View Slideshow

It’s no secret that business is, well, tough. Of course, luxury customers aren’t as susceptible to downturns in the economy as other shoppers, but they have to fill their Mercedes SUV gas tanks, too.

This story first appeared in the February 2, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

If there’s one thing that jump-starts buying, it’s new silhouettes that make whatever’s in a woman’s closet look so last year. It’s no surprise, then, that retailers are dreaming about change in bold, living color. They want to see structured dresses, pencil skirts and fuller pants, the yin to yesterday’s yang of baby-doll dresses, balloon-hem skirts and skinny jeans.

Clearly, stores will be writing orders with extra sharp pencils this season. Bergdorf Goodman fashion director Linda Fargo said she’ll be looking for “trends compelling enough to inspire us to shop even in a tightening economy,” while Julie Gilhart, vice president of fashion merchandising at Barneys New York, said she’ll only be buying “great merchandise” and “the best of the best.”

“It’s a really hard economy,” said Nevena Borissova, owner of the Curve boutiques in Los Angeles and New York. But Lori Hirshleifer, vice president of Hirshleifer’s at the Americana Manhasset in Manhasset, N.Y., will not let the grim economy get her down: “I’m optimistic. I refuse to allow myself to feel like this.”

Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president of designer merchandising, Nordstrom:

I hope to see: Things that I’m not expecting to see. I want to be surprised. I’m feeling that there will be more sportswear and more separates, and pants will be getting fuller. With fuller pants, I like them skinny at the top and fuller from the knee down. Skirts are going to be more important, but we’ll see more pencil skirts, fewer bubble skirts. There will be lots of knitwear with blazers being more knit than structured. The dress is going to be important, but in the pre-collection market, it didn’t seem to be as predominant a trend as it had been.

Looking forward to:
The big buzz this week is going to surround Halston; Jonathan Saunders showing in New York, and Rodarte. Rodarte has become a global strength. They’re young designers and deserve everyone’s support. We’re also supporting Chris Benz.

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus:

I expect to see: The continuation of color and print; more body-conscious shapes, especially in dresses, and jackets with shoulder interest such as strong and sharp or rounded shoulders. Skirts will be important. Transitional weight fabrics are important to the Neiman Marcus customer and we are focused on fabrics and weights that speak to her lifestyle.

Looking forward to: The reintroduction of Halston, and welcoming Jonathan Saunders to the New York catwalks.

Julie Gilhart, vice president of fashion merchandising at Barneys New York:

I hope to see: Total creativity and great design. I would like to see designers not play it safe, but push the envelope in terms of presentation and the clothes. It could be a moment of great change, so I hope to see it begin to happen in New York.

Looking forward to: Shipley & Halmos’ first presentation and Edun’s Nocturne presentation. Narciso Rodriguez, Proenza Schouler and Rodarte had standout collections last [season]. I think we will see that trend being repeated.

People are buzzing about: Cute girl designers, such as Cate Holstein, are showing for the first time. Also, Lyell, Wayne and Liz McLean. Also, Alexander Wang’s and Loden Dager’s growing energy and L’Wren Scott’s Purple Haze collection.

Go away: Marc Jacobs being late. I am channeling support to him to be on time.

Open-to-buy: Our open-to-buy is to only buy great merchandise. It’s a time to really focus on what is necessary. To have a lot of everything is not cool, but to have only the best of the best is modern.

Michael Fink, vice president and women’s fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue:

I hope to see: A lot of ‘snap’, some pizzazz, emotion! If we go through another gray-black season, I’m going to scream.

I expect to see: Tailoring that is more relaxed than last fall’s polished look, but still put together. I’m obsessed with all of the chunkier knit stitches in lightweight yarns that I’ve been seeing — great layering options. Fearless, individual style with prints, luscious fabrics and bold jewelry layers.

Changes I anticipate: Can we put the brakes on radical change and let the customer absorb some of the silhouette and accessory ideas from the last season(s), not to mention that designers need time to evolve and refine each season’s ideas.

Go away: Escalating prices.

Linda Fargo, senior vice president and women’s fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman:

I hope to see: The emergence of trends compelling enough to inspire us to shop even in a tightening economy. I also hope to see more seasonless weights in fabrics because warming trends are clearly here. There will be a more feminine attitude with closer-to-the-body silhouettes that are more figure-flattering, and more ensemble dressing. I’m looking forward to beautiful saturated colors — plums, teals, browns, greens! Last fall’s sober palette of charcoal to black combined with heavy weights didn’t look or feel enticing on the selling floor.

Go away: I’m not sorry to say goodbye to the baby-dolling of our figures — Empire waists and oversize balloon volumes.  

People are buzzing about: I hope people are buzzing about the first Alber Elbaz-designed Lanvin boutique outside of Paris, here at Bergdorf’s.

Ann Watson, fashion director, Henri Bendel:

I hope to see: I’m very optimistic. We had a successful holiday and customers have been responding to color and prints. I’m hoping we see a continuation of color and prints going into fall, sweater dressing and knit dressing, jackets and a variety of skirt options. Our customer doesn’t lean toward the matchy-matchy suit. A suit with several options is something we’re excited about. Another wish is to see more skinny pants. We’ve had an abundance of wide-leg pants.

I’m getting sick of: Dresses. As a store and as an industry, we oversaturated our floors with dresses. The dress will become more tailored and cut closer to the body, like a sheath.

I’m excited about: Karen Walker. I looked at her last season. I’m also watching Preen. Nili Lotan is not having a show, but I’m excited to see her collection. Also, Alexander Wang, Elise Overland, Alice & Olivia and Phi. I’m always excited about Marc Jacobs. For key accessory trends, Marc is always somebody to watch.

People are buzzing about: Chris Benz’s use of color and effortless knitwear dressing and Jen Kao, who did some great prints last year. Also, Ashley Verrier and Sass & Bide.

Stefani Greenfield, co-owner, Scoop NYC:

I hope to see: A continuation of great dresses and layering, and fantastic sweaters — lots of cozy textured knitwear with more knit dresses and sweater dresses. Last year we had so much plaid. I hope to see herringbones and tweeds, especially in August and September deliveries. We’re doing unbelievably well with wider-leg pants and softer-leg pants. I hope we see blouses again with more soft artistic patterns, lots of great graphic prints and rich dark jewel tones. With business being tougher and customers buying closer to need, I hope designers have been thinking more about wear now. I’m also dying to see some great outerwear.

Looking forward to: Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Michael Kors and Rag & Bone.

Go away: I don’t love overemphasized volume such as huge volume dresses and baby-doll dresses. I don’t like grown-ups in children’s clothes.

Lori Hirshleifer, vice president, Hirshleifer’s:

I hope to see: Beautiful clothes and lots of fabulous accessories. I hope there’s a little more sportswear and separates. We still sell a lot of tops and jackets. We’ve certainly seen a lot of dresses; it’s time to move on. I’d like to see things move back closer to the body.

Go away: People are getting tired of baby-doll dresses and raglan sleeves. I’d like to see regular jackets, not cropped jackets with three-quarter-length sleeves. Wide-leg pants that are fitted at the top are fine, but people still prefer narrower and straighter.

Looking forward to: We saw early Sari Gueron and we’re excited about the Row, Halston, Peter Som, Heidi Weisel and Pamella Roland. We carry Chris Benz and are anxious to see his show.

Nevena Borissova, owner of the Curve boutiques in Los Angeles and New York:

Looking forward to: Thakoon and Alexander Wang, I love him, I feel it’s affordable. I want to see what Doo.Ri is doing this season. Proenza Schouler is amazing.

I hope to see: Color and silhouettes have to change. Florals, ombré and prints will be important. The dress is now substituted by a skirt and a top. The Eighties will have a big comeback. Wide-leg, high-waisted pants are great. Jackets will be longer and more fitted. I will do most of my buying in Europe, even though the situation with the euro is brutal. Many stores are now dropping European designers and that’s really my niche. I’ll end up buying really good tailored outerwear in New York.

David Rubenstein, vice president and general merchandise manager, Jeffrey New York:

I hope to see:
I’ve been drawn to fuller pants and narrower skirts. Both look very new. A lot of the skinny-leg pants and jeans don’t seem so new and low-waisted feels very old.

Looking forward to: Jonathan Saunders’ show and Halston because that’s going to be an incredible launch. We’re carrying it at Jeffrey New York. Also, Narciso Rodriguez, with all his new backing and [what I saw at] the pre-collection, is very positive. I always enjoy Marc Jacobs and Rodarte. We always hope to find some new things in New York. We saw Michael Angel last season — he’s doing his first show. We’ve looked at Chris Benz.

View Slideshow