By  on February 2, 2008

It's no secret that business is, well, tough. Of course, luxury customers aren't as susceptible to downturns in the economy as other shoppers, but they have to fill their Mercedes SUV gas tanks, too.

If there's one thing that jump-starts buying, it's new silhouettes that make whatever's in a woman's closet look so last year. It's no surprise, then, that retailers are dreaming about change in bold, living color. They want to see structured dresses, pencil skirts and fuller pants, the yin to yesterday's yang of baby-doll dresses, balloon-hem skirts and skinny jeans.

Clearly, stores will be writing orders with extra sharp pencils this season. Bergdorf Goodman fashion director Linda Fargo said she'll be looking for "trends compelling enough to inspire us to shop even in a tightening economy," while Julie Gilhart, vice president of fashion merchandising at Barneys New York, said she'll only be buying "great merchandise" and "the best of the best."

"It's a really hard economy," said Nevena Borissova, owner of the Curve boutiques in Los Angeles and New York. But Lori Hirshleifer, vice president of Hirshleifer's at the Americana Manhasset in Manhasset, N.Y., will not let the grim economy get her down: "I'm optimistic. I refuse to allow myself to feel like this."

Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president of designer merchandising, Nordstrom:

I hope to see: Things that I'm not expecting to see. I want to be surprised. I'm feeling that there will be more sportswear and more separates, and pants will be getting fuller. With fuller pants, I like them skinny at the top and fuller from the knee down. Skirts are going to be more important, but we'll see more pencil skirts, fewer bubble skirts. There will be lots of knitwear with blazers being more knit than structured. The dress is going to be important, but in the pre-collection market, it didn't seem to be as predominant a trend as it had been.

Looking forward to:
The big buzz this week is going to surround Halston; Jonathan Saunders showing in New York, and Rodarte. Rodarte has become a global strength. They're young designers and deserve everyone's support. We're also supporting Chris Benz.

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus:

I expect to see: The continuation of color and print; more body-conscious shapes, especially in dresses, and jackets with shoulder interest such as strong and sharp or rounded shoulders. Skirts will be important. Transitional weight fabrics are important to the Neiman Marcus customer and we are focused on fabrics and weights that speak to her lifestyle.

Looking forward to: The reintroduction of Halston, and welcoming Jonathan Saunders to the New York catwalks.

Julie Gilhart, vice president of fashion merchandising at Barneys New York:

I hope to see: Total creativity and great design. I would like to see designers not play it safe, but push the envelope in terms of presentation and the clothes. It could be a moment of great change, so I hope to see it begin to happen in New York.

Looking forward to: Shipley & Halmos' first presentation and Edun's Nocturne presentation. Narciso Rodriguez, Proenza Schouler and Rodarte had standout collections last [season]. I think we will see that trend being repeated.

People are buzzing about: Cute girl designers, such as Cate Holstein, are showing for the first time. Also, Lyell, Wayne and Liz McLean. Also, Alexander Wang's and Loden Dager's growing energy and L'Wren Scott's Purple Haze collection.

Go away: Marc Jacobs being late. I am channeling support to him to be on time.

Open-to-buy: Our open-to-buy is to only buy great merchandise. It's a time to really focus on what is necessary. To have a lot of everything is not cool, but to have only the best of the best is modern.

Michael Fink, vice president and women's fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue:

I hope to see: A lot of 'snap', some pizzazz, emotion! If we go through another gray-black season, I'm going to scream.

I expect to see: Tailoring that is more relaxed than last fall's polished look, but still put together. I'm obsessed with all of the chunkier knit stitches in lightweight yarns that I've been seeing — great layering options. Fearless, individual style with prints, luscious fabrics and bold jewelry layers.

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