BUYERS LOVE FRESH, FEMININE LOOKS FROM MILAN'S RUNWAYS
Byline: Sara Gay Forden
MILAN--American retailers shopping the designer collections that ended here Thursday raved about the freshly feminine women who came down the Milanese runways. The new looks--which ranged from fluttering fragile creatures to hard-driving bombshells--will give customers a reason to shop again after years of tailored, masculine silhouettes, buyers said. "We think it's going to be a good season," said Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus. "There are very good changes here. Women have nothing in their closets like what we have been seeing," she added. "We are expecting to raise our budget, depending on the designer, with medium-to-high single-digit increases," added Janet Gurwitch, Neiman's executive vice president. The buyers especially welcomed the coy, flirtatious mood the usually serious Giorgio Armani gave his collection, which was presented Wednesday night in his Via Borgonuovo theater, followed by a huge bash in his new palazzo up the street to celebrate the designer's 20 years in the business. "Armani's was the surprise collection of the season," said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale's. "In a season where everybody's pushing color, Giorgio drained color and gave us pure shape in the lightest-weight fabrics," he said. "It was womanly, for real women, not for little girls." Versace's new take on sexy dressing also went over well with the buyers, who particularly liked his curvy suits and provocative little dresses. "If there is any such thing as 'sexy-sophistication,' this is it," said Nicole Fischelis, Saks Fifth Avenue's vice president and fashion director. "This is a collection that was truly and perfectly executed," she added, noting that Gianni's Versus and Istante collections for younger customers were also strong. "They were sexy without vulgarity, full of shine and stretch items that will make this season, and all very affordable," Fischelis noted. At Dolce & Gabbana, the modern tuxedo looks, softened with lingerie tops underneath, as well as flirty little dresses, werepopular with the buying contingent. "I thought it was cleaned-up sex appeal," said Neiman's Kaner. Saks' Fischelis also liked the designers' new line for younger customers, D&G, which was shown in a trolley depot alongside rows of bright orange tram cars."It was fresh and fun and full of terrific items, such as clear vinyl tops and denim with rhinestones," Fischelis said. Prada, which sent out a spare and ladylike collection in simple solid colors, was also a hit, proving that the name once associated with bags and accessories is making its way big time into the world of designer apparel. "Prada has become one of the biggest influences," said Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks Fifth Avenue. "I loved the spareness and ultimate simplicity." Genny, with its Rebecca Moses design touch, also made a good impression on the buyers, who said the clean lines and pleasing color palette work well for the U.S. market. "Genny is doing very well for me," said Louise Mackenzie, vice president and general merchandise manager for Henri Bendel. "Week per week, it is one of my strongest performers." "This season, I am definitely going to go into the little suits and dress sets in all those light, pretty colors," she added. Mackenzie also liked Complice, which she buys for her trendier customers, and praised Alberta Ferretti's exquisite lineup of cocktail dresses for evening. Among other shows, the buyers said they liked Krizia's new ideas in knitwear, although some felt the collection was better seen in the showroom, where the fabrics could be appreciated. "I liked the print dresses and beige suits," said Bloomingdale's Ruttenstein. Many buyers also came out in strong support of Moschino and plan to continue to buy the collection, which will be carried forward by his design team even though Franco Moschino died last month.
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