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The Cool Factor

NEW YORK — Instead of burying themselves in bulky winter coats as cold winds blew into town, women strutted some style with eye-catching outerwear.<br><br>In Manhattan, they sported fur-trimmed coats, quilted styles and sleek wool coats. Many...

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NEW YORK — Instead of burying themselves in bulky winter coats as cold winds blew into town, women strutted some style with eye-catching outerwear.

In Manhattan, they sported fur-trimmed coats, quilted styles and sleek wool coats. Many women seen on city sidewalks paired their outerwear with knee-length boots and skirts. After a tough fourth quarter last year that saw a steep sales drop, the cool fall weather in many regions has stores hopeful that outerwear will be a bright spot in what’s expected to be a tough holiday season.

In the Southeast, the look has been decidedly more casual, with fur-trimmed denim jackets, washable suede styles and faux shearling coats in demand, leaving leather in the dust. Suedes and shearling are also doing well nationwide at J.C. Penney stores.

Saks Fifth Avenue shoppers are buying wool or cashmere coats now that the thermometer has dropped.

“The new trend is modern casual,” said Beth Kanfer, junior market editor. “It’s not the traditional missy coat customer any more. Those days are over. It’s not the dumb-dumb bodies — they’re fitted and sexy.”

Moncler puffy pieces, Cinzia Rocca wool coats and Burberry casuals have been some fall favorites at Saks. More women are looking for warm, waterproof, “weekend-type” coats they can wear all week long, Kanfer said.

At Penney’s, suedes and shearlings have been popular, especially Giacca’s “Almost Famous”-inspired suede coats with faux Mongolian fur trim from Giacca and Mixit, said Steve Berry, buyer of women’s outerwear.

Jackets in washable suede, novelty fleece or Weathertamer microsuede have sold well, he said.

The Proffitt’s division of Saks Department Store Group reported that young looks, especially denim-based with fur trim are selling well, along with faux shearlings, but leather sales have been soft.

At Parisian, novelty looks are outperforming basic outerwear. Faux fur- and real fur-trimmed jackets, and faux and real shearling coats have also been strong. Overall, leather business is soft, but best-selling leather coats are in distressed fabrics, with colors and high-fashion detail.

This story first appeared in the November 5, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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