SPARKLES FUEL DALLAS WEEK

Byline: Holly Haber

DALLAS — Eye-catching items like sequined tanks, printed tops and knits trimmed in mongolian lamb headed shopping lists for buyers here during market week at the city’s International Apparel Mart, a trans-seasonal show at which retailers can find goods stretching from fall through holiday and a bit of resort.
Knit tops with ties, leather and suede, fur trim and color blocking were popular, along with such Seventies styles as patchwork, macrame and tie-dye. Accessories showrooms reported more interest in chunky jewelry and gold, as well as ongoing demand for handbags — especially those with beading, mixed skins and crocodile motifs, while interest in pashmina is waning.
Opinions were divided over the plethora of snake prints in clothing and handbags and how long the look would interest shoppers. Most retailers were comfortable with reptile prints, as long as they were done in fresh colors and with new treatments. However, some retailers said they were avoiding mammalian patterns like zebra, leopard and giraffe.
Business was a bit better than the particularly weak show last June, according to sales representatives. Buyers were fairly upbeat about spring sales, though many were cautious about buying too heavily going into fall.
“Everybody tells me retail is good, but they are very picky about what they buy,” said Howard Wolf, who has a contemporary showroom at the mart.
The biggest gripe from buyers was about the jammed parking lot and scarcity of nearby hotel rooms due to the overlapping gift show at the World Trade Center in the Dallas Market Center complex. The idea was that gift buyers would check out the apparel mart and vice versa. But, sales reps said they didn’t get much crossover business and fretted that the congestion was a headache for their customers.
“We did have some logistical issues, but we worked through those as quickly as we could,” said Cindy Morris, DMC’s executive vice president of marketing. “We are doing a complete logistical evaluation of everything from hotels to shuttles to housekeeping and making a decision within the next 45 days about whether we will do it again next June.”
During market, the DMC unveiled its Internet Technology Center on the first floor of the World Trade Center. Operated by IBM, the center is intended to help tenants and retailers learn how to capitalize on new technologies and Internet systems.
The market center also has hired Mercer Management Consulting to design an online wholesale marketplace for ordering, auctions, close-outs and providing information on trends and co-op service offerings to independent retailers, such as insurance. The DMC’s Web address, dallasmarketcenter.com, describes forthcoming services.
Connie Segal, owner of Elements contemporary store in Dallas, invested in unusual textures in knits, Burberry-type plaids, pieces with mongolian-lamb trim and leather items, as she rounded out her fall buy and booked a little holiday. She thought the hottest collections were BCBG, Poleci, Emma Black, Josephine Loka and Anya Flint.
“Poleci had an unusual pistachio leather skirt with a sleeveless top with a tie at the neck, and Single is always wonderful,” she said. “R&B had a cute red and burgundy leopard-looking group. Emma Black had great-looking itemy pants — sequined pants and sequined skirts — and body-conscious, fashion-forward stuff that is inspired by the designers.”
Her business is up more than 50 percent this year, and Segal is optimistic about a strong fall.
Mary Beth Johnston, owner of Mary Beth’s better boutique in Dallas, was ordering mostly holiday clothing and gifts, like silk charmeuse print shirts by nyshirts.com.
“It’s a well-priced shirt in a gift box that’s great for gift giving,” Johnston said.
She also picked up embroidered cashmere sweaters with scarves by White & Warren; Joseph A.’s chartreuse, pink and turquoise sequined tanks, and Chinese brocade ankle pants by Chin Chin. Noting that she’s buying a lot of bags, since they’re selling so well, Johnston cited reversible animal-print bags by La Ranchita.
“I planned this spring flat because we had a huge 12 percent increase last year, but we’re beating those figures by 8 percent,” she added.
Items were the target for Phyllis Walker, owner of Del-Ann’s bridge-to-designer store in Dallas, which has seen sales jump 17 percent this year.
“I’m looking at resort and 7/30 and 8/30 deliveries for inexpensive, novelty, wear-now things,” she noted. “This market is open-item category.”
Walker picked up printed snakeskin sportswear by Renfrew, silk doupioni shirts with flat-front pants by Connie Roberson, flirty skirts from Parameter and Carlos Falchi handbags.
“Animal never goes away,” she said. “I bought it five years ago and haven’t stopped doing it yet.”
Nan Napier was also filling in fall for her better boutique, Tres Mariposas, in El Paso.
“There’s newness in blouses,” she said, as she ordered polkadot and other print silk styles from Equipment.
Napier also wrote orders for Parameter’s contemporary line and garnet jewelry by Elizabeth Showers, which are both strong lines in her store. She was not fond of DMC’s decision to coincide the gift and women’s apparel shows, however.
“Parking is a mess,” she lamented. “I’ve never seen it like this.”
Bill Jue, owner of William’s Fashion in Corpus Christi, was checking out Clea sportswear with his buyer, Deborah Wimbish.
“I’m looking for different and unique things with a lot of energy,” Jue noted. “We like to deal with small resources who are creative. Clea is a breath of fresh air.”
He planned to order Clea’s furry ivory knit tops and straight skirts, as well as sportswear by Isda, Deborah de Roo and Sigrid Olsen.
“Isda lightened her fabrics so they are perfect for our climate,” Jue observed. “We also do well with Phillipe Adec, Urchin, Big Star and Edwin jeans. Business is wonderful — up 13 to 14 percent — but my budget is even because it’s an election year, and I’m a little more cautious than gung ho.”
Donna Palmer, owner of Down to Earth in Lubbock, wanted artsy jewelry, casual sportswear and large-size clothing priced under $200.
“Even my farmers’ wives like novelty, fun stuff,” she noted. “But it bugs me how much lizard and leopard there is.”
Palmer planned to order sterling, gold and semiprecious jewelry from Michou because she thought it unusual, versatile and well priced. With a particular eye toward large sizes, which have been selling out for her, Palmer also ordered Liz & Jane, printed sportswear from Iced Tea and clean-lined styles from Vera Holte.

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