NEW YORK — Visitors to fashion week here might have had to squint to pick out the accessories on the runways for spring 2006.
After the last two seasons' strong showings of chunky jewelry, statement bags, belts, sunglasses, legwear and other accoutrements, often heavily embellished or layered for a bold effect, designers were lowering the volume.
"We're not seeing incredibly strong accessories on the runways this season," said Michael Fink, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. "It's all about the clothes this season. It's a very toned-down mood. Designers are stripping away the looks."
Brian Bolke, co-owner of Forty Five Ten in Dallas, agreed: "There is a lot of couture handiwork details on the clothes this season, and the accessories shouldn't take away from all that work."
Retailers, however, weren't citing worries about the accessories market going forward.
"We are growing out of boho and the excesses of accessories," said Ilaria Urbinati, a buyer for Milk, a designer boutique set to open in Los Angeles this fall. "It's cleaner and less cluttered, but it doesn't mean that accessories are going to go away. Women have become too obsessed with them."
Sarah Easley, co-owner of Kirna Zabête, said the specialty store is selling more accessories than it ever did before, and she doesn't anticipate that this will change, based on what she observed during the collections.
"If you look back on spring 2005, there was that mad frenzy for accessories, and especially jewelry," she said. "That trend seems to have passed. But I don't think the runway is any less about the accessories. Although we didn't necessarily find a consistent theme, there were accessories to look at, and that is a reflection of what is happening at retail."
Robert Burke, senior vice president of fashion for Bergdorf Goodman, said showing the most important accessories took precedence on the New York runways.
"It has to be the right ring or the right bracelet," Burke said.
While single large rings made an appearance at the Michael Kors show and designers such as Kenneth Cole showed chunky nautical-chain effects in plastic necklaces and bracelets, delicate pieces with personal charms discreetly entered into the fray. Alice Roi showed piety with models in whisper-thin cross necklaces, while Marc Jacobs sent each of the looks down the catwalk accessorized with Bing Bang Jewelry chain necklaces from which dangled good-luck symbols."The necklaces were very personal to each outfit," said Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs. "We also customized the watches for the runway, using elastic watchbands embellished with tiny diamonds."
Duffy said Jacobs' approach to accessories on the runway is quite different from the strategy at Louis Vuitton.
"At Louis Vuitton, 90 percent of the business is about accessories, and everybody is coming to the runway show looking for that next 'It' bag," he said. "At [Marc Jacobs], we only show accessories if they work with the outfit. For fall 2005, the proportions in the collection were so large that we wanted to show how the bags worked with them. This season, we really loved the bags, but we chose to only show six of them on the runway."
Marc Jacobs featured ladylike purses with structure in the same fabrics used for the garments. Designers such as Diane von Furstenberg and Anna Sui also coordinated clutches and bags to the collection looks, with bold prints that referenced the late Sixties.
"Accessories are still really important," Sui said. "There is this whole new generation that has discovered accessories. But now they've had this onslaught, and they are going to be a little more selective."
Other designers, including Michael Kors, Matthew Williamson, BCBG Max Azria, Kenneth Cole and Catherine Malandrino, continued forward with volume in bags, but added flat bases or frames for a little more structure.
"The bags might shrink a bit," said Urbinati at Milk. "It has to be less hippie-ish and more ladylike."
Urbinati also noticed a shift in belts.
"The belt is very important this season, but it's not a low-slung belt," she said. "There are a lot of high waistlines being shown, and the looks are often cinched with high-waisted belts."
In another nod to the late Sixties, Jackie O-style sunglasses continued at shows such as Betsey Johnson and Luella Bartley. Calvin Klein updated the look by replacing the heavy plastic rim with a slight metal border.
Burke at Bergdorf Goodman also noted hair accessories on the runways. "There were a lot of headbands," he said.Overall, he said it was a good season for accessories, but not great.
Easley of Kirna Zabête agreed: "There was not as much of a solid trend in accessories as there was in [ready-to-wear]. It did seem to be all over the place. But it will come together in Paris."
Easley said she is looking forward to seeing collections by Ric Owens and Balenciaga for accessories direction, while Saks' Fink said Prada and Lanvin are key collections for him for determining trends.
"Who knows what Europe will bring," he said. "Last time around, each city offered a completely different statement."
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