Behind the Scenes
MARÉ BRENNAN TAKES US INSIDE DALLAS MARKET FOR A GLIMPSE INTO THE FASHION BUSINESS THAT MOST DON’T GET TO SEE.
PICS BY SCARLETT OLIVIA PHOTOGRAPHY
When we shop at local boutiques and businesses, we really get a glimpse into the mind of each store’s owner. The collection of objects or apparel presented are the result of careful editing and planning that takes place months before the products hit the boutique’s floor. Imagine having to look into the future and decipher trends months before the public knows that wide leg pants are going to replace skinny jeans as the hottest style. That’s exactly what boutique owners are faced with four or five times a year when they make their treks to designer showrooms in Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles or Las Vegas.
Going to “Market” has always held the allure of glamour, whether it was for apparel, accessories or home furnishings. In its heyday, Dallas Market Center would hold weeklong markets. Now “Market” is consolidated into only three days of action-packed, whirlwind decision making. Fast-paced doesn’t begin to describe the melee of activity. Market now lasts from Thursday through Sunday and takes place at both the DMC and its new counterpart F.I.G. (Fashion Industry Gallery).
Gavin Smith, Dallas-based mobile trunk show purveyor, says Jill and Bodie Woods introduced him to Market. Gavin, whose career has included sales at Graham’s in Ruston, working showrooms in Dallas and eventually owning his own showroom for a time, describes how Market has changed since the 1980s. “Everything is different now. Market used to last Tuesday to Tuesday and featured many more lines and showrooms. We used to hand write orders at each showroom, survey all lines then come back and make final edits. Now you can place your order on the computer in a virtual showroom. Your order totals itself right there. The new online system also makes it very easy to reorder.” While the accessibility of online ordering is a positive, Gavin knows the importance of seeing and feeling fabrications and observing cuts and fit firsthand — and Market gives you the leg up when buying for your store.
Gavin’s on-the-move pop-up boutique, Geaux Luxe, is a unique concept venture he embarked upon after closing his own Dallas showroom. With a van outfitted with racks for holding hanging clothes, Smith specializes in apparel and accessories that travel well, like lightweight knits from White & Warren and 360 Cashmere.
Gavin explains that a return from Market gives retailers the opportunity to talk to their customers about what the newest trends will be, like a pre-introduction to the merchandise they will begin seeing in the store in the next several months.
Noted interior designer, home furnishings retailer and author Michelle Nussbaumer’s own showroom Ceylon et Cie was the site of one of many funny Market week experiences for Gavin. “Michelle called me and said, ‘Gavin, you’ve got to come over here. There is a man here who sounds just like you.’ I got there and sure enough it was interior designer Kenn Farrar!” Michelle’s keen ear had recognized the north Louisiana drawl that both men shared.
The thing about Market showroom operators is that it is nice being around people with the same interests, according to Gavin, who reiterates that selling in showrooms or boutiques is all about relationships built with customers.
Successful showrooms aren’t made overnight, and the magic that happens 4 or 5 times a year at Market Centers around the country is the culmination of work that goes on behind the scenes year round. Analeise Reeves Thomas of Reeves and Company is the second generation to tackle the apparel market showroom business, which is basically a middleman between designer/manufacturers and boutiques and stores. In addition, showrooms act as a powerful line of marketing for the brands they represent. Analeise’s dad, Donald Reeves, opened the Dallas showroom over thirty years ago and has grown the showroom to include 25 brands, including apparel, handbags and jewelry. Together, father and daughter have added another showroom at the Atlanta Apparel Market at the request of one of their long term brands, Kut from the Kloth. In just two years they have doubled the Atlanta space and grown from 3 brands to 15. Callie Eldridge from Monroe handles customer service from her home for the Reeves’ Atlanta showroom and is Analeise’s right hand person.
Analeise was practically born into the apparel business as her grandmother owned the legendary Monroe boutique Signatures by Linda Reeves. As a young girl, Analeise would spend her Christmas season wrapping presents in the back, playing the piano for customers and growing to be the Signature’s face. “It’s in my blood. I love clothes and I love selling them,” says Analeise. “My dad always tells the story of when I was 13; I asked him if I could help him sell a t-shirt line during Dallas market. He kept jumping in while I was talking to potential customers and made me so frustrated I went to the back and cried. The customers I was talking to told Dad I did a good job, so he convinced me to come back out front and let me do it on my on. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Donald and Analeise have spent plenty of time in the boutique trenches (Donald as a boutique owner in Longview, Texas and Analeise in sales and as a buyer for a Nashville, Tennessee store), so they uniquely know the stresses and pressures that today’s boutique owners face. “You have to remember at market we are selling goods six months in advance of when they will arrive in stores. For example this next market in March is for clothing that will arrive in stores in August, September and October,” explains Analeise.
Pulling the showroom together before a market usually begins a week to ten days before, says Analeise. Clothing representatives out in the field calling on boutiques will bring samples back to the showroom to get ready for the Market onslaught of shopowners. About two weeks before the show, showroom owners start setting appointments with their store owners and buyers. The Reeves & Company Dallas showroom employs six full time employees including two customer service representatives and two traveling