That was the verdict from retail executives and fashion directors on the spring collections, which ended here Thursday. Designers revisited many of last spring’s greatest hits, punching them up with bright colors and a profusion of prints. The bottom line is that it will sell — a key point in these uncertain economic times.
“New York went safe, but that’s what we need to drive business in an economy that’s a big question mark,” said Barbara Atkin, vice president of fashion direction at Holt Renfrew. “I would have liked to see a little more pushing of the envelope at the designer end, but I don’t think this is the time to show clothes that are so new. When you start to change things too drastically, you scare the customer. It was fine. It wasn’t breathtaking.”
Still, there was a certain amount of reinvention, if not sheer newness.
For spring, the jacket means business — literally. “We believe the jacket is coming on strong, and it’s not the traditional black blazer,” said Frank Doroff, vice chairman of Bloomingdale’s. “It’s been reinterpreted in prints. Olivier Theyskens’ Theyskens’ Theory must have had 25 new jackets in the collection. There are sporty versions like the summer parka. This could spawn a new business. There’s been such a preponderance of dresses, it’s good for us if sportswear comes back.”
Kelly Golden, owner of specialty store Neapolitan Collection of Winnetka, Ill., said the idea of a parka or anorak over a cocktail dress or evening gown “is a new fresh update that will give my clients a reason to buy. It’s probably something that’s not in their closets.” And consumers need reasons to buy apparel these days.
“The customer has become very savvy,” said Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus. “It’s about finding very special things. She’ll absolutely pay the price for very special things. She doesn’t want anything she already has in her wardrobe.”
Jim Gold, president of specialty retail at The Neiman Marcus Group, said while consumers are responding to unique pieces, they are still cognizant of prices. “The price-value relationship is critical,” Gold said. “Whether it is a $250 item or a $3,500 item, the price must be justified by the quality, exclusivity and design.”
“I don’t know that our customer comes in to the store looking at price, but it has to be worth it,” said Susan Davidson, chief executive officer of Scoop. “When the stock market has a tough day, customers hold back a little bit. I do think that they’re a little more cautious.”
Here’s what else retailers had to say about the spring collections:
Daniella Vitale, chief merchant and executive vice president of Barneys New York: Trends: Perforation, handled in extremely sophisticated ways — sporty at Alexander Wang and decorative at Derek Lam. An abundance of sweaters, reflecting the need for this category going into summer. Sound off: I continue to be concerned that consumers are buying closer to need. Collections should reflect these changes. Seasons shouldn’t stifle creativity. A consumer should be encouraged to buy an incredible knit in January because she knows she can wear it right away instead of seeing 20 varieties of shorts she knows she won’t need for months.
Liz Rodbell, executive vice president of merchandising at Lord & Taylor: Trends: Color, the athletic influence and prints, from Michael Kors’ “Out of Africa,” Donna Karan’s Haiti and Mara Hoffman’s Mexican-influenced blanket patterns. Rationale: We’re picking what we love, but making sure it makes sense. If consumers are going to pay more for an item, they want it to have the right components.
Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president, designer merchandising, Nordstrom: Top collections: Jason Wu, Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Rodarte. Trends: Over-the-top prints, femininity and strong color. Ones to watch: Prabal Gurung this season proved himself with exquisite fabrics and gorgeous prints.
Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue: Top collections: Oscar de la Renta, Derek Lam, Diane von Furstenberg, Marchesa, Theyskens’ Theory, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Rag & Bone, Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs. Trends: Color, urban sport with perforated mesh fabrics, vests, hooded jackets, asymmetric skirts with drawstring details, racer-back tanks and scuba inspirations. Prints in black-and-white and color-blocked effects and peplums.
Linda Fargo, senior vice president fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman: Trends: Bright, citrus flavored colors, iced pastels, unexpected color-blocked mixes. The floras and far-flung prints of Africa, Polynesia and bird motifs, sport references, leather items and special eyelet fabrics. Ones to watch: Jason Wu, Joseph Altuzarra, Thakoon, The Row, Rodarte and Cushnie et Ochs. Top collections: Helmut Lang, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Rag & Bone, Alexander Wang, Rachel Zoe, Kelly Wearstler, Diane von Furstenberg, Theyskens’ Theory, Proenza Schouler and Naeem Khan.
Nicole Fischelis, Macy’s group vice president and fashion director: Trends: Prints from Forties-influenced prints to giant or exploded florals, colorblocking, piping and striping. Athletic outerwear, the jacket in fabulous new colors. New wrinkles for dresses such as asymmetry, body-hugging and the new transparency. New fabric mélanges with woven materials mixed with knits. Top collections: Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Prabal Gurung, Edun, Derek Lam, Doo.ri, Alexander Wang, Rachel Roy, Diane von Furstenberg with new creative director Yvan Mispelaere and BCBG Max Azria.
Ken Downing, Neiman Marcus: Top collections: Joseph Altuzarra, The Row, Derek Lam, Marc Jacobs, Theyskens’ Theory, Proenza Schouler, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Alexander Wang and Victoria Beckham. Ones to watch: I like the direction of Wes Gordon. We’ve done a few trunk shows with him and the collection is moving forward in a very positive way. Trends: Bountiful color and prints, scuba or sport references with hooded poncho and anoraks, the closer-cut jacket, bold and colorful pants and printed pants. Navy as a neutral and navy played against strong color and neon as a contrast.
Barbara Atkin, Holt Renfrew: Top collections: Altuzarra, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Zero Maria Cornejo, Michael Kors, Victoria Beckham, Rag & Bone, Alexander Wang, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Rachel Zoe. Trends: We know our customer is starting to embrace color. Crazy color was the new spin. The below-the-knee dress is a new silhouette, the wide long fluid or pleated palazzo pant has a retro Hollywood glamour. Sound off: On the runway there’s always the category of tailoring, but we didn’t see much of that. We hope to see it in the showroom.