By  on October 3, 2007

NEW YORK — There was a fusion of both classic casual sportswear and eveningwear at the Pacific Designer Collections trade show at the Double Tree Suites Hotel here.

The exhibition, which ran from Sept. 16-18, consisted of 23 collections from designers such as Ann McKenna, Catherine Bacon, EGO Originals, Kaneko, Spirithouse, and Susans. Hans Christensen Designs and Som's International also made first-time appearances, according to Ann McKenna, producer of Pacific Design Collections.

After a season of thigh-grazing minis, the skirt hems at Pacific Designer Collections were longer, available in fabrics such as hand-dyed silks and faux-lace chiffon. The sportswear and eveningwear at the show embodied a relaxed West Coast vibe, still keeping in mind the target audience of higher-end specialty stores.

"I have seen a lot of stores who have taken a break from doing a dressy line and are now coming back to doing more dressy," said McKenna, who also designs her own line of knit separates and woven pieces, which were on display at the show. "At the same time, they are also heavily buying into more daytime looks."

For the spring, Ann McKenna created handloomed knit sweaters in classic shapes, bias chiffon skirts, and pants in a mixture of novelty yarns, silks, rayons, and European fabrics. A bestseller in the collection was a charcoal-champagne crewneck sweater in a silk ribbon and boucle mix, with subtle tweed running throughout, wholesaling for $195. Another bestseller was the Scala, a light green boatneck sweater with hand-crocheted picot trim and a slight bell in the sleeve, wholesaling for $205. Ann McKenna is sold at Ella's in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, and Kimball Shop in Northeast Harbor, Maine.

"Our thing is limited edition," said artist Catherine Bacon of her two-decade old namesake brand, "Many pieces have some kind of surface treatment, either hand-painting or embellishment."

Bacon's designs, although primarily eveningwear, are beginning to include pieces that can be worn for daytime as well, such as the silk shibori caftans in a variety of colors that wholesale for $350. According to Bacon, bestsellers for spring included a blue-into-green iridescent silk taffeta cocoon jacket with a ruched and embroidered collar, wholesaling for $510, and a black silk taffeta skirt with oversized handmade cabbage roses along the hemline, wholesaling for $260.Susan Kirschner, also a 20-year retail veteran, has three collections for her spring line of casual sportswear, aptly called Susans. Kirschner said her black cotton metal jacket with white details and Japanese buttons, wholesaling for $160, did well, as did a rayon navy and white polkadot draped skirt and cropped top ensemble, wholesaling for $160 and $125. Susans is carried at Ann Ahn in New York City and Mio in San Francisco.

Joan McKeon, who was shopping Pacific Designer Collections, has owned her own store for the past 25 years. Dream Weaver is located in Sarasota, Fla., with a seasonal locale in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., open five months a year. "The person who shops at my store is a woman who is sure of herself and wants to dress uniquely. She is also well-traveled and usually well-educated," said McKeon. She bought sweaters from Ann McKenna, lace jackets from Catherine Bacon, and hand-painted chiffons from EGO Originals in shades of champagne, gray, periwinkle and aqua.

"It seems that there are a lot of neutrals, grays and metallics," said McKeon of spring color trends. "There is a lot of black and white, too, but it just seems like people aren't buying a lot of color."

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