Byline: Holly Haber / With contributions from Rusty Williamson

DALLAS — The spark in March sales boosted spirits among buyers shopping at the fall market that ended here April 8 at the International Apparel Mart.
“I’ve heard business is good, but erratic,” said Gregor Simmons, who owns a buying office under her name in New York and spoke at a seminar here. “Of course, the stock market is that way, too.”
Some sales representatives and buyers fretted about the impact on consumer spending from a threatened oil embargo, the strife in the Middle East and the possibility of a double-dip recession. While a number of sales reps complained about traffic, the mood overall was positive.
“I think everything is opening up,” said Butch Plott, a principal in the better-priced showroom Navia-Plott. “Novelty is the key, whether it’s a top, a jacket or pants, and we’ve had a resurgence in skirts. People want things to brighten their day and that’s what all this novelty is.”
Retail reaction was strong to an abundance of color and detail, fur-trimmed denim jackets and novelty jeans; skirts with gores, ruffles and flounces; leather that was tooled, distressed or perforated; paisley prints; East Indian beading and laser-cut fabrics. Embroidery, ruching and appliques also topped order sheets.
“Basically, the market has become more separates driven, which is good because that’s what people are buying,” said Sara Enzbrenner, buyer for Miss Jackson’s in Tulsa, Okla. “I think everything [this fall] will turn around after 9/11. It’s definitely going to be up from last year. It’s got to be.”
Noting that she had seen “great items,” Enzbrenner ordered a camel-color rabbit fur and wool sweater with matching leather pants from Europa by Kelli Kouri, Italian knitwear by Il Gilet and perforated leather jackets by Di Vita.
Riley Silva, owner of St. Thomas in Austin, Tex., said business has been “phenomenal.” Coming off of a 15 percent jump in March revenue, Silva planned a 20 percent hike for fall.
“Everyone is looking for short, fun cocktail dresses — sexy little dresses,” he said, as he ordered a rose-print cocktail dress from ABS Evening. “I’m looking for immediate deliveries for spring.”
Silva liked Mandalay’s embroidered separates and suede items, as well as beaded chiffon tops by Emma Black.
Connie Sigel, owner of Elements in Dallas, was also buoyed by spring sales gains.
“They’re still shopping, but they want things that are really, really different,” she said.
Sigel found edgy suiting by Louis Verdad and a long brown embroidered jacket over a cream perforated leather top with broken-stitch pinstripe pants with appliques by Lela Rose, both new lines at the mart.
“I’m buying a lot of pants and skirts to wear with boots because my customer loves to wear boots,” she noted.
Russ Gordon, owner of Bricks women’s and men’s store in Wichita, Kan., was ordering a metal link and leather belt by Suzi Roher. “We’re buying lots of gypsy stuff that looks good,” he said, “and I think denim will continue to be incredible. In women’s, we have increased our purchases, but we have scaled back the dressier clothing. We’re buying younger and trendier, but not expensive, like Trina Turk.”
Nancy Diebolt, owner of Turtletique in Dallas, and Michelle Dozier, owner of Inge’s in Irving, Tex., were shopping together for their bridge boutiques.
“I’m still item driven,” Dozier said. “Every week business gets better and better. I’m planning carefully, but with a positive attitude.” “We love leathers and tooled leather and the new fringe influence,” Diebolt said. “The best thing we’ve seen so far was a faux shearling jacket from So Blue.”
Julie Miller, owner of A.J.’s Casuals in Lexington, Ky., was spending 10 percent more on fall goods. She favored fur jackets by Lafayette 148, embroidered separates by Lela Rose and paisley looks from Cynthia Steffe.

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