DALLAS BUYERS SEEK NOVELTY

Byline: Holly Haber

DALLAS — Item separates held center court at the summer market week that ended Jan. 22 at the International Apparel Mart, as buyers continued to seek quirky novelties to entice shoppers.
Most stores went for colorful abstract-print tops, glitter knits, evening separates embellished with paillettes and crystals, fake-suede sportswear, camouflage prints and low-cut pants in shiny, printed, glen plaid and stretch fabrics. Many buyers focused on accessories, investing in two-tone sunglasses, structured leather handbags and enamel or sparkle jewelry.
Looking toward transition and fall, buyers were enthusiastic about men’s wear fabrics such as houndstooth and tweed, as well as leather jackets and sportswear in unusual two-tone color combinations, like russet and chartreuse.
Reports on business from retailers and sales representatives ran the gamut, with some moaning that traffic and sales were off, while others enthused positively about healthy revenue and upbeat prospects for spring. Most reps thought traffic was diminished possibly due to the threat of snow and ice Friday evening, but January is always a poorly attended market.
“The place was dead, but we ended up with quite a lot of paper,” said Walter Baker, owner and designer of the View contemporary collection. “Every store ordered the camouflage group. Military chic is very happening — also big oversize bright florals in stretch cotton and Pucci-[style] prints.”
Stephen Skoda, vice president of merchandising for Julian Gold, which has three stores in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Midland, Tex., said business was so strong that the company is adding a 9,000-square-foot bridal salon due to open Feb. 8 at its flagship in San Antonio. Skoda was scouting for shoes, handbags, belts and sportswear for spring deliveries.
“Last spring was huge, so we are planning it up 10 percent,” Skoda noted.
In handbags, Skoda favored structured leather and two-tone handbags by Luis Esteve and Mon Sac, metal-mesh styles by Bo’Sart and whimsical multi-fabric looks by Cara Couture. He also ordered leather, stretch and slinky belts by Suzi Roher. Key sportswear resources for Julian Gold are View, MAG, Emil Rutenberg and Easel, he noted.
“I’ve been surprised,” said Calli Saitowitz, owner of three B.B. 1 Classic stores in Houston. “The market looks really good.”
Among the looks that caught her eye were C’est Duo’s reversible, crunch-printed and foiled tops; Max Studio’s soft, washable suede items; Chaudry’s bright Indian-print tanks and camisoles; Tadashi’s stretch taffeta evening blouses in solid sherbet colors, and tropical-print pants paired with linen jeans jackets by In the Wash.
Saitowitz said business was sluggish at the moment and her salespeople were on the telephone calling clients to drive sales. She said she was thankful “I’m not sitting heavy with sale merchandise because the traffic isn’t there. I think it will be tough this spring, but women will still need to freshen up.”
Joann Burnett, who owns five Joann’s stores in Houston featuring updated classics, was hunting for late summer goods and trying to get a feeling for fall direction.
“This used to be a really important market for fall, but everything is getting so much closer in,” she said. “I want to get some spring selling under my belt and get a feeling for what people are reacting to.”
She said fall and Christmas business were good, but January had softened, with customers showing little interest in discounted fall-holiday goods and more appetite for early spring. Burnett is aiming for a 5 to 6 percent sales gain in 2001.
“I love MAG evening separates,” she said, pointing to a lightly beaded gold bias-cut silk and cashmere charmeuse skirt paired with a glitter knit top. “Also, packable, low-maintenance clothing is an issue for everyone.”
Jann Dryer, owner of The Grace Note in New Orleans’ French Quarter, sought artistic, one-of-a-kind styles for her emporium of new and vintage apparel, accessories and art. As she perused Dian Malouf’s chunky jewelry, Dryer said she had ordered Harari’s Balinese stick-puppet-print silk sportswear, ivory silk organza and chiffon alternative bridal gowns with cotton stockings by Camilla de Pedrini and hand-painted devore velvet scarves and pillows by Kevin O’Brian.
Dryer also discovered a new line of unusual glass and metal jewelry by Lisa Salazar that portrayed small Xeroxed photos of cowgirls, scenes of Paris, paintings by Frida Kahlo and other unusual themes.
Linda Reeves, owner of Signatures by Linda Reeves in Monroe, La., was focusing on accessories, as well as new clothing items and early fall. As she ordered bold red plastic sunglasses by Ralph by Ralph Lauren and rimless and two-tone shades from Gucci, Reeves enthused about classic leather totes by Tiziana Collection and shoes and bags by Donald J. Pliner.
Reeves also picked up stacked rhinestone bangles by Tomassina, enamel cuffs and colorful vintage-style brooches by Gerard Yosca, chunky sterling bangles and necklaces by Simon Sebbag and fall leather jackets, sweaters and pants by Olsen in combinations of camel and pale blue and chocolate with turquoise.
Pamela Cott, owner of Pamela’s in Coppell, Tex., said she was on a mission to find boutique lines that were not sold to department stores.
To wit, she planned to order novelty sweater sets and items skirts by Lance Karesh, two-piece skirt sets from Muse, C’est Duo’s abstract-print crinkle tops, bright capri pants by Isis and novelty tops by Stella, Angel, Nola True and Double-U.
“I want my customers to say, ‘I’ve never seen that anywhere,”‘ she noted. “I’m also trying to find more dresses for lunches, showers and weddings. I liked Marrika Nak’s embroidered organza dresses.”
Jamie Appleton, owner of Appleton Mercantile in Brady, Tex., said her challenge was to find lines with a lot of look for a moderate price.
“We’re in one of the poorest counties in Texas, so I buy traditional lines like Corbin,” she explained. “People will spend more money on something traditional that they can wear for several years.”
She planned to buy KATE’s silk doupioni sportswear, as well as detailed silk and cotton sportswear in bright colors by River Road and Fork.

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