Say Gray

After several seasons of color, the outerwear market updates a more traditional color palette.

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Gray is the new black, furs continue to fascinate and details like animal print linings will enliven even the most classic beige coat. Fall outerwear remains luxurious — $1,000 wholesale coats aren’t unusual. For those with shallower pockets, fake furs rendered in current and cutting-edge styles offer good value. But whether fur or fabric, silhouettes are streamlined, closures are nearly invisible, everything is belted, and coat racks everywhere will be awash in a sea of gray.

This story first appeared in the January 29, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Gray is hot and coming on really strong for next season,” said Donna Salyers, president of Covington, Ky.-based Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs. “And we’re doing it in all shades.”


The company’s repertoire of fake furs, where almost everything wholesales for under $100, will include fake gray fox with fur trims, a black-and-gray cat print coat and charcoal sweaters.

“Gray is quite new,” said Edna Negari, vice president of fur coat maker Shahchi, based in Los Angeles. “We’ll be doing some light gray shades in addition to our classics of beige, brown and black.” Wholesale starts at $500.

Linda Richards, founder of her namesake New York firm, said gray looks especially fresh when combined with black, white and an infusion of red.

“That’s the story we will be seeing retailers tell,” she said. “In this climate, people don’t want to take a chance with color. They don’t want to spend a thousand dollars on a purple coat.” The line starts at $335 at wholesale.

San Francisco-based Mia Bella will showcase three lines at WWDMAGIC, one of which was created by company owner and designer Oksana Grinchenko. All three will have significant lashings of gray throughout.

“Everybody has a black coat or something in a lighter shade, so gray will be popular,” said Grinchenko, who will be showing her own Mia Bella line as well as European brand Luini and Tengdide from China. The collections offer everything from upscale furs like mink or fox, to fur-trimmed fabric coats to cashmere and wool blends. Prices at wholesale run $100 to $3,000.

In keeping with the newer and more streamlined silhouettes in coats, belts are making a major comeback.

“Everything is belted,” said Linda Richards. “That whole baby-doll look is done, so we’re doing belts on everything — funnel-necked coats, single-breasted, double-breasted, even coats with an asymmetrical close.”

Allan Zuckerman, vice president of Chosen Furs in Thousand Oaks, Calif., said that belts work great for a less formal feel.

“There will be belts depending on the length of the coat and where we’re trending. When you put a belt on a coat, it makes for a more casual look,” he said of the line, which wholesales for anywhere between $350 and $5,000.

George Musi, vice president of Musi Furs in Quebec, agreed that the new close-fitting silhouette — often with large bell sleeves — looks modern with a belt. His fur coats — chinchilla, Russian and Canadian sable and Swakara — wholesale at around $1,500 and up. “And because they are cut just below the knee, they have a Seventies and Eighties retro feeling,” he said.

To counter some of the sophisticated seriousness of furs, many vendors are lining theirs with silk fabrics prints. The coats are also reversible.

“Silk linings and reversible furs are a huge trend,” said Richards. “One of our categories includes a silk coat with a sheared mink or rabbit lining, that can be worn either way — with the fur inside or out.”

Salyers is spotlighting a raincoat, available in silver or bronze satin, with an animal print lining. “We’ve done very well with raincoats this past year, and the animal prints are important. ”

Large, blingy buttons of seasons past will also look passé. This season’s coats are much cleaner-looking, with the focus on cut and fabric.

“We’ll be showing coats with hidden closures and snaps,” said Karl Matar, vice president of Gimpex Ltd. in Ontario, which produces the Hide Society label. “Shearling is still our largest collection, but there are also offerings in fox and high-end technical fabrics.” Average wholesale prices are $900 to $1,000.

Richards said she would show “interesting closures,” including some passementerie on luxury coats, as well as toggles made of leather and horn instead of plastic.

Zuckerman of Chosen Furs is going with shades like apricot, red and blue in sheared minks and rugged, supple Santa Fe leathers, and is also showcasing some unique closures.

“There will be some jewel embellishments,” he said. “We will have some sheared mink coats that have ruffles on them and a small jewel clasp on top that will fasten the garment shut and allow the collar to be worn high or low.”

– In addition to classics such as black, wintry white and neutrals like camel and caramel, vendors are offering up myriad shades of gray.
– Animal prints will still be important.
– Silhouettes are closer to the body, and coats are trending shorter, usually ending at the knee or midcalf.
– Belts are big for next year, helping to streamline the silhouette.
– It’s all about luxury in furs.


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