ANALYST: NINE '96 TRENDS WILL LEAD TOWARD CLEARER FASHION DIRECTION

Byline: Lisa Arbetter

NEW YORK--"Fashion is in a very strange moment." That was the word from Li Edelkoort, president of Trend Union, the fashion forecasting service, on the recent showings.
Edelkoort, who presented her take on fall-winter 1996 trends--fabrics and fashion--during a recent discussion at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said people seem panicked and directionless.
"We feel this is a moment of transition," said Edelkoort, who expects that by this time next year, fashion's direction will be much clearer.
About 350 attended Edelkoort's 45-minute audiovisual presentation highlighting nine titled trend stories that she predicted will put fashion back on track.
The most notable trends were toward heavier fabrics, more color and more drama, although light fabrics and muted colors will also be strong. Here, a look at the stories as Edelkoort presented them:
Enraptured Beings focuses on lightness. Edelkoort expects to see a lot of papery fabrics and nonwovens used this time next year. She explained that compactness in knits will be important and that even woven fabrics will be brushed to disguise the weave. Fine padding also will figure prominently in both outerwear and for smaller pieces such as dresses and T-shirts. Irregular dying will be used to give clothing a cloudy look, and colors will be pale and muted.
Computer Optics highlights the use of synthetic materials. Edelkoort predicted they will move out the realm of the hip and become thought of for basics. "Rubber will enter probably every ready-to-wear collection in the world," she said, adding that shine will continue to be important. Essence of Design, Edelkoort said, is a movement in which some clothes will take their shape inspiration from vases, with smaller tops and fuller bottoms. Colors will be more sophisticated and muted, such as celadon blues and greens, and some fabrics will include discreet decoration. Knits, jersey and tweed fabrics will get heavier to accommodate tailoring. Outfits will combine wet, shiny looks with dry, tweedy ones. "Dryness will be the next important thing," she said.
Heavenly Bodies features skin and flower colors--oranges, corals and violets.
"We want to be immersed in color," she explained. Fabrics will be fluffy and airy, and silk will figure prominently. She also predicts that floral prints will continue to be popular, but only if the flowers get larger. "We don't want to see any more small flowers," she said, adding that flowers will also influence the shape of clothing as well as the weight and feel of the fabrics.
Compact Constructions spotlights heavier fabrics and monochromatic harmonies. Dark colors, such as black, dark brown, dark blue and aubergine, will be big. Clothing will take up more space, with features extending further from the body.
Children's Games takes monochromatic dressing a step further, she predicted, dressing a woman from head to toe in bright clothing cut into exaggerated, cartoon-inspired shapes. "We want the color to drip from our fingers," she said. Edelkoort expects a heavy dose of green, maybe even an overdose. Big buttons and zips will also be important.
Spaghetti Western, a collection of western looks, will not be a huge focus, but will be felt in certain items that give lift to a wardrobe, such as a leather jacket. She also expects gangster looks to continue.
Pattern Panic, highlighting outrageous mixtures of patterns--at least five per outfit. Edel-koort said this pattern mixing will not be pervasive; it will be limited to funkier, hipper clothes.
Crazy Desires, the last trend Edelkoort discussed, features more decorative clothing. She predicts that designers and consumers want more theatrical, even surreal, clothing. She expects darker velvets and home furnishing jacquards to be prominent. This look will be highly accessorized and quite dramatic, so its biggest influence will be in the eveningwear market. "It comes from our desire to be eccentric," she said. "We want to play the fashion game again."

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