Dana Dartez's designs fit so well in both urban and beach settings thatbusiness is booming in New York City, the Texas Gulf Coast and throughout California.
Women are snapping up her roomy gabardine dresses, plaid flannel short shorts and tight striped jersey tops with scoop necks. Her line, under the Spot Girl label--a division of Spot Sport in Irvine--will be shown on the covers of Seventeen and Sportswear International magazines in November.
The 26-year-old designer combines nostalgic standbys with trendy twists. "The Marcia Brady stripes are on fire this year," she says, referring to the character of the oldest sister on the '70s sitcom "The Brady Bunch."
Spot Girl appeals to women of all ages who have a fun attitude, Dartez says. "Any body can wear it. I really try to focus on that. I don't want to be a little tight bod line that only 2% of the population can wear. I think of the normal girl off the street, the one living next door.
"I think I'm that girl, so I try to do what I would wear," she adds.
She applies the retro-inspired prints and fabrics used in the Spot Sports' men's line to women's silhouettes. A sleeveless nap shirt that has a masculine flair is made feminine when the shirt ends are tied at the waist.
"I think of my customer as someone who wears cool feminine dresses or huge baggy jeans and a tight top with clogs or Dr. Martens," she says. "It's a look that's feminine but tough."
The clothes, which sell for $26 to $60, are available at Nordstrom stores, Decades in Laguna Beach, Beach Access in Costa Mesa, Fred Segal in Los Angeles and Nanas in Santa Monica.
Dartez has literally grown up in the action sports industry. She worked at her family's surf shop in Clear Lake City, Tex., as a teen, and before she turned 20, she helped her mother co-represent the Southern region for Stussy.
She attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles for a year while working at pre-Ocean Pacific-owned Jimmy Z.
In 1990, she was lured away from Water Rags, a women's beachwear company in Laguna Beach, to Spot Sport. At the time, Dartez says, the four-year-old company focused on a unisex line of beach clothing that was becoming more fashion oriented with a denim line.
When several of her store buyers began asking for referrals for a cool women's line, Dartez encouraged Spot owner John Bernard to expand.
Spot Girl was born, and Bernard gave Dartez free rein on design.
The inaugural line, launched last September, featured 20 pieces for Spring '92. The collection has doubled in size, and sales are $1 million.
But Dartez wants to keep operations manageable. She says she has no intentions of growing into the $10-million business that the Spot Men division has become. "I'm a firm believer that we can make just as much money with lower volume and with less headaches," she says.
Dartez plans to limit growth even when the line hits overseas markets. A European licensee is currently researching the possibility to bring Spot Girl to the continent by next Spring.
"I want to keep this small," she says, "keep the appeal that you can't find this on every street corner."