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<?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = CS /><CS:BOLD>DONEGER GROUP HEAD DAVID WOLFE LOOKS INTO HIS CRYSTAL BALL AND PREDICTS WHAT'S AHEAD FOR 2002.<BR><BR>Do classics ever go out of style? Certainly not this year, declared David Wolfe, creative director of the...

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.

The popularity of vintage styles reflects a sorry lack of creativity among designers, Wolfe said.

“Now there is nothing new,” he said. “The fascination with fashion influences started in the Seventies, and now there isn’t enough old stuff to go around. So we have to make new stuff that looks like old stuff.”

That said, vintage influences of the moment are rather frilly, including Russian peasant, Edwardian corsets and high necks, Art Nouveau and devore velvet.

The return to classics will give people an easy way out of casual style into such staples as Marlene Dietrich pantsuits, polo and striped yachting tops, equestrian looks and Chanel-style suits.

“We think riding will stick around for several seasons,” Wolfe said.

For denim, the biggest markets are teens, tweens and aging baby boomers, Wolfe said. Newest styles include different washes and hand-painted or patched jeans.

Retailers can profit from the celebrity wannabe complex if they can figure out which star their customers aspire to be. Anything worn by Madonna, Destiny’s Child or Britney Spears is likely to be a hot item, he said.

Anyone expecting a specific palette for fall will be disappointed, since the favored color spectrum runs from bold brights such as turquoise and pink to soft pastels, classic neutrals including black, and rich, darker shades such as purple, deep green and bitter chocolate.

Lush textures are of paramount importance, as the industry explores leather, suede, bulky but lightweight knits, plush velvet and corduroy, shimmery satin and charmeuse, Asian brocades and jacquards, lace and tweeds. New looks will mix hard and soft fabrics.

Prints will reflect such past styles as Art Nouveau, Seventies, gypsy, florals and paisley. In accessories, Wolfe admonished that “we don’t need any more silly [little] bags.” Instead, big, classic handbags will be de rigueur.

Wolfe concluded by emphasizing that age is an issue that fashion has been denying, but must address.

“People in their 40s and 50s have been trained to buy fashion their whole life, and suddenly, we don’t care about them,” he said. “Why is Chico’s one of the most profitable stores? Everything is aimed at the young, but there aren’t enough young people to support the entire fashion industry. It’s all too bare and too tight. We need to invent generational shopping.”

Top 2002 Trends
The rage for vintage looks.
Classics.
Denim jeans fever.
Celebrity style mimicry.
Sexy turns sweet.
More varied palettes.
Textured fabrics, from suede to lace.
World-class brands like YSL and Christian Dior.
Mixtures of textures and prints.
The return of the well-dressed man.
Bigger jewelry and colored stones.
Big classic handbags.