Byline: Holly Haber

Some of the trendiest bicoastal styles are coming to Dallas this market when the Designers & Agents trade show sets up shop in the International Apparel Mart.
Designers & Agents is a trade show that specializes in contemporary and young designer sportswear and accessories, including Diane Von Furstenberg and William B. The group regularly shows on the third floor of the New Mart in Los Angeles and has members with leading showrooms in New York, including Apropo and Showroom Seven. D&A has become a popular resource for Hollywood stylists, who scour the Los Angeles show in search of costumes for TV and film.
In Dallas, buyers will be able to view about 55 D&A lines in rooms 2215, 2217, 2219, 2221 and 2226 — all showrooms near the West Atrium of the Dallas Mart.
Participants are expected to include Espace Styled by Robert Clergerie Studio, Helen Wang, Amy Chan, Bettina Duncan, Fever Jeans and Development as well as international lines Whistles from London and Hartford from Paris.
D&A was founded five years ago by Ed Mandelbaum and Barbara Kramer, both New York sales reps who wanted to show their lines in Los Angeles. They gathered a few associates to join them and showed as a group in the New Mart. The concept was such a hit that it grew into a curated trade show and now occupies the entire third floor of the New Mart during every market. D&A draws from 400 to 700 buyers during each market in Los Angeles, Mandelbaum estimated.
“It’s a very focused group,” said Mandelbaum, whose fashion sales business is called The Aubrey Company. “It’s a mixture of sportswear, accessories, shoes and jewelry all geared toward the same customer.”
The decision to show in Dallas was made before the terrorist attacks in New York, he noted.
“When we planned it we thought it was timely but now it is even more timely,” Mandelbaum said. “Originally we did it because of the droop in the economy. We though it was time to be more aggressive, to get out of New York more and come to the stores. Some people have shortened their New York trips or cut them, and we thought it was time to take this show on the road. Now, with New York so mixed up and most people not wanting to travel, most people think the local markets will have heavy traffic.”
The Dallas market is scheduled for Oct. 24 to 29. It was initially set to start on Oct. 25, but organizers in late September decided to add the extra day to satify retailer demand.
“Our buyers expressed the need for an extra day to shop during this very important buying season,” said Cindy Morris, executive vice president of marketing for DMC. “All the spring lines are breaking, so it’s imperative we provide an adequate amount of time for the retailers to place their orders.”
The Dallas Market Center wooed the trade group in order to complement the substantial number of contemporary lines that already show in the Dallas Mart. Those collections are concentrated in the Studio 2 area at the rear of the building on the second floor.
D&A will return to Dallas should the show prove successful, Mandelbaum said.
“We’re open to doing two or five shows a year,” he said. “It depends on the feeling we get after this first show.”
In light of the tragic events last month, the Dallas Market Center plans to hire additional security officers during market. It is unsure how attendance will be affected in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. Some industry observers expect more retailers to come to Dallas since the Fashion Coterie was postponed in New York.
“We have gotten several inquiries from retailers who would have normally attended the New York market,” noted Carrie Carter, vice president of marketing for the DMC. “But we don’t have a read that it will have a big impact on us. We are going ahead as planned.”
Some retailers said they will spend more time in Dallas since they were unable to attend the Coterie last month. The New York show was rescheduled for Oct. 29 to 31, which immediately follows the Dallas market.
“I will really have to hit the ground running in October and get everything done in Dallas that I would have tried to do in New York,” said MaryBeth Johnston, owner of MaryBeth in Dallas. “I will have to go to New York in January and am I afraid? Yes.”
Johnston said she does not plan to attend the postponed Coterie because it was slated for the week of Halloween — a busy time for her family and her store.
“I’ll try to see more in Dallas,” said Stephen Skoda, vice president of merchandising for Julian Gold in San Antonio, Tex., noting he had planned to attend the Coterie last month but would not go to it at the end of October.
“It’s real convenient for me to jump on Southwest rather than worry about flights and connections to New York,” he said. “The only problem with Dallas is there is not enough funky stuff in there. It’s too conservative. But I got a couple phone calls from people who have not shown in Dallas looking for reps there. They think that a lot of people in the South will do Dallas because it’s much more convenient. They have lost business in New York and think they will lose more.”
Skoda declined to name the companies but said one was a gold range Italian sportswear line and the other was a handbag and accessory company.
“The people we have spoken with are not going to New York, whether the Coterie is held or not,” said Brad Hughes, who owns an eponymous showroom that is one of the largest at the Mart. “They are going to do as much business regionally as they possibly can. They will come early and stay longer is the message we’ve been getting. They don’t feel it’s necessary to make the New York trip at this point in time.”‘
While more buyers may come to Dallas, it’s uncertain how much money they will be willing to spend. Many retailers have said business slacked off considerably as people reeled from the psychological impact of the terrorist attacks and then saw the stock markets plunge the week following the tragedies.
“It’s a bitter dose for retail that was having such a bad time anyway,” said Carol Moore, who owns Moore Collections accessory showroom in the Dallas mart. “I have heard of a lot of orders canceled, but I haven’t had any canceled.”
Others observed that specialty stores appeared to be faring better than department stores.
“The week of the attacks you couldn’t talk about business with the stores because they had no business to talk about,” said Hughes, noting all of his customers are specialty stores. “But the week after it came back. We saw about 12 accounts in Austin the week after the attacks and they were swamped — they were needing immediate goods. People were in the stores.”
Business at MaryBeth has been solid in the weeks after the attacks, Johnston noted gratefully.
“Knock on wood — we’ve been OK,’ she said. “People have been coming in. They feel it is a way they can be supportive of their local economy.”
In other news at the Mart, the Dallas Market Center management has assembled a Teen Board of 10 young women who will give feedback to exhibitors about the fashion tastes and lifestyles of their brethren. The teenagers, aged 15 to 18, also will serve in various capacities during market weeks, such as greeting buyers and informally modeling accessories in the lobbies.
“Retailers tell us that teens are dictating our fashion so we thought we would like to get their views,” explained Carter.
“The disposable income for the junior teen market is strong,” said Morris. “Also, a lot of bridal vendors are getting into the prom market, and we can provide them with an information source. We thought it was time to hear the teenagers’ thoughts and what they have to say because they are an important part of the market. A lot of specialty stores don’t understand this market.”
The teens were invited to apply for the board via a recruitment drive at schools and churches. They were selected to serve unpaid for one year based on their grades, activities and goals.
The 10 members are: Kimberly Anderson, Kellin Bowen, Meredith Case, Madison Daly, Victoria Fernandez , Carrie Finch, Kinsey Kistler, Alyssa Pembroke, Crystal Thompson and Claire Watson.
“They said they want to improve their speaking skills and resumes and to have exposure to fashion,” Carter explained.
The Teen Board will convene for round-table chats at all markets excluding June.
“Exhibitors can come meet with them to use them as a panel,” Carter noted. “They might ask them what they look for when they’re shopping and how much they spend on clothing. Manufacturers could test market a line.”
The board was introduced at June market with a tour of the building and the opportunity to model accessories and help backstage with a fashion show.