Byline: Holly Haber

DALLAS — Strong fall business and the colorful styles offered for spring had buyers in a shopping mood during spring market week that ended Monday at the International Apparel Mart in Dallas.
Prints drove lots of contemporary business in tops, skirts, dresses and pants, especially floral, optic, Pucci-style and tie-dye looks in sherbets, brights and combinations of black and white. Solid and printed shrunken pucker T-shirts were one of the most widespread trends in the building, as was the the influence of Seventies styles a la “Charlie’s Angels” and flower treatments and handbags popularized recently on “Sex in the City.” Polkadots, ruffles and top-stitched dark denim also abounded.
“It was definitely the best-attended and best-volume market we’ve had in years,” said Brad Hughes, who represents more than 30 lines, including Alberto Makali, Donna Morgan, Carmen Marc Valvo and David Meister. “Our business was driven by daytime dressing, items like novelty T-shirts and novelty sportswear. Our customer likes to be noticed when they walk into a room and all this great color, print and detail is exactly what they’re looking for.”
“The stores say their best, most expensive merchandise is the thing they sell first, so they are getting encouraged to upgrade,” said Nat Ekelman, president of GeNe Sales, which represents better and bridge collections, including Lafayette 148 and CK Calvin Klein.
“The fur business has never been better,” said Joel Kaye, owner of Morris Kaye & Sons, a Dallas furrier who sold a lot of beaver vests, leather pants and mink-trimmed leather gloves. “Market was unbelievable — we picked up 10 new stores and everyone is buying, from Florida to Michigan to California. It’s wild.”
Most buyers were picking up immediate goods for holiday selling, as well as spring lines. While fall business has been exceptionally good for many specialty stores, most had not raised their budgets for next year, due to election jitters and disappointing business last spring.
Lisa Deutsch, an owner and buyer for Joe Brand, an upscale store in Laredo, Tex., on the Mexican border, was scouting for contemporary lines, swimwear and prom dresses.
“Business is good — it’s real steady,” she noted. “Accessories are great — sunglasses by Chanel and Prada are amazing — and the whole true contemporary area does very well. Misses’ and bridge are OK.”
Deutsch stopped at Poleci’s showroom to order a black and white optic-print skirt and silver metallic jeans with a silver-threaded black paper mesh top, among other looks. She also planned to order a peau de soie A-line gown with rhinestone trim and printed chiffon dresses from ABS, her best resource for evening. DKNY swimwear was showing for the first time at the Mart, and Deutsch praised its simple lines with metal details and coordinating active sportswear.
“I’m taking a conservative approach on everything,” she said, “because we rely so much on the Mexican economy and they just got a new president. Customers are being conservative and waiting to see what happens. Plus, the way it is now, you can wait and buy everything for immediate delivery.”
Mary Weston, contemporary buyer for the Gregor Simmons buying office, said business for her firm’s 80 retail clients was “exceptional, and it’s driven by all these contemporary novelty looks that spark up everything.”
As she reviewed View’s spring line, Weston praised Jane Doe’s stretch organza crinkle shirts, Votre Nom’s new jeans line, Tahari’s bodysuits and ABS’s “Charlie’s Angels” styles.
“The jacket and blazer are coming back,” Weston noted. “And blouses with big collars and cuffs. Everything is alive in sunny colors.”
Victoria Jackson, owner of Byzantine contemporary store in Dallas, had a sizable budget for holiday goods and was also looking at spring.
“For holiday, I’m buying a lot of sweaters — like O1O’s soft knits in pink, orange, lime and turquoise — and some evening items,” Jackson said. “I’m also buying lots of geometric and abstract art prints for spring. It’s a Peter Max ‘Laugh-In’ story.”
As she reviewed Forwear’s skorts and a silk charmeuse pumpkin dot dress, Jackson said some of her favorite pieces so far were Nanette Lepore’s Asian-print skirts, Jane Doe’s geisha-print skirt, Geometrie’s dark denim sportswear with pink sequins and Head Dress’s rabbit scrunchies for hair.
Denise Gergley, associate buyer of jewelry for NM Direct, was perusing Elizabeth Showers’ pearl and aquamarine styles as she sought January and February deliveries for spring.
“In a catalog, we have to work so much further out, but the market isn’t totally ready,” she said. “Turquoise and coral are still happening and chrysoprase and amazonite are coming up. Pearls are still important and I’m seeing them mixed with semiprecious stones and different textures.”
She also expects to go ahead with charm bracelets, crosses and real gold and plated pieces, but was leery of lariats.
“Lariats are harder for mail order because there are so many ways you can wear them and you really need a salesperson to show how to wrap it,” Gergley noted. “You can’t show three pictures of the same item on a page.”
Cari Kerns was shopping with her sister, Marni Rutan, for the new misses’/contemporary store they plan to open Feb. 1 in Houston. Kerns has been buying contemporary lines for her father’s store, Leonard Rutan, for six years.
“We want to offer wearable clothing for the lady who does carpool and goes to showers and dinner with friends,” Kerns explained. “We loved Cynthia Steffe’s aqua bias skirt with sweaters and low-cut red “Charlie’s Angels” pants. We’ll also buy Lilly Pulitzer’s floral prints, Tibi Hyland’s dresses and capri pants and Work Order’s geometric and Pucci-print pants.”
Bridge store owners Molly Broeren of Molly’s in Denver was shopping with Paula Fall of Sophia Lustig in Toledo, Ohio. The pair, who carry similar merchandise, were looking for immediate accessories and spring clothing.
They were big on scarves, investing in Revellino’s handpainted silver satin burnout wrap, J. Raani’s printed and beaded pashmina wraps and Ulricki’s handpainted scarves. They also picked up Diane Katzman’s pearl and tiger-striped antique glass jewelry.
“I carry pretty passive clothing in neutral colors,” noted Broeren.
The pair ordered soft suiting and evening styles from Lafayette 148, clean silk and linen-related separates by Gett, Caroline Rose’s sportswear in unusual fabrications and Peter Nygard sportswear.
“Business is excellent, it’s up considerably,” said Fall. “I’m equalling my spring buy.”
“My business is up too,” added Broeren. “But, I’m buying the same because I don’t know how long it will last.”

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