By  on September 27, 2005

PARIS — What's in store for fall 2006? That's what designers were determined to find out at Première Vision, where they zeroed in on subtle, sophisticated and toned-down looks.

Yigal Azrouël has little time for retrospection. After showing his spring collection in New York less than two weeks ago, he was off to Paris for Première Vision, in search of the fabrics that will define his fall 2006 collection. However, he hasn't completely forgotten about his spring lineup. "Fall will be an extension of what I did for spring," he said, "where the look was relaxed and less structured. It's very important for women to be comfortable in my clothes." Azrouël's spring collection was, in fact, a study in ease, where he showed more day looks than ever before. "Fall will be full of sportswear," he said, "with a focus on daytime dresses, as well as pants and skirts."

WWD got an inside look at Azrouël's design process by accompanying him and his director, Donata Minelli, to five of their appointments at the fabric fair. Key words throughout the morning included lightweight, subtle and sophisticated. "Personally, I don't get my inspiration from traveling as others do," the designer said. "My inspiration comes directly from fabrics."

RATTI: This Italian mill is known for its prints and novelty wovens. It's the overprinted iridescent taffetas, though, that caught Azrouël's eye. "They're so rich looking," he said. "I did taffetas for spring, so it's something that I want to continue." While the fabric is traditionally used for evening, Azrouël doesn't abide by such limitations. He said it all depends on what you do to the taffeta, and that developing fabrics with the mills is key. "I never use them as is, especially the novelties," he said. For the taffeta, he sees a "lighter, more washed version — something that's not so stiff. It would be great on a casual shirt dress." The fabric's floral design is featured in combinations such as brick red and copper; the latter is his favorite metallic for the season. His other picks for fall? Navy and olive. "I love the combination of the two," Azrouël said.SOLSTISS: For Azrouël, lace is always a favorite, so Solstiss, which specializes in lace, is a must-stop for him. "I never really like the newer developments, though," he said. "I prefer older laces, especially Chantilly — the look should always be light, never heavy." More modern silhouettes are the designer's way to bring the look up to date. "I would love to do an easy, slouchy shaped top in a heather-gray lace — the gray that's used for sweatshirts." Azrouël ends up picking mostly Chantilly styles, such as one in a mushroom tone that features delicate olive-green embroidery. Before we left, he made a note to contact the mill's New York representative, Laurence Jaillet, to peruse the company's archives when he's back at home.

MALHIA: For fall, this French mill, which is best known for elaborate crafty looks, is featuring tweeds and other wovens in unusual color combinations — often with playful appliqués. "For spring, I developed a white cotton and tulle fabric with them that I used on a dress," Azrouël said. "Much of what I select here is also about the color; their combinations are fantastic." In the end, he selected a tonal black jacquard — which he said is great to mix with navy, one of his favorite combinations. He also went for tweeds with embroidered details and a rustic-looking brown fabric with copper and wheat-colored sequins.

DONDI: When it comes to jersey, Azrouël gives Geoffrey Beene credit for inspiring him. "I just love the way he worked with the fabric," he said. "Mr. Beene had such an innovative and unconventional approach." It's no surprise, then, that jersey is an integral part of Azrouël's collections year-round. "For me, jersey is more of a feeling than a look," he said. "I like the idea, for instance, of using a luxurious sweatshirt-like jersey to translate my favorite sweatshirt for women." At Dondi, which only manufactures jersey, the designer picks just that: a wool and cotton jersey in sweatshirt gray.

RICCHERI: This Italian woven mill is another destination for custom creations, but Azrouël is also a fan of it because "they always deliver on time." His selections here include a slate gray cotton-and-cashmere woven with a technical feel, as well as a beautiful double-faced fabric that is navy silk on one side and black wool on the other. "What I like most about Riccheri is how finely woven their fabrics are," the designer said. "The quality is excellent and they're also a main resource for double-faced fabrics, which I love and do a lot of."SARTI: The last stop of the morning, this Italian company offers knits and wovens, as well as a finished scarf line — and produces all of Azrouël's scarves. "They like to experiment here and play with the small details in a fabric," he said. "If we like a scarf, for instance, they'll make it into fabric for us." Here, he opts for a black rayon-and-cotton fabric done in a finish that makes it feel like cashmere, and a wool-and-cashmere gauze in shell pink that's also super-soft. "For me," he noted, "touch always wins over fiber content."

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