DALLAS — A shift toward ensemble dressing and cleaner styling emerged at FashionCenterDallas during the four-day market that ended June 4.
Traffic was light, as is typical in June, but most retailers were upbeat about business and some had raised their budgets.
“Overall traffic increased almost 10 percent over last year, as buyers and stores attended from across the U.S. and internationally,” said Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of Dallas Market Center, which operates the complex.
Though buyers still invested in item tops, jackets and denim that have performed well at retail, the idea of presenting a more refined appearance with dresses and coordinated sportswear gained ground.
“Women are ready to dress in head-to-toe collections again,” said Brad Hughes, whose namesake showroom of bridge and contemporary lines worked with about 450 stores at the market. “The junior leaguers and soccer moms, they want real clothing again. We’re seeing it in trunk shows, which are having 100 percent increases.”
Noreen and David Caplan felt similarly and were adding Lafayette 148 tailored sportswear to draw a more mature customer to their 15,000-square-foot contemporary store, Caplan’s, in Alexandria, La.
“We’re looking to dress the power women in town,” said Noreen Caplan, gesturing to a cognac lambskin leather jacket. “That goes with a fine-fitting slack or skirt and the customer will walk out feeling great.”
The couple also reviewed ensembles at Laundry, Eileen Fisher and Theory.
Danielle Cukler, owner of Dani’s upscale boutique in Palm Desert, Calif., sought suits that had a designer look at a lower price for her wealthy clientele. She found it at Aura, which had a black ruched jacket with two different silk print linings and matching pants. She also placed a “big order” with Marisa K, citing a white corset blouse with macramé trim and tuxedo pants as a standout.
“My customer is very country club, but she doesn’t want to buy Escada or Armani because it’s like a uniform,” Cukler said. “It has to be trendy, but it has to fit my average customer who wants to look tailored and sexy but not slutty. I’m sick and tired of jeans.”
Ellen Rosenbaum, owner of Morris & Sons, a 54-year-old shop in Chicago, hunted for fall dresses, sportswear, denim, jewelry and handbags. She favored Fusun’s black-and-white knit ensembles, woven leather belts by Landes and Patrice artisan jewelry.
“We’re into wardrobe, not as much trend pieces and more tailored,” she said.
The movement toward complete looks and cleaner styling didn’t spell the death of embroidery, appliqué and sparkle, however.
“I keep thinking embellishment will go away, but I’m still selling it big,” said Marta Pate, owner of Marta’s Boutique in The Woodlands, Tex. “I’m looking for updated contemporary looks with a missy fit.”
She planned to order a sheer chocolate glitter wrap top by Mesmerize that can be worn tied or as a shawl.
Charli Light, owner of Charli in College Station, Tex., said her business was up 20 percent this year as she reviewed embroidered velvet and corduroy jackets by Johnny Was. She also had her eye on gold-tone jewelry, such as lacy link and pearl necklaces by Simon Sebbag.
“I’m finding people are attracted to warmer colors,” she said.
The increasing attention the market is paying to Baby Boomers was evident among vendors. Hayden, the new incarnation of the 51-year-old Victoria Royal eveningwear company, introduced its new name and a 20-piece cocktail and evening collection for Boomers at the market, noted Bruce Blaustein, president. Hayden offers evening separates for easy fit, as well as cocktail dresses and gowns.
“There is a phenomenon: Women want something more simple and elegant and not matronly,” Blaustein said. “It sounds easy, but it isn’t. One of the biggest challenges is to have a sleeve with a modern-looking dress.”
David Dartnell, the designer who built David Dart into a $70 million business that he sold to Kellwood Co. eight years ago, also is targeting Boomers with a new line called Deed. The sportswear is a bit more tailored and edgier than the simple, easy look he was known for at David Dart, but still accommodates an imperfect body. A red wool kimono jacket features tonal embroidery, and the edges are raw on a black-and-white wool herringbone A-line coat paired with a silk charmeuse blouse and full pants. Deed’s first customer was Neiman Marcus Direct.
Linda Segal for Ashley pared down novelty prints in favor of solid knits with slight details, like a mother-of-pearl pendant on a chocolate knit fitted top.
“We’re ahead this market,” said Ashley Segal, national sales manager. “A lot of it has to do with the new look — it’s more clean and contemporary.”