NEW YORK — Accessories are cleaning up their designs and pricing for fall.According to buyers, designers are beginning to set aside the more-is-more aesthetic for cleaner lines and a purist focus on luxe materials.As previously reported by WWD, a rise of midpriced accessories has set a new paradigm in Millennials’ consumption of shoes and bags. This season, buyers noticed luxury brands offering more accessibly priced designs — the result, they say, of competition from the contemporary market.Standout brands for the season included Balenciaga, Loewe, Givenchy, The Row and Altuzarra, buyers said.“We saw maximalism go more into the pre-collection. For runway, it cleaned up a little,” said Cassie Smart, buying manager for accessories at Matchesfashion.com.“We still have plenty of appliqué, but I think we are starting to see some cleaner designs — a ‘let’s get serious again’ tone,” agreed Linda Fargo, Bergdorf Goodman's senior vice president for fashion and store presentation.“I would say I was initially a little concerned: ‘Are we going to have enough momentum in these trends?’ But I feel good about it. I think there is enough — we’ve got covered legs, I think all the boots are going to be fantastic, all the surfaces between velvet and fur detailing are really going to carry the season,” Fargo added. “I think the shoes kind of stole center stage a bit to the bags. I thought it was interesting — I didn’t find a single [bag] silhouette that was the most newsy."[caption id="attachment_10830740" align="aligncenter" width="838"] Backstage at Loewe RTW Fall 2017[/caption]For shoes, stiletto styles at Balenciaga, slouch boots at Isabel Marant and Saint Laurent and lace-up combat boots at Altuzarra and The Row topped buyers’ orders.Lisa Aiken, fashion director at Net-a-porter, said: “It’s the season of the boot — I’ve never seen quite as many boot options. Red and white in footwear are the two biggest callouts. I’m usually less into talking about color stories, but these are particularly important.”Fargo felt similarly about the season’s color story. “The must-have of the season is the white bootie. Dries has a great one with a softer toe, Céline’s is open and gape-y, the ankle boot at Tabitha [Simmons] was super.”Stilettos made a comeback, following seasons of sneakers and flats. “This season sort of goes back to power dressing — giving women that extra kick. I think the stiletto is pretty; it’s feminine, very empowering,” said Saks Fifth Avenue senior vice president, fashion director, Roopal Patel.But according to Patel, stilettos are not being proposed as the sole shoe du jour for women’s lives. “I think it’s the idea of offering more styles for consumers when they come in [to stores]. What’s happened is a shift in the marketplace — designers are really designing for customers’ lifestyles. Now they’re thinking — she needs a casual sneaker, she needs a flat, needs a pumps, boots, evening. I think designers worked very hard and diligently to cater to the customer’s lifestyle and all the shoes they need in their wardrobe.”In bags, designers looked to make a statement on the runways with oversize styles. Céline, Chanel, Sacai, Stella McCartney and others sent designs down their runways — but buyers did not take to the concept.[caption id="attachment_10835119" align="aligncenter" width="826"] Everything was supersized at Balenciaga: the puffers, the volumes and especially the bags.[/caption]“I’ve got to be honest, it’s a very niche trend,” Aiken said of the oversize sacks. “I remember seven or eight years ago everyone carrying oversize bags, it made you look skinnier. Are we going back to that? I’m not so sure — it’s a very directional [trend] and over a quarter of our [bag sales right now] are from mini sizes.”Jennifer Cuvillier, fashion director at Le Bon Marché in Paris, agreed that the oversize bags are not a commercial boon but noted that designers did offer smaller versions in their showrooms.“We saw a lot of maxi bags on the runway. But it was almost not sold in the showroom, at the end the classic sizing and mini size are still something very strong,” she said.For fall, Le Bon Marché will “focus on velvet for shoes and bags, plain or printed tapestry. Fur for bags is something new, fur in the handle or on shoes.” Cuvillier also enjoyed the mirrored silver detailing seen on accessories at brands like Chanel and Saint Laurent.[caption id="attachment_10853400" align="aligncenter" width="857"] Boot Details at Saint Laurent RTW Fall 2017[/caption]Given the tough retail climate for fashion, buyers noted new pricing structures at their showroom visits.“The runway is becoming a lot more accessible than it used to be,” Smart said. “The best one in terms of fashion credential is Balenciaga, all the sock boots and the pumps are retailing for under 1,000 pounds [about $1,200]. Pricing at big luxury brands is starting to open up. They are offering new price points to attract a more aspirational client."Aiken agreed, noting: “I think designers are waking up to the fact that they have competition in the contemporary arena. In terms of contemporary bags, we are discovering brands that put design at the forefront: Simon Miller, Alexander Wang. They are 300 to 500 pounds [$360 to $600] retail. So designer levels are now competing more with entry-level price points than ever before.”Brands like Balenciaga, Chloé and Loewe, buyers said, are pioneering the under-$1,200 offering.
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