By Rusty Williamson
DALLAS — Fashion Industry Gallery continues to refine and polish its outreach to upscale specialty stores with an edgy but salable blend of apparel, shoes and accessories.
The boutique-style wholesale mart, located in downtown Dallas' thriving Arts District, spotlights contemporary, bridge, denim, shoes and accessories collections, and at October market launched a new juried fashion and accessories show called Shop.
FIG executive director Gavin Smith said space for the 10,000-square-foot show sold out, with 75 booths representing nearly 100 lines. Response to the show was so "overwhelmingly positive" that "at least half" of its first-time FIG vendors inquired about signing contracts for permanent showroom space, said Smith, declining to provide additional details.
"We have at least 25,000 more square feet available for near-future expansion," Smith said, adding that the available space is located adjacent to the Shop area, near the building's front lobby. "We're not sure when that expansion will take place, but we have the ability to build it and the resources are out there who want to lease it."
Smith said FIG is now 95 percent leased, with Shop marking the building's second expansion since opening in January 2004. "It's an exciting time at FIG."
Smith is equally optimistic about the strength of FIG's upcoming shows, particularly the Jan. 26-29 summer 2006 edition. "We're anticipating January to be a very strong market, gauging by the appetite of the buyers." FIG also is gearing up for the fall I and II buying binge to be held March 30-April 2 and June 1-4.
Between markets, Smith visits wholesale fashion shows around the world, where he seeks out new lines to show at FIG. Although Smith declined to comment on recently acquired or pending lines, his itinerary for the first quarter of 2006 includes numerous trips to New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Paris and Düsseldorf.
"I'm always looking for new and great product to give our stores an edge over their competition. I'd like to see more salable dresses and more great bridge sportswear. All the stores tell me that they want to expand on their luxury offerings and with trendy fashion items. I think batiks and lots of sophisticated embroidery look really good for spring and fall 2006. And stores are looking for skirts of every length," said Smith.
At the close of each market, Smith and other FIG executives spend time visiting with retailers at roundtable discussions and in their stores about what issues are on their minds.
"Retailers tell us to help them tap into emerging trends and to find lines that can be exclusive destination draws to their stores, something that's new and undiscovered," Smith said.
FIG also is tapping into some marketing synergies to boost its profile among the Dallas arts and fashion crowd by hosting parties at the mart between markets.
Last month, FIG hosted a book-signing party for "Simple Life" star Nicole Richie at her request. Nearly 1,000 guests turned out to meet Richie and get an autographed copy of her new novel, "The Truth About Diamonds." "It was a win-win situation," Smith said.