THE CHOSEN ONES
Byline: Holly Haber / Rusty Williamson
It’s official. Winners in 11 categories were announced at the 25th annual Dallas Fashion Awards on Oct. 21 at the Great Hall in the International Apparel Mart. Proceeds from the black-tie gala benefited Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA), an organization that funds HIV/AIDS service and education programs throughout the U.S. As far as the winners go, they share both design and trend savvy along with a unique ability to find — and expand — a loyal customer base. The 2000 awards marked the first tie ever in the history of the competition when Ellen Tracy racked up the same number of votes as Garfield & Marks. Without further ado, the winners.
Designer Women’s Wear: ELLEN TRACY AND GARFIELD & MARKS (TIE)
Bridge has suffered through some limp years in the late Nineties. But now that the category has rebounded, so has the well-respected label of Ellen Tracy. The firm picked up its fourth Dallas Fashion Award this year, having earned the trophy in 1986, 1987 and 1994.
“Business is fabulous this year,” enthused Linda Allard, design director of the 51-year-old company. “There’s a lot of color in the collection, and we are having a good reception to double-faced fabrics.”
The relaxed jacket with more defined shoulders has returned for spring, paired with shorts or short skirts, she noted.
Garfield & Marks
For Garfield & Marks, ribbed triacetate is gold. The six-year-old firm expects sales to jump 26 percent this year to $70 million, mostly from shipments of soft suit looks in the magic fabric, which is similar in weight to gabardine. “It’s lightweight, tailors beautifully, travels well and doesn’t crease,” asserted Jo Ann Langer, president and chief executive officer of the GM Design Group, Garfield & Marks’s parent company.
Garfield & Marks sells primarily to independent specialty stores. “The power of the specialty store is so underrated,” Langer observed. “It’s a very loyal market, and they don’t have the same demands [as department stores.] They can buy a small assortment from us, and once it starts to sell, we give them the ability to get back into it in 72 hours to a week. So 50 to 60 percent of the business is generated by reorder.”
The company also produces Womyn, Kenar and Plein Air sportswear lines.
Junior Contemporary: URBAN OUTFITTERS
Urban Outfitters is scoring a triple play with its three popular young contemporary and junior labels: Free People, Bulldog and Cooperative. All three labels won the DFA as an ensemble under parent company Urban Outfitters.
The three brands are driven by trendy items such as long knit sweaters, geometric and floral print skirts, Empire-waist dresses and novelty knit tops and wovens.
Urban Outfitter products are carried by more than 2,000 specialty stores, including Fred Segal, Los Angeles, and Olive and Betty’s, New York. The company also operates 42 Urban Outfitters and 22 Anthropologie retail stores nationwide.
Though she couldn’t cite exact figures, Terrie Cain, national sales manager at Urban Outfitters, lent assurance that sales were on a steady rise.
“We’re growing the company and increasing our specialty store penetration, and the average order size keeps growing, too,” she explained.
After 5: ABS EVENING
ABS Evening, which is part of the ABS by Allen Schwartz contemporary powerhouse in Los Angeles, has been a solid business for four years, according to Allen Schwartz, president and design director. “It started as social occasion evening and evolved to bias-cut printed dresses, plus bridesmaid and bridal,” said Schwartz. “It’s [become] a whole world.”
ABS Evening has gotten lots of press for its copies of celebrity-worn gowns, but Schwartz claimed those styles represent less than 5 percent of the business. “We get a billion dollars’ worth of publicity, but in a lot of ways, it’s much ado about nothing,” he said. Though, he added, “We did sell about 45,000 of the Carolyn Bessette Kennedy [wedding] dress.”
Bookings for ABS as a whole are ahead 30 percent this year, eclipsing $50 million, Schwartz said. Next year, he’d like to add to his six retail stores. Currently, there are two in New York and four in the Los Angeles area. “I’d like to have 35 to 45 stores, and I’d like to think we’ll start that expansion in 2001,” he said, adding that such plans hinge on the retail climate.
Contemporary: CUSTO BARCELONA
Custo Barcelona has been a runaway hit since it captured the fancy of American buyers five years ago with its brilliantly colored, artistically printed knit T-shirts and bold pattern mixing. This year, U.S. sales are projected at $25 million to $28 million, with total worldwide distribution adding up to $60 million.
Now that Custo’s style has been knocked off left and right, designer Custo Dalmau is working on offering more pants and skirt styles, as well as new fabrics for spring — such as a rubberized printed suede, dyed and embroidered viscose and geometric patterns. But Dalmau doesn’t plan to abandon his signature wild prints.
“Printed tops are looking better than ever, so they won’t die out tomorrow,” asserted Veronica Silva, who introduced the line to the U.S. and who serves as Custo’s sales director in 29 states.
The company is moving slowly into retail, with plans to open a flagship store in Barcelona’s artsy Borne neighborhood by year’s end. Custo also has plans for two or three stores in Taiwan and Japan, through exclusively licensed distributors.
Brighton can’t seem to keep out of the winner’s circle of the Dallas Fashion Awards, having picked up seven of the trophies in the past eight years. The company endears itself to specialty stores with all-expenses-paid trips and conferences, lavish attention from its staff of 104 salespeople and dedication to providing updated classic collections of belts, bags, wallets, jewelry, sunglasses and home furnishings.
This year, women’s accessories will account for $100 million out of $135 million in projected sales for Leegin Creative Leather Products, Brighton’s parent company. Brighton has opened six of its own stores in the West and plans to unveil units in San Francisco and Scottsdale before Christmas.
Though it began as a men’s belt firm, the company has done nothing but grow since introducing women’s collections 10 years ago. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given Brighton’s bigger-is-better approach to product launches. When it introduced a bridal jewelry and furnishings collection in August, company owner and president Jerry Kohl hosted 300 clients for a surprise wedding ceremony and reception at the Plaza Hotel in New York, in which longtime Brighton model Michelle Muslin reaffirmed her vows to her husband.
Barse has come a long way from its origin in 1987 as a sleepy importer of generic sterling jewelry from Mexico. The company now adheres closely to fashion trends and color stories, producing a prodigious 2,000 new styles each year.
Known for sterling and semiprecious jewelry, Barse expects to close this year with at least $17 million in sales — a nice jump over last year’s $13 million draw. The company’s broad client base — about 6,000 specialty stores plus Nordstrom and Dillard’s — also helped it secure one of Atlanta’s DIVA awards.
The Dallas-based Barse is on the cusp of building an international trade with the help of a new Hong Kong showroom. For spring, look for pastel colors rendered in turquoise, lapis, pink agate, spinel and lime-green gaspeite.
Intimate Apparel: KAREN NEUBURGER
Playful prints, from snowmen to Fifties cowgirls, and comfortable cotton fleece construction are but two of the reasons women love Karen Neuburger pajamas.
The line’s kitschy appeal has made it a favorite of Midwesterners as well as Hollywood celebrities, and sales are surpassing $50 million annually.
Retailers love it, too: Neuburger anticipates that more than two million units will be sold over the next 12 months.
Since starting her company in 1996, Neuburger has expanded her empire to include not only pajamas but bedding, slippers and legwear, also rendered in whimsical or retro prints to coordinate with the sleepwear. Next on the agenda: a home accessories line.
Raisins has found its place in the sun. The $30 million swimwear company continues to charm fashion-conscious women with sexy styling and graphic novelty prints.
The first Raisins swimsuits appeared on the scene in 1974, when company founder Pat Lingo sewed her first suits — made from vintage tablecloths and recycled Hawaiian shirts — on her kitchen table.
Since then, things have only gotten sweeter for Raisins. It’s now a multi-label division of Quiksilver, the popular juniors company. The Raisins label targets 15-to-25-year-old women, Radio Fiji is for fashion-forward young women 18 to 25, Leilani courts the misses’ contemporary consumer and Raisins Girls is marketed to the 5-to-12-year-old set. The collections are carried by a mix of surf, specialty and department stores.
Sportswear: TELLURIDE CLOTHING CO.
Casual sportswear maker Telluride Clothing Co. came on strong and caught on fast when it debuted barely four years ago.
Telluride’s annual sales are now eclipsing $34 million, thanks to a two-pronged strategy of focusing on the fashion needs of suburban women ages 35 to 55 and making sure that stores are showered with fresh merchandise every 15 days.
The company’s typically traditional styles lean heavily toward denim, a rich color palette and novelty prints often inspired by antique swatches or other historical references. Looks range from crocheted camisoles paired with capris to a delicate cap-sleeve knit shirt over floral eyelet pants.
Dresses: MAGGY LONDON
Fall’s fascination with flirty, ladylike dresses didn’t take the folks at Maggy London by surprise.
Such styles have been the forte of the New York-based dress house for 21 years, and business just keeps getting better. Annual sales are now surpassing $200 million.
The company captures a wide share of the better dress market by appealing to the diverse lifestyles and size ranges of women ages 25 to 65, with styles running the gamut from a plaid sheath dress with matching coat to a black wrap-neck halter dress.
Maggy London dresses are sold in more than 3,000 stores across the U.S.
Children’s Wear: CACH CACH
Cach Cach means “hide and seek” in French, but for children’s wear retailers in the U.S., it translates into a very popular line of infants’ and toddlers’ wear.
Cach Cach, based in Santa Ana, Calif., has been quietly designing whimsical and fashion-inspired children’s fashions for 17 years, much to the delight of more than 1,500 high-end specialty boutiques and chains such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Volume is expected to surpass $7.5 million this year, according to Lorle Campos, president.
The company’s labels include dressy Blooz by Cach Cach, active-inspired Blooz Sport, Cach Cach for Girls and Cach Cach for Baby. Retail prices are $14 for a simple knit jumpsuit to $50 for a fur or leather coat. A sportswear line for girls ages seven to 16 called Between Friends is in development.