By  on February 2, 2005

NEW YORK — Long skirts, slouchy pants, military jackets and fur-trimmed items are some of the early winners with stores shopping for pre-fall.

The timing of pre-fall, which typically opens in January, is becoming increasingly important for designers trying to get a jump on their competition. In an aggressive move, Oscar de la Renta opened its pre-fall collection on Dec. 15 — a month earlier than last year — to be more in sync with European designers, to try to improve deliveries and to have more time to sell more product at full-price, said Alex Bolen, de la Renta’s chief executive officer.

The company has seen a 35 to 40 percent increase in pre-fall orders in a variety of classifications, including blouses, long evening gowns, daytime suits and separates. In that regard, the growth has been consistent with the past year as the company has expanded the breadth of its collection, Bolen said.

Having seen pre-fall collections from de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and Donna Karan, Roopal Patel, women’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, said there will be “a much more sophisticated way of dressing for fall.” What that all means is there will be more longer jackets, such as barn and riding jackets trimmed with fur worn with midcalf-length skirts. Long and slouchy pants “look very fresh” after several seasons of cropped pants, Patel said.

There are also military touches such as epaulets and sterling silver details on a short double-breasted leather jacket. Embroidery and fur details hint at “a luxurious bohemian look or Jade Jagger influence that runs through some collections,” Patel said. In terms of the color palette, designers have taken a more straightforward and subdued approach with pale and charcoal gray, chocolate brown, cognac and ivory being the dominant shades.   

So far, so good, according to Neiman Marcus’ senior vice president and fashion director Joan Kaner, who has seen pre-fall from Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren. “What we’re seeing looks good and we’re excited about it.”

The Victorian-inspired combo of fitted jackets worn with longer skirts should be a key look, as well as wool jersey. Kaner also said she sees a return to a darker palette, such as lots of gray, black, dark blue and dark wine.

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