NEW YORK — When it comes to accessories, the Seventies are still going strong for fall: fringe, suede, et al. But stifle that yawn — buyers are all in for the repeat trend.
“It always takes customers two seasons to jump on and go with a trend,” said Claire Distenfeld, owner of Fivestory here. “A retailer is always happy when a trend is continued and pushed further. Street stylers and fashionistas are going to jump on the trend yesterday, but actual customers don’t really get it for months in.”
As Neiman Marcus’ fashion director and senior vice president Ken Downing noted, the decade as an influence lends itself to more than a one-note trend. “[This season was] a schizophrenic take on the Seventies,” he said. “In many peoples’ minds, they see the Seventies through one lens, but we have to remember the psychedelic music moment, the flower children, the hippies, the disco and even punk, which emerged late in the Seventies in Europe. There’s not one vision that says Seventies — there are many.”
Added Suzanne Timmins, senior vice president and fashion director of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, “There are generations of people who have never worn that stuff. We need a full year, at least, of it. It’s pretty, it’s so easy and it’s so commercial.”
Among the biggest accessories trends to emerge from the fall runways: boots, done in all iterations. Lace-up, oft-described as “Granny” boots, were among the most popular, with buyers citing favorites from Aquazzura, Tabitha Simmons, Saint Laurent and 3.1 Phillip Lim. Over-the-knee boots also played well with the bohemian spirit of the season. “There was so much going on in the boot category, and the over-the-knee boot is really important,” said Erica Russo, fashion director of accessories at Bloomingdale’s. “At Burberry, you had a Seventies, traveler vibe which was really fun.”
In keeping with last season, platforms also continued to be a popular footwear option. “We are definitely going to continue to see the platform shoe and chunky heel,” said Mary Chiam, vice president of merchandise and planning for Moda Operandi. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that the stiletto heel is out, but it wasn’t that prevalent compared to previous runway seasons.”
Chiam pointed to pairs from Marni, Prabal Gurung and Proenza Schouler as favorites, while Distenfeld praised Narciso Rodriguez’s first foray into the chunky style. “I went wild for them,” she said.
On the opposite end of the heel spectrum, flats continue to score high with retailers —whether it be dainty flats, tough Chelsea boots or masculine loafers. “Our women clients love flat shoes in all their iterations, from sneakers to the resurgence of the ballet and return of the smoking slipper,” said Tracy Margolies, senior vice president, general merchandise manager of beauty, contemporary, footwear and handbags at Bergdorf Goodman. “We’re also seeing men’s wear again but on heavier-chunkier constructions.”
New York-based boutique Kirna Zabête reported similar customer trends. Co-owner Sarah Easley said, “1,000 percent yes, our customers buy flats. The sporty shoe trend is just so real. We really want fashion flats, [including] a zip shearling sporty look at Celine and shearling moon boot from Saint Laurent. Chloé also had wonderful flat boots.”
Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president and gmm at Barneys New York, mentioned an emphasis on “men’s inspired shoes such as oxfords, loafers and Chelsea boots” as a particularly strong category for the department store. “These styles work perfectly with the pant silhouettes for next season as well as the longer length skirts and dresses,” she added. Russo agreed, noting favorites from Rag & Bone, Prada and Miu Miu.
Other retailers preferred a more feminine look, or what Nadia Dhouib, senior buyer for women’s wear at Galeries Lafayette, described as “gem shoes that look like jewelry.” Said Natalie Kingham, buying director for Matchesfashion.com, “The embellished flats down the runway in the Balenciaga show really stood out as being special and offering something that makes a statement without you having to totter on heels — a great day-to-evening option.”
In handbags, micro-bags emerged as the most popular, if impractical, new style. “It really wasn’t a functional season for bags on the runway,” said Chiam. Saint Laurent introduced its classic Sac de Jour style in a tiny size meant to fit “lipstick, keys and an iPhone — just not the six-plus,” according to Easley. “The idea is that you wear a mini crossbody with your lipstick, keys and phone in it, and then carry a tote, which I think is a great way to navigate a day,” she said.
Erin Cerrato, Holt Renfrew’s divisional vice president of accessories, also felt strongly about the trend, naming examples from Fendi, Givenchy and Saint Laurent. “We have our eye on the micro-bags in almost every collection,” she said. “They can be used on their own or as a complement to a larger bag.”
Several tried-and-true styles, such as the saddlebag, shoulder bag and bucket bag, received a luxe update with patchworking details done in a number of materials. “I call it ‘exotic mosaics,’” said Rae Ann Herman, vice president and fashion director of accessories at Saks Fifth Avenue. “We’ve seen eel, water snake, croc, pony, suede… we’re not afraid of exotics at all.” Buyers responded particularly well to bags done in warm, autumnal colors: mustard, maroon and deep browns.
Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson’s puzzle bag took home the gold in terms of most mentions from buyers, including Browns’ buying director Laura Larbalestier, who named the bag as one of the two pieces she’s most excited to carry for fall (Dries Van Noten’s velvet boots shared the distinction). “We just launched Loewe and have already seen major traction on their accessories,” said Chiam. “Their puzzle bag is going to be very strong for next season. It’s new, it’s fresh and the size is different.”
Added Giulia Pizzato, head of buying for women’s wear and accessories at La Rinascente, “Loewe is the one who is taking a new direction.”
Gucci’s new monogram bag by creative director Alessandro Michele was also a buyer favorite. “The ‘new’ Gucci offered probably the bag of the season,” said Justin O’Shea, buying director for Munich-based luxury e-tailer Mytheresa. “I am totally obsessed.” Added Sarah Rutson, vice president of global buying at Net-a-porter, “Gucci’s new monograms will open a new demographic to the brand — it has a fashion cool factor and is still recognizable.”
Retailers noted that while prices will reflect the exotic materials and heavy embellishment seen in many of this season’s bags, nothing was deemed too inaccessible to the customer. “We’re always sensitive to be aware that the price of goods feels appropriate to the quality of embellishment,” said Downing. “Certainly, there are some elevated prices with more and more embellishment laid on top of the bag, but ridiculous prices? No. The prices we’re seeing in the accessories world, the customers will understand. There are so many great handwork and embellishments and beads. We felt good about the price-quality relationship.”
Added Chiam, “Our Moda woman is looking for something new and fresh, so it doesn’t matter if our prices are going up by $500, she just wants that something new.”
Buyers and customers alike can look to categories beyond handbags and footwear as a more affordable, yet still effective way to invoke newness in their wardrobe. “Not to sound like a fashion director, but it’s almost like jewelry is the new bag,” said Timmins. “It’s accessible. A girl can buy herself a diamond ring or necklace for $1,000, when you’ll have a hard time getting a handbag for that.”
Jewelry was increasingly prevalent this season, ranging from ladylike pearls to moody jet beads. “There is often a fear that jewelry distracts and detracts from the clothes,” said Downing. “I happen to believe it only enhances the presentation. I think it tells a more complete story when you see models wearing jewelry in a new and interesting way.…There were fantastic jet beads everywhere, especially at Givenchy. Will every customer want a jet nose ring that mimics a moustache? Absolutely not. But, decorating a face with jet beads and stones only intensifies how important jet stones are.”
Rutson cited “a real shift toward sculptural pieces, such as brooches, pins and mismatched earrings,” a key jewelry trend, noting examples from Stella McCartney and Balenciaga, while Russo gravitated toward pendant necklaces. “The long pendant feels very fresh,” she said. “I loved the pieces at Tory Burch — they felt vintage but modern. Also at Chloé and Lanvin, where they complemented everything without being too fussy.” Silver trumped gold in terms of metal use across all jewelry iterations. “We saw a lot of silver on the runway,” said Herman. “There was a lot of clean lines and precision.”
Retailers used the jewelry market to buy into new, lesser-known designers. Both Chiam and Distenfeld picked up Charlotte Chesnais, a Nicolas Ghesquière protégé-turned-jewelry designer, whose industrial, molded aesthetic Chiam likened to that of Paula Mendoza. “She’s very French, and has very organic, beautiful jewelry that wraps around your fingers and hands,” added Distenfeld.
Sunwoo found a trio of labels that made a lasting impression this season: Tomasini, a Parisian line of handmade bags, New York-based footwear designer Gabriela Hearst and Álvaro, a shoe collection by Álvaro González shown during Milan Fashion Week.
Overall, the idea of novelty fueled a strong buying season for retailers across all categories, whether from new designers or old, despite the return of the Seventies yet again. “I love a season where there is a reason to buy,” said Timmins. “[Designers showed] things that we don’t already have in the closet, so you need to go out and get it. There’s no choice.”