral and periwinkle in silk chiffon with vermicelli beading, and silk charmeuse in black and white, pale pink and aqua. “We cover a tremendous age range, from prom to mother of the bride,” Palnick says. Bieff features vests, racer-back tops and slipdresses for body-conscious customers, as well as tunics, cardigans and trousers. “Bieff fills a void in the market with separates for evening. So often with special occasions, an outfit is never to be seen again. These pieces don’t get stuck in the closet.” Palnick points out that a woman can buy a piece or two and mix them into her wardrobe: “A woman can buy a vest or skirt to upgrade an outfit. She could even wear a vest with jeans. It’s functional for the Nineties, with multiple uses.”
Bieff Basix performed beyond expectations for fall and will be launched in large sizes and petite with projected sales of $2 million or $3 million for the year. Wholesale prices range from $60 to $180. The line hangs with Carmen Marc Valvo, Riazzi and Catherine Dianos Black Tie and will be sold in Saks Fifth Avenue, Jacobson’s, Nordstrom and several specialty stores. D&I has permanent showrooms in Dallas, Los Angeles and Atlanta in showroom 11F335A.
VILLAGE SPORTSWEAR: A FAMILY AFFAIR
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — “Our customers feel at home here,” says Jeanette Aland, co-owner of Village Sportswear, located in Mountainbrook Village, an affluent Birmingham suburb. “We have a loyal clientele who enjoy buying from us. Some of our customers come in every other day to check our stock.”
The spacious store, which currently has a fantasy theme, is a neighborhood landmark. “Our customers know our staff, because they’ve been with us for years,” she says. The store currently has nine full-time employees, one of whom has been with the company for 30 years. Jeanette and her sister-in-law, Ellen Aland, opened Village Sportswear in 1953. During their first year of business, their buyer quit, and the Alands were faced with shopping the marts. “We went in feet first to New York,” says Jeanette. “It was overwhelming, but we learned what we needed to know.”
It’s now second nature for the Alands, who shop at Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. Jeanette says their secret is simple. “We shop our own taste — always. If we deviate and buy things that aren’t us, it bombs every time. We’re through with fighting styles — every magazine you pick up is going to have different hemlines. It’s not our concern.” Favorite colors include pastels such as baby pinks and blues — “pretty colors, whatever is flattering on women,” — and lightweight fabrics such as chenilles and cottons. Prices range from $80 to $350 for sweaters and $125 to $600 for dresses. “We offer original, fun, different things — that’s our shop in a nutshell.”
The Alands keep their customers happy by keeping them guessing. “Every season, we look for different lines,” says manager Stephanie Bostwick, who has been with the store 13 years. “We never buy in quantity, usually one or two items, so people won’t see themselves everywhere.” The Alands often shop for individual customers who wear special sizes or need something to wear for a special event. Village Sportswear’s diverse merchandise offers something for customers ranging from teenagers to grandmothers. “Some of our customers’ grandchildren shop here,” says Jeanette. Wall displays feature antique lace separates by Marion Regan, pants and skirt suits by Reilthru and silk, rayon and cotton sweaters by Belford and Misook. Annual retail sales for the 4,000-square-foot store are currently at $500 per square foot.
In over four decades, the spacious store has undergone two major expansions. The first allowed for a much bigger accessories department, the next for a pleasant back area with tables and chairs to allow customers extra breathing room. “This is where everyone congregates,” says Jeanette.
Customers can accessorize their outfits at the store’s Etc. department, leased by Judy Abroms since 1974. Belts, bags and scarves are offered, along with several lines of jewelry exclusive to the store, including Stephen Dweck, John Hardy, Mark Spirito, M & J Savitt, and Clifton Nicholson Jr. “We don’t advertise. Our windows are our advertisement,” Jeanette says proudly of her store’s frequently changed displays. “A lot of times we sell right out of the windows. Customers will stop at the light and see something they like, call us on their car phones and say, ‘I want that.’ ” The Alands call it “curb service.” “They call and let us know what they’re looking for, and we’ll bring the merchandise right to the car,” says Jeanette. Deluxe complimentary gift wraps are offered with any purchase. The store also offers a full line of Erno Laszlo and La Prairie cosmetics and hosts several makeup clinics and trunk shows every year. As a customer tries on a tunic sweater by a full-length mirror, she says in frustration, “I can’t keep up with all the lengths in the magazines.” “Forget about the magazines,” says Jeanette. “Buy what is flattering to you.”