LADIES FIRST
FEMININITY HOLDS COURT FOR SPRING 2001, AND BUYERS ARE LOOKING FOR ROMANCE. FALL, MEANWHILE, IS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR.

Byline: Holly Haber / Rusty Williamson

How many different ways can one think pink? It’s a valid question as retailers head into spring buying, many of them feeling in the pink over their customers’ enthusiasm for fall styles. As they shop the spring market, they’ll be looking for dressy casual sportswear, bright colors and feminine looks. Some newer trends to keep a lookout for are printed pants, A-line skirts and denim items.

Kathy Branch, owner, Fetish, Austin, Tex.:
“For spring, the whole trend towards very feminine dressing continues, and I think we’ll see a lot of variations of the color pink. We’ve had a lot of blue pinks; but these [next] will be softer, peachier pinks and corals and all the greens that look so great with corals. Early spring tends to start very, very neutral. I think we’ll see a continuation of those soft colors, and I really do expect to see a lot of color in true spring deliveries.
“There’s a little bit more return to the waist, which won’t be happening for everybody; but women with a natural waistline will be thrilled to see that come back. Also, there will be a lot of blouses and more A-line skirts rather than straight skirts. In pants, I think there’s still plenty of interest in the shorter pant; I don’t think it’s worn out yet. And I do see a continuation of boot cuts. I don’t think anybody’s ready for Eighties-look trousers. I don’t think my customers are ready for that yet. I think it will be very feminine and soft.
“My business is much further ahead of last year. Austin is not like a lot of urban areas where people are solidly entrenched in mall shopping. That makes for a lot more interesting shopping and more fashion instead of the homogenized thing you see at malls.
“In clothing, Catherine Melandrino is one of my favorites, but I have to pick it carefully so it’s not too edgy for the South. I love Diane Von Furstenberg, Laundry and David Albow; he’s new and we have a lot of faith in him.
“My budget for spring will be about the same as it was this year. I think there are a whole lot of women coming of age who haven’t had the opportunity to really shop for fabulous clothes, and they are in their 20s now and they are starting to show some serious interest. Goodbye to grunge, hello real clothes.”

Victoria Jackson, owner, Byzantine, Dallas:
“Fall business is good. In August we had a 30.4 percent increase for the month, and September is ahead of last year. Inventories are in line and I’m doing reorders. My customers are loving everything this fall and saying it’s the best they’ve seen in a long time. I’m selling View like crazy.
“I had a slower than normal spring, so I’m planning to do about the same for next spring. I’m going to hold onto my money and spend it closer to the season. I’ll go to Coterie in New York in September, but just to look at trends.
“I’m curious about whether reptile will go forward — maybe if they do it in new colors. Reptile is doing incredibly right now; everything reptile is selling. I think printed pants will be important. I’d buy some leather for transition, and I might buy some for spring. I did buy some amethyst and baby blue suede.
“In accessories, people are buying a lot of Chan Luu beaded necklaces on organza. And they’re starting to get a little bit chunkier. I’m selling some lariats, but it’s a lot to wrap around and people are confused by it.”

Nancy Harrison, owner, Lucille Tate, Arlington, Tex.:
“August was a little slow, but September has really started off with a bang, and I think we will make up for August. And I expect to go forward with that same trend in October.
“Now that we have a little cool weather I think we’ll see lots of smiles and changes, and people will be shopping more. They do seem really excited about everything looking new and different. I think we’ve had it plain for too long.
“It seems like everyone is looking for easy-to-wear, comfortable, casual clothes. But they always want something with flair that looks contemporary and has a young look. We do really well with Christine Philippe, Alberto Makali, Leon Max, and for a larger and more mature lady, we do a lot with Nino Wong. We’re also doing really well with some cute contemporary lines like Poleci and Dina Bar-El. Reptile is still really going strong, and we’re doing great with beaded fringe and feathers and all the embellishment.
“We’re also selling a lot of eveningwear for MOB and getting ready for the holidays. We do really well with contemporary styles with bare shoulders, and more beaded and embellished styles that go great with shawls and stoles. The feminine, pretty look is back and our customers are falling for that.
“For spring I will probably look at all the same lines and try to branch out and find other ones. I don’t think we do that well with leather in the spring, with our climate here. We will not be able to sell it here just like we really don’t sell wool for fall and winter.

Christine Bailey, merchandise manager and buyer,
Barbara Jean, Little Rock, Ark.:
“Our business is wonderful for fall. Our key vendors for fall have been contemporary designer lines like Theory, Chaiken and Kors, and in designer it’s been Michael Kors and Celine — they are remarkable. Some of our eveningwear designers have done really well, and that is a category we generally don’t do much business in. We’ve always carried Carmen Marc Valvo and Kay Unger, which other stores carry, but this holiday we picked up some designer lines, like Maria Pinto out of Chicago and Joanna Mastroianni, Peggy Jennings and Sylvia Heisel. What’s been selling in evening is lace pants and skirts, matte jersey wrap tops, leather halters and evening separates.
“The shoe and accessory business is fabulous. In shoes, Stuart Weitzman remains our top seller, along with Donald Pliner, Graye and Sigerson Morrison. In accessories, Kate Spade bags are out of control and it’s the fourth or fifth year. We also sell a lot of Perla handbags. In jewelry, we continue to do well with Michael Dawkins and Jeannine Payer. Meredith Frederick has been a great new resource with crochet-woven bracelets in gold, silver and semiprecious stones. We had an incredible trunk show with Elizabeth Showers — we did about $12,000 in stock and took orders for $17,000, and her things are not that expensive.
“I think the beautiful, feminine lady-like look with two-piece dressing will go forward. They keep saying the suit is coming back, but I’m not buying a lot yet. I’ll buy interesting suits but I just don’t need basic suits; there is no request or need for it. An exception is Yansi Fugel’s microfiber line, which does continue to sell for me to women who need suits for work and travel.”

Bob Benham, president, Balliet’s, Oklahoma City, Okla.:
“We use Dallas primarily for bridge and special occasion. At market, we’d like to see more of what we’re seeing for fall — chic, sophisticated and ladylike clothes. Femininity is important.
“Social occasion is explosive now. We’ve moved more strongly into social occasion at Balliet’s in the last year. Sportswear is so competitive, even when you’ve got exclusives. Social occasion is a way to differentiate and bring more focus on the store. Women are coming here to dress up. We’ve gone from three social lifestyle departments to six departments, and we cater to an incredibly broad age range. There’s a big difference between a covered MOB dress and a gorgeous prom dress. Social occasion also is allowing us to attract a younger customer. For fall, we’re selling longer, ornamented dresses. We’re also doing pageant dresses. We’re doing well now with ABS, Jovani by Sheri Hill, Rex Lester, Tadashi, Gilar.
“For spring in social occasion, the action continues to be in long dresses. Customers are going for glamor, head to toe, with beautiful jewelry and exquisite shoes, which have become a powerful accessory — and business.
“Our budget is definitely up for spring. We’re looking at an increase of at least 8 to 10 percent.”

Ron LeGuin, owner, Susan Marie’s, Salado, Tex.:
“We’re shopping for shipments with March, April and May receipts. We’ve already booked early deliveries. We’re probably going to be spending a lot of dollars in bottoms and tops. We’ve seen the bottoms business escalate. It’s because of the capris. They’re not dead.
“We do a lot of sportswear, and styles cut from silk doupioni are driving the business right now. We were fortunate last spring to find a new company that specialized in silk doupioni called LisBeth, and it’s wildly popular. Even sales reps are coming in and seeing it and asking where we got it.
“Salado is a little resort town, so we carry, and will be searching the market for, a range of social occasion styles. For fall, Sue Wong is a bestseller in social occasion. It’s an unusual look with interesting styling and details. Customers come to us for what they can’t find in the malls. At market, we look for the unusual. We do really well with bare social occasion as long as it has a shawl to go with it.
“Our budget is planned up for October. It reflects better business at the store and terrific fashions in the market. Spring is also a longer selling season. You can risk more in spring and summer rather than fall.”

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