By  on January 3, 2002

DONEGER GROUP HEAD DAVID WOLFE LOOKS INTO HIS CRYSTAL BALL AND PREDICTS WHAT'S AHEAD FOR 2002.

Do classics ever go out of style? Certainly not this year, declared David Wolfe, creative director of the Doneger Group, a retail consulting firm in New York.

Wolfe predicted that classic suits, nautical and equestrian sportswear and preppy styles would remain popular next fall. And in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Wolfe noted that the return to classics was likely to be even more pronounced, given the dramatic shift in the nation's psychology.

"Some of the things that were already in place will be much stronger, like the move away from black and toward a more groomed and pulled-together look -- the classic American Midwestern look," Wolfe said. "What people want to feel is safe and secure, and when we really felt that way, it was exciting to see fashions that were challenging. Now it is too near reality.

"We will see a big emotional switch in terms of fashion and media from negative imagery to positive," he said. "I just saw a Gucci ad in Harper's Bazaar with the usually decadent sexy girl with her rear end hanging out, and it seems absolutely wrong. All these images that were dark and dangerous and subversive are now too real. People who are really frightened are not going to buy something as a result of an image that is frightening." Wolfe noted that retro classics, like Jackie O's colorful, but simple silhouettes, and Victorian puffed sleeves, still register high on the fashion barometer. The return of such familiar styles plays into Wolfe's overall theory that the best way to plan for fall 2002 is by looking at big, global trends -- not short-term fads.

"More people care about fashion than we think, but they don't care about trends," said Wolfe. "Fashion with a capital 'F' is a game played by few people. More people care about presentation."

Only five percent of Americans are passionate about fashion, Wolfe asserted, while the majority move at a much slower pace. Yet they will respond to the big trends that continue to influence fashion throughout 2002, such as vintage- and celebrity-inspired looks.

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