Byline: Toni M. Lublin

You might say that Carlen Hultgren, owner of Carlen Inc., is a graduate of the “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” school of business.
After several false starts and stops, she opened her first showroom, in suite 9S116B at AmericasMart, last year. Hultgren’s first job at AmericasMart was behind the scenes at a fashion show 13 years ago. During that period, she went back to school to get her design degree at Atlanta’s American College for Applied Art.
In 1991, Hultgren launched her own line, called Amethyst and soon after opened her own showroom at AmericasMart. Four years later, she experienced financial difficulties, the result of a late delivery. Soon after, the showroom closed.
“Starting up Amethyst and running my own business taught me that you can’t do everything yourself. You need to surround yourself with people you trust,” said Hultgren. In 1996, she went to work for the Summer Olympic Games, in uniform distribution and then as a sub-rep in the Ambrosia & Co. showroom. But Hultgren knew she wanted her own business again and opened Carlen Inc. in March 2001.
Three hot lines, Urchin, Fashionista, and Supply & Demand, had approached her to become their representative, enabling her to open a showroom of her own. Urchin, a line of mostly knit tops, was the first to approach Hultgren. Key fabrics include silk and spandex, and silk, spandex and cashmere blends for cold weather. The contemporary line wholesales between $50 and $100.
Fashionista is a contemporary pants, tops and T-shirt line, with trendy silhouettes and prints. Stretch pants in capri, crop and ankle length silhouettes are up-to-the-minute in styling, in low rise and traditional rise, with flare, boot-leg and stovepipe designs. Wholesale prices range from $50 to $65. Tops are predominantly peasant style, ranging from $35 to $49. The sister line to Fashionista, Supply & Demand caters to a contemporary customer and is a bit more basic in terms of color, prints and silhouettes.
In addition to her own lines, which include bridge denim line Jill Stuart Jeans, R&B Jean Blouses, a Miami, Fla.-based line of trend driven cotton-blend blouses, and Indie Queen, a rock ‘n’ roll influenced, screen-printed T-shirt line, Hultgren leases space to other independent and manufacturers’ sales representatives, a common practice for those showroom reps who have the room. More lines mean that Hultgren can cover a larger customer base. As for manufacturers, it lets them test the regional waters at a relatively low financial risk. The leased lines include Mica, a print-driven chiffon and cotton and spandex dress line; Tibi, a contemporary line of scarf print separates in silk; Donna Degnan, a contemporary sportswear line; novelty T-shirts with bohemian prints from Kanika Cruz; Miss Vintage denims, and Lulu Guinness.

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