NEW YORK -- Banking on brighter colors, an infusion of hot trends such as chenille and mohair items and high interest in tunic shapes, makers of moderate and better-price sportswear say they're looking for an upbeat holiday season.

Nevertheless, while some firms are expecting increases in excess of 10 percent, others are more reserved in their projections, pointing to the stubborn economic environment.

"Interest in texture continues," said Ellen Daniel, merchandise director of the SK & Co.'s Jessica Tierney line, a division of Bonaventure Textiles USA, which has been revamped for fall. Daniel is expecting peaked interest in knitwear items, such as color-block chenille and mohair sweaters. Other key looks include embroidered wool crepe tunics over slim-leg pants.

"We expect some strong increases for holiday based on enthusiasm from retailers regarding the new direction we are taking," she noted. "But the economic climate is still tough."

Robert Stock Ltd.'s holiday line features mainly textured silk, most of it crinkled and puckered. "We are doing everything that has surface interest," said Danielle Anduze, design director for the company. One key area is expected to be brightly colored tunics with mandarin collars combined with palazzo pants.

Regina Porter, a better-price sportswear designer, noted that pleated velvet pants and jackets, worn with double silk organza blouses, will be a hot look for holiday. In addition, Porter's jungle leopard print group, which includes full pants with tunics, should also be strong sellers.

"We've had a few consecutive flat seasons, but I think starting with holiday sales will be up," she said. "Women have been hesitant about buying because of lack of color. But there are a lot of trends happening."

Kerrie Cline Tunick, design director at Norton McNaughton Inc., believes the firm's staple holiday item -- white rayon and acetate blouses embellished with lace and black beaded wool crepe jackets -- will be top sellers. She said the sportswear collection has been primarily black, but this year Norton McNaughton introduced colors such as ruby red and emerald green in brocades used as trim on jackets and pants.

J. McLaughlin, a division of Sanyo Fashion House Inc., is banking on the kilt as a hot holiday item."We're making the kilt applicable to holiday," said design director Kevin McLaughlin, who expects sales increases of up to 25 percent for the season. He said jewel-tone silk taffeta is a key fabric when combined with ornamented buttons.

McLaughlin also expects that lace shells, shown with black skinny synthetic polyester pleated trousers, will be important.

Liz Claiborne's holiday show, held last month in the company's showroom, featured plenty of preppy looks, including Black Watch plaid kilts and tweed plaid blazers. Knitwear, including chenille crop turtleneck sweaters and bouclÄ turtleneck tunics, as well as fake fur, which trimmed belted jackets and anoraks, were also heavily featured.

Linda Larsen German, president of the sportswear division, noted that other hot looks for holiday include soft silk dressing -- including palazzo pants and tunics -- and short skirts. She added that day-to-dinner dressing, including brightly colored silk suits, pastel wool crepe suits and black beaded polyester and cotton suits, will also be strong.

JH Collectibles is banking on a heightened consumer demand to dress like Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who died last month.

"I think this is a trend that will take off in the moderate-to-better market," noted Linda Ugenti, fashion director. "The average woman worshipped her, and we believe there is a great interest to buy clothes that are like Jackie O's. Our holiday collection will mark a return to elegance, and it's a tribute to Jackie."

JH Collectibles will offer four of what it calls "Jackie O" wool crepe outfits, including pale pink suits featuring short jackets with small collars; deep purple double-breasted jackets with wide lapels, and knee-length skirts; cardigan style jackets with short slim skirts, and short jackets with rolled collars shown with short wrap skirt. It is also offering full wool crepe pants, which can be worn with the double-breasted jacket.

While JH Collectibles officials expect these trends to drive sales, they still are cautious about their business.

"We are looking for only slight increases for holiday," said Bruce Ross, president and chief executive officer of the company. "We are still cautiously optimistic. The consumer is still not spending a lot of money."

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