DALLAS — Seeds of recovery emerged during the market at FashionCenterDallas.

This story first appeared in the November 10, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Buoyed by better women’s business in September and October, some buyers sought more goods to fill the shelves for holiday.

“We’ve sold so many sweaters…and I’ve never really seen that before in October,” said Allyson Cooke, owner of Launch contemporary showroom. “I think people were nervous and tried to keep their inventory low, but then they sold it all.”

Shannon Stone, owner of YaYa contemporary boutique in Plano, Tex., said, “It’s picking up….People are feeling a little more secure and are out shopping.”

Attendance rebounded to 2007 levels, creating “positive momentum going into next year,” said Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of the Dallas Market Center, which operates FCD. “Our strength in the resurgent bridge market has also played a key role in serving the finer specialty stores in our trading area who are not making as many trips to the Northeast.”

Buyers followed a similar strategy as they did for fall, writing spring orders for key resources, but reserving a healthy part of the budget for immediate goods closer to season. They were eager for big margins at the four-day show that ended Oct. 25.

“We were very busy with anything with a high markup,” said Rosanne Saginaw, whose namesake showroom did a brisk business with Big Buddha fashion handbags wholesaling for $18 to $34. “People aren’t afraid of a $100 price point.”

Michael Singer, a principal in Brad Hughes & Associates showroom of bridge labels, said the market was “really good….We saw an even amount of stores, but more out of territory. We had 135 to 200 stores every day.”

Retailers were focused on margins and budgets as never before, he pointed out, adding, “I would guess they have learned that they can make the same amount of profit or better on less sales.”

The relaunch of Chetta B by designer Sunee Hwang was a prime example. Its ode to early Sixties style in appealing fabrics like cotton jacquard was tagged at $49 to $79 wholesale, which caught buyers’ attention.

Finley doubled its tailored shirt business by adding a lower-priced label at $59 to $79 with some easier fits, said Heather McNeill, co-owner. Double D Ranchwear did a strong business with T-shirts and tunics with elaborate embroidery that wholesale for less than $100, but mimic its pricier looks in leather.

Designers are also doing more trunk shows for retailers who are fearful of carrying too much inventory.

Pat Dahnke, who specializes in clothing and leather accessories with a Western flair, said she’s doing shows every weekend in Texas and Kansas.

“I’m busy, but it assures me of business,” she said. “It’s also more fun because you get to know the buyer on a more personal level and the store. Business is all about relationships right now.”

Colombian designers who showed in a special pavilion in the Scene show said it was worthwhile.

“We met a lot of Western stores, so that is a business we have never done,” said Angela Gutierrez, who designs leather and caiman handbags under her name.

“We were here for exposure and to meet showrooms and that has turned out very well,” said Daniela Jassir, who showed silk gowns and linen sportswear by her mother, Francesca Miranda.

Buyers invested in the Eighties vibe of voluminous tops over short slim skirts, skinny jeans or leggings. Dresses were led by girly short date dresses with slightly elevated waists, “Mad Men”-inspired dresses and cocktail and eveningwear with sparkling details and textured fabrics.

It was a solid show for accessories, particularly handbags and clutches with texture or embellishment and jewelry featuring colorful crystal, lacy metal work, stacking bracelets and bold cuffs.

“Everything was for immediate delivery, of course,” said Margo Bryan, owner of Margo’s Collectibles, which specializes in fashion jewelry and bags. “They want more fun, unique things. They want to gamble on look, not price.”

Several retailers said they sought fresh resources.

“I’m into new lines now and experimenting a little more this spring than I have in the past because every line is everywhere and we need to be special,” said John Maguire, dress buyer at Tootsies, based in Houston.

“Pretty things are the trend,” he added, as he selected a matte gold sequin tank dress from Maria Bianca Nero. “Also cutouts, ladder backs, one-shoulders, crinkle metallic taffeta gowns and three-tone dresses.”


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