LOS ANGELES--Three hot young fashion accessories designers here are testing the theory that bigger is better. They're expanding into contemporary sportswear with fall and holiday offerings ranging from sweater knits to leather separates. Fred Hasson, originally a hat designer, now makes natty knitwear. Carrie Forbes, a designer of crochet handbags, is introducing forward leather garments with crochet trim. And Tony Graham, a sportswear maker turned belt and bag manufacturer, is making a comeback in leather and suede, the materials he knows best. Here, WWD talks with designers with reputations in accessories, now motivated to do more. FRED HASSON "I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York for fashion design," recalled Fred Hasson. "But it takes less money to start a hat business than to start a clothing business and I had a few ideas about using strips of ribbons. So I made up a few hats." Hasson showed the samples to Fred Segal buyers here who promptly gave him his first order and a big dose of encouragement. From the end of 1987 to the beginning of 1992, Hasson turned out fashionable head wear, with prices up to $225 wholesale, under the Fred Hasson label. After achieving some success, his ambition grew. He tossed his hats aside to launch a knitwear business bearing his name. In its second year now, the line is expected to gross $3.5 million. At $19 to $45 wholesale, the collection of mostly cotton goods can be found at Bloomingdale's, Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman in New York, and at Nordstrom, I. Magnin and Fred Segal in Los Angeles. For late fall and holiday, Hasson also introduced some styles in chenille, mohair, rayon bouclÄ, cashmere and alpaca at up to $75 wholesale. Bodies range from cropped cardigans and baby T-shirt styles to oversized sweaters, vests, skating skirts and A-line dresses. Design details include lettuce edging, pleating, ribbing and cable stitching. "I merchandised my hats as collections, never as items, and I approach sweaters the same way," he said. "I offer about 25 styles seasonally in different color stories." Hasson said his hats were always colorful and so are the yarns he selects for his clothes. He chose shades of lime green, brown, burnt orange and navy for his Fall II deliveries. "I love crazy colors," he added. For an interview, he was dressed in multi-hued tie-dyed clothes and rainbow-striped socks, Eventually, he plans to add coordinating woven bottoms to the collection and one of his old specialties, knit hats. CARRIE FORBES After five years designing handbags, "I got burned out," said Carrie Forbes. She started her career creating fabric bags, then moved into crochet bags, all bearing her own label. Forbes eased slowly into the garment business, first with crochet scarves for several seasons before diving in with an eponymous clothing line. "My New York sales representatives at Showroom Seven really pushed me," she said. This fall, her first apparel items--which are in suede, leather, wool, mohair and heavy-rib knit cotton with her signature crochet trim--will hit certain stores, among them some Barneys New York units. She limited her first group to 15 styles. Items at $45 to $240 wholesale include long and short A-line wrap skirts, a V-neck A-line dress, vests in three lengths, drawstring pants, a trench-style jacket, a rib knit tank top and a halter top. "I like classic, structured shapes in clothing," Forbes said. "It's the same taste I have in handbags." She avoided loud colors, opting for black, brown, gray, navy and ivory. She projected first-year sales for the clothing division at $500,000, compared to a projected $2 million in sales for the handbag division this year.TONY GRAHAM Tony Graham, owner and a designer of Jenny & The Boys, a $2 million contemporary leather belt and handbag company here, is back in the apparel business after a five-year hiatus. He was an owner of T.J. Boys, a defunct leather clothing company. Graham began diversifying his accessories line by introducing 10 leather vests last holiday. "Vests were the obvious starting place," he said. "They are more than just a trend. They are perfect for any wardrobe and can be used to dress up a casual ensemble or dress down a more sophisticated look." This fall, Graham offers three apparel groups with a dozen styles each, in shearling, suede and leather. Beefy cotton and Lycra knits round out his clothing collection. Items, at $149 to $210 wholesale, include sleeveless jackets, short A-line skirts, pants, fitted dresses and leather-trimmed sweaters. Handcarved coconut and horn buttons as well as sterling silver hardware create a variety of looks ranging from motorcycle chic to rustic. Graham expects the clothing division to gross $500,000 its first year. Madelleine Gallay on Sunset Boulevard here, Body in Encino, Calif., Bullock's Beverly Center and I. Magnin in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, Calif. carry the line. "Leather and textiles are paramount to inspiration of shape," Graham said, adding that while he uses similar materials for clothing and accessories, he doesn't design them to coordinate.
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