NEW YORK—Designer Jennifer Bawden isn’t letting a soft economy or retailers’ limited interest in fringe resources slow her down. For nearly three years, she’s been taking steps leading to the launch of a full-scale evening dress business, and at 5 p.m. on April 17 she’ll present her first fashion show with the Next Generation of Apparel Designers. It’s at the Laura Belle restaurant here.

Bawden said this marks her third fall season. Her volume was just under $250,000. Until the holiday season, her dresses were exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman. For spring, she has developed a client base of about 10 retailers, including Nordstrom, Fred Haymen Beverly Hills and I. Magnin.

“My goal for this year is to get into about 30 good stores,” Bawden said. 

She got a boost from two consumer magazines, as her dresses appeared on the covers of last November’s Cosmopolitan and the December New Woman.

The collection ranges from $550 to $1,200, wholesale. Most of the fabrics are silk chiffon and crepe. Some dresses feature elaborate beading, tapestry work and laces.

Bawden grew up in Toronto and started her designing career with active outerwear, while she competed in freestyle, ballet and downhill skiing events in Canada and Europe. She switched her focus to evening wear about three years ago.