By and  on March 14, 2005

NEW YORK — The distance from the runway to the main floor is getting shorter.

For their fall lines that were shown last week, accessories vendors took cues from the Russian looks and use of upholstery fabrics and velvet seen during the designer collections over the last six weeks in New York, Milan and Paris.

Richly hued paisley patterns appeared across categories. Tassels dangled off handbags, as well as earrings and necklaces, and metallic leathers, a strong trend for spring, are continuing in full force for fall.

But trends are not the only thing trickling down onto the main floor. These days, big-name designer firms such as Michael Kors and Calvin Klein are launching better accessories collections and some companies are feeling the effects.

“It’s definitely taken up floor space,” said Robert Rokoff, design director at Maxx, adding that retailers are usually quicker to give well-known brands ample room on the floor.

Helen Welsh, who designs hats, bags and scarves, has been more aggressively marketing her brand to establish a stronger reputation for the consumer.

“Any new brand is competition for me,” she said. “The cream’s going to rise to the top.”

Another key issue causing problems for many firms is the weakness of the dollar against the euro. Most companies manufacture in Asia, but source leathers and other materials from Europe.

For a while, many firms were absorbing the extra cost. But now some are realizing they can’t continue to do so.

Maxx jumped its opening retail price to $250 from $150. Its fall collection revolved around three main colors: black, dark brown and wine. Big hobo silhouettes and structured book-bag styles featured brushed gold hardware. The turn-lock group included small shoulder purses in a rich crushed velvet, much like that used in skirts and coats on the runway.

“Materials have to be more classic, but the hardware or the treatment can be more of the moment,” Rokoff said.

Helen Welsh also increased prices on her handbags up to a maximum of $350 retail; they used to top out at $300. She showed large two-tone shoppers with zippers inspired by Balenciaga’s popular Lariat bag. Upholstery fabric popped up on her signature East-West bag with leather trim and similar patterns appeared on her scarves.Metallic leathers in blue, burgundy and olive were also a significant part of her bag line, as well as at designer Kathy van Zeeland.

“Any place I use metallics, retailers are loving,” van Zeeland said. “And we’re selling metallics really well at retail right now.”

Shine played into scarves as well. Long skinny styles remain among the top-selling looks. For fall, Echo and Betsey Johnson, which is licensed by Cejon Accessories, both showed heavily sequined and beaded scarves.

Equestrian details were popular as hardware on bags and watches, too. AK, Anne Klein’s better watch line licensed to E. Gluck, included a style with a colored leather strap connected to the silver dial with horse bits.

Russian influences and the use of rich velvets were another strong trend. In that mood, Nine West, a division of Jones Apparel Group, offered a printed paisley velvet hobo with a braided handle.

Jewelry designer RJ Graziano put tassels on his necklaces and earrings. Gold filigree beads were also prominent. For fall, Graziano brought back velvet ribbon chokers with jeweled pendants and charms, as well.

“We’re continuing the charm looks, except this time more Victorian,” Graziano said. “These are not so sparkly, these are more antique-like and have a little more history.”

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