By  on May 10, 2005

Fabric's B Side
Like the song on the flip side of a 45 record that was rarely listened to, the reverse sides of fabrics usually have been ignored in fashion — until now.

As designers search for ways to set themselves apart in an ever-expanding global market, a fabric's B side is often proving to be the perfect solution, something that's unexpected and new.

Lela Rose actually began using the back sides of fabrics several seasons ago. "I love tapestries, but the front can sometimes look so heavy and home-furnishings-like," said the designer. "But on the back, the pattern is more blurred and obscure. We also use a lot of florals, and the back always looks more roughed up and not as cutesy."

At Rose's fall 2005 runway show, she showed both sides of a gray-and-gold floral jacquard. The more subtle front was used for a dress, while the glitzier back — which shows more of the gold threading — was made into a coat. And for spring 2006, the designer is using only the back side of a yellow-and-gold jacquard. "The front has so much chenille on it, which is great for a sofa, but not for clothing," Rose said. "It was too fancy, too New York doyenne of society. The back has more metallic in it and bright orange colors that you don't get on the front."

Francisco Costa, creative director of Calvin Klein, often prefers the reverse of fabrics because it can look more "fresh" than the front and offer something completely different. "So often, the front is so precious," Costa said. "The back is more interesting in that it gives you a different perspective."

For Klein's resort collection, Costa was inspired by Chitao fabrics, which are large-scale floral prints traditional in the northeast part of Brazil, the designer's homeland. "The prints are wild-looking — brightly colored and very kitsch," he said. "They're almost tacky, in a way, but fun and naive." Costa designed a more subtle fabric, featuring midtones in place of the brights. And by using the reverse side, the look appears more washed with even lighter colors. Said Costa: "It's a more refined, more Calvin way to present the look."

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