SKINS AND SUITS
BUYERS WITH BEEFED-UP BUDGETS ARE ON THE PROWL FOR HOT LOOKS.

Byline: Holly Haber

Snakeskin — real or printed — along with leather, feminine suits with a twist and fancy dresses are all on the shopping list for fall among area buyers. Coming off buoyant spring sales, many retailers are planning to increase their budgets for fall merchandise.
Here, the wish lists of five key area retailers, plus their predictions for the hot trends:

Cami Krablin, contemporary buyer for Barbara Jean, Little Rock
Suits are coming back, so I’ll be looking for suits with some flare, like a bell sleeve that gives it a contemporary and youthful look. Some customers want a jacket, but they want it to be youthful, with a little novelty or kick to it — not too structured and manlike. Some people will be hesitant to jump back into suits, so they may do a leather jacket instead. I think we overdid the whole thing in sweater sets, so they need something in between — lighter-weight top pieces with bell sleeves and peasant flowing blouses because they can be romantic and sexy, too. You do a fitted pant or straight skirt with them.
I’ll look at James Perse — I have fallen in love with his T-shirts. They’re really good cotton and look dressy under a suit. I’ll buy those to put back with bootleg-cut pants with a lower waist; and of course, leather and suede, and python is everywhere. I’ve seen Yansi Fugel’s transition collection, and they’re doing a lot of cashmere and leather mix and matches and I think that is really wonderful — that line captures both older and younger customers. Essendi silk fitted tops I can’t even keep in stock, and they look really good under leather.
I think my open-to-buy will be up from last year because contemporary is what’s carrying the business nowadays — it’s getting a lot more attention, and because of that, I’ll have more open-to-buy.

Mary Beth Johnston, owner of Mary Beth, Dallas
I just came back from the Coterie, and only about half the companies were ready for fall, so I’m looking at Dallas for everybody to have completed their final cuts and edits, and I’ll go in and do the July delivery. It’s very important to me because we celebrate our big store birthday, and I pretty much have the store turned by then to transition and early fall. Our most important category is transition, because of our climate. People really want year-round fabrics and weights, and this is when you find it.
I’ve been successful with Jenne Maag and Isda, Lafayette 148 and Garfield & Marks. I’ll build from those lines and then pull in fringe things like twinsets, special sweaters and shoes. Shoes are a huge thing; they’ve become an accessory piece. I buy great little mules and slides for $125 and under, and people are happy to do that. Some of the shoes in bigger stores are $300 and $400, and that’s expensive.
I always touch on trends at a price. I go more wearable yet fashionable, and people feel like they are in fashion. I’m still seeing ankle pants and shorter pants. I think skirts are making a comeback with twinsets or vests or a different jacket. People love the twinset. We’ve been selling twinsets and ballskirts and short skirts for church or meetings. I think people are happy to see that femininity back in dressing.
We do great with sweaters, but I do see the jacket coming back. There’s always a need for suits and a fun jacket, especially for the customer who works.
We are selling a lot of special occasion dresses and luncheon suits for spring, and special beaded pants and fun beaded pants with a sweater. I think that will go forward for fall. People are entertaining more, and they are excited to dress up a little bit because they can really use those pieces in their wardrobe. If they get a ballskirt and a twinset, they can do something else with those pieces.
My budget will probably be about the same as last year or a little more, and we had nice growth last year. Business has been very, very good. We’re extremely pleased.

Gianna Clement, contemporary buyer for Lilly Dodson, Dallas
I just came back from New York, and every designer did a diffusion denim line, and skin was everywhere. I bought real skin at higher price points and printed pleather at lower. In Dallas, I’m looking to pick up more novelty bottoms and dresses. Skirts were not as important in a lot of my more expensive collections, like Gianfranco Ferre Jeans, Cavali jeans, Gaultier and Missoni M, which is a diffusion collection of Missoni.
I’ll shop cocktail here for some evening pieces, like Gilmar. I’ll probably shop Finley at Dallas market — we sell it well — and Against Gravitee dresses and outerwear.
Dina Bar El looks good, and I went bananas at Anna Sui. Sheri Bodell’s new line looks great. I skipped Custo for fall. I’m making a statement, but you couldn’t get a chair there at the Coterie.
My budget is up about 12 percent for fall.

Lisa Miller, buyer for Polly Adams, Laredo, Tex.
What’s really important is women are ready for suits again. Everything has been very item-driven, and I have had a lot of requests for suits. Items are still great, and we’re still looking for them, but everybody stopped doing suits and customers are ready for them.
I’m still looking for a more unconstructed look — not necessarily a business suit. Our customers feel a little more put-together when they have more than a sweater set or a white shirt. I’ll shop Albert Nipon and Anne Klein for suits.
Leather will be a big, big trend. We bought Andrew Marc and Vakko jackets and blazers that are not necessarily outerwear and clean pants without pockets, jeans, a few knee-length skirts and long skirts. Suede will be big, but leather will be bigger. Python pants and skirt will be really important.
My budget will definitely be up, but I don’t know how much.

Connie Segal, owner of Elements, Dallas
The overriding trends are reptile prints, lots of python and quite a bit of leather. We’re buying leather jackets and pants and knee-length skirts. Parallel was hot for fall, with great leathers and wonderful items.
Our big new lines are Poleci and Anna Sui. I loved Anna Sui’s knitwear and striated knits and whimsical items. Poleci has good weight fabrications and great fit.
I’m tired of things that don’t have a good fit and of too heavy fabrications for fall. Some designers think fall is all about heavy wool, which doesn’t work for our climate. And there are too many trimmed jeans out there.
Our February is almost double last year — when you have lots of merchandise, you sell more. I’ll increase my budget for fall, too.
I may pick up some skirts and dresses in transitional colors like khaki, black and dark oranges. I’d love to see some lightweight knee-length jackets in some special fabrications, such as rayons or some kind of techno fabric — something other than wool.

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