By  on July 27, 2005

NEW YORK — From Seventies disco to Nineties minimalism, every decade has its defining fashions. How the first decade of the 21st century will be remembered has not been decided, though.

David Wolfe, a creative director at the Doneger Group, said fall 2006 may become the season of departure after years of retrospective influences, bright colors and a more-is-more mantra in fashion. Fashion will take a turn toward a more somber mood, from neutral colors to "low-profile luxury" fabrics and an overall silhouette of "deluxe minimalism."

Wolfe outlined his theory of a seismic shift in a trend forecast presentation titled "The Big Picture — Fall '06," held at Doneger Group's Seventh Avenue offices on Tuesday.

"It's a very important season for several reasons," said Wolfe, explaining that the middle of a decade typically yields the look that is to define the entire decade. "Are we there yet? The change that is about to happen is one of those benchmarks in fashion."

Wolfe said fashion is about to undergo a major mood change. Instead of youth-steered trends, a more sophisticated, age-appropriate way of dressing will prevail and replace the sexier, more flesh-exposing look.

"The youth market has become more of a subculture," he said. "Now you can wear grown-up clothes and still be in fashion."

To that end, fashion's "vulgar and violent" shock methods will give way to more classy and classic tactics of presenting and promoting fashion, from classic separates such as cropped jackets and fuller skirt to suits, for which he noted a "surprising comeback" recently.

"Shock is not new because it has been around for so long," Wolfe said, recalling how in 1976, he saw his first punk on the King's Road in London, not realizing the look would last for so long.

The flesh exposure suggested by designers and embraced by celebrities is also on the wane. Wolfe pointed to the back as the new erogenous zone for the next few seasons and this will eventually force low waistlines to rise again.

"Let's wave goodbye to Paris Hilton," Wolfe said. "The woman waiting in the wings is the kind of woman that we saw in Hitchcock films."Wolfe praised Chanel's fall couture collection as an indicator of fashion. It was presented in Paris earlier this month and opened with 50 models in black coats that opened to outfits that matched the coat linings.

"The idea of coordinated ensemble dressing is a sign of the times," Wolfe said.

As for colors, the future looks set to be ruled by more subtle tones. After seasons of brights, neutrals combined for a richer effect and muted metallics will likely dominate. Black will gain in importance again, though it has to be treated differently with new materials and surface textures.

"The color comeback is a fait accompli," he said.

Denim remains a hot area, particularly at the premium end, but Wolfe said the trend won't last and is likely to be replaced by luxury fabrics, lace and elegant, subtle prints.

"Denim's decline has got to happen," he said. "A lot of people with closets full of premium denim will look for low-key luxury fabrics ... Texture will add an important dimension."

All this suggests a return to minimalism. Wolfe said fashion is about to tone down but won't return to the drab, heroin-chic aesthetic that defined much of the Nineties. Pointing to a grommeted coat from Prada's fall collection, Wolfe noted that studs, grommets and muted stones are a signal that the glitter and excess days are numbered. Wolfe amusingly highlighted this point with images of his overstyled and chintzy Connecticut home.

"I decorated it when I reacted to minimalism 15 years ago," he said. "It's for sale now."

So what will fashion's future hold? Wolfe explained that fashion usually "goes where the money is," which explains the recent fascinations with Russia and its "Doctor Zhivago" chic, and China, which Wolfe said will be a key factor in future consumption.

Retro, said Wolfe, will eventually be replaced by modernism, which will be kicked off with references to the way designers envisioned the future in the Sixties. If it seems like a paradox, that's because it is. But then, that's fashion.

"Fall '06 will be the start of the future," Wolfe said. "What will it bring? Let's hope it's something exciting and new."

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