NEW YORK — The retail forecast might not look too bright for fall and holiday, but moderate and better sportswear firms are banking on new, sometimes unexpected twists on classic looks to grab the sales.

"The overall trends are hitting the mass market much faster, and designers and marketers are having to respond much quicker to get the styles and products into the stores," said Kathy Bradley-Riley, merchandise manager for sportswear at The Doneger Group, the large New York-based buying office. "There’s not a lot of basics and everything has a fashion twist with a lot of fabric and detail interest."

Companies from Sag Harbor to Liz Claiborne touted a mixing of masculine fabrics and styles with feminine items as a top trend, as well as a return to black.

While fall’s fashion trends might feature a lot of new looks, its colors will harken back to tradition, with warm and comforting autumn shades, said Haysun Hahn, director of the trend forecasting service Futuremode, based here.

"Traditional shades of browns mixed with deep purples and copper reds [will be prevalent],"Hahn said. "As we mix the staples of denim with navy and petrol, it is clear that the safest and the most popular color in the U.S.A. is blue."

For holiday, she said colors will symbolize a sense of optimism.

"The purples are lighter, even lilacs, [and there will be] coppery oranges that complement the earthier ranges of sand and water," she added.

Here’s what a selection of vendors touted as the top fall and holiday trends:

l At Tommy Hilfiger, key looks are expected to include wool flannel cargo pants, cropped fisherman sweaters, peacoats and denim and leather kilts. Other top performers should be denim in lighter weights and new washes, and woven shirts with feminine details, such as shirring, corseting and pintucking.

"It’s all about newness in fabrics and reinventing classics in cool, casual and sophisticated ways," said Christa Michalaros, president of women’s at Hilfiger. "For instance, we’re treating nondenim fabrics like denim."

l Sigrid Olsen, designer of her namesake line, said ethnic patterning will be important this fall."I’ve got more embellishment and I have a lot of black, which is making a strong comeback," Olsen said. Contrary to what many are saying about women preferring casual clothes, Olsen said they are dressing up again. "Even for work, they’re dressing up a bit more and want a combination of dressing that includes more professional workwear, but also keeping the comfort factor."

l With the chilly weather comes the need for warmer clothing, and that’s why sweaters and all variations of them are expected to perform well across all divisions at Liz Claiborne, in particular within the moderate brands Villager, Russ and Crazy Horse, said Anne Cashill, director of corporate design and merchandising.

"Sweaters are always one of the best-performing classifications for this time period and they are going to be huge," Cashill said. "There’s also a great variety of crocheted sweaters, even done with ruffles, and done in a variety of ways."

Denim is also expected to be a top trend overall, Cashill said, because it has been so upgraded.

"It will get more cleaned up because the customer is looking for a more classic look," she said. "The biggest message is in classic styling, with an emphasis on beautiful fabrics with lots of details, such as a lace-up pant, coats and jackets in longer lengths, and special styling like Mandarin jackets and military detailing."

An equestrian influence will prevail at the moderate brands First Issue and Axcess, she said, with suede and knit combinations and tweed yarns and corduroy lending an English countryside feel.

l A variety of looks, from luxurious fabrics to feminine detailing and sporty comfort suede, are among the top trends for holiday at City DKNY, said Ninette Ricca, president. She also touted silks, velvets, intricate detailing, ruching, lace insets, ruffles and hook-and-eye closures as characteristic of the season.

There’s a "strong mix of proportion stripes and tile prints and crocheted yarns, open and closed weaves," Ricca said. "Comfort in every delivery is key — we even have yoga pants."

l A Kellwood Co. spokeswoman said knitwear and men’s wear looks softened with ruffled blouses will be strong at Sag Harbor and Northern Isles."The knit dressing news is the continuation of soft, synthetic fabrics mixed with spandex to provide comfort and ease," the spokeswoman said. "Sweaters maintain their viability best when a variety of yarns is offered to fulfill consumers’ needs both seasonally and geographically."

l At Jones Apparel Group, Heather Pech, group president for Jones New York, Easy Spirit and Rena Rowan, said feminine and casual dressing will continue to be important, with an emphasis on plush fabrics, corduroy, velvet, velour and denim.

"The best orders have been for feminine and casual looks, along with knitwear and men’s wear–inspired looks," Pech said.

Likewise, Lynne Fish, president of Jones’ moderate sportswear, said styles with a luxe feel using embellishment or sueded or textured fabrics have been received well by retailers and are expected to perform this season.

"It’s all about a mix of patterns, prints and plaids," Fish said. "There’s two trends: softer career with feminine influences and then a resurgence back to casual. We have seen strong sell-throughs in the casual line.""

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