NEW YORK — Fringe is going to be in.
That’s the consensus of fashion buyers in the accessories world, which is expected to get a boost in spring from all the groovy, Seventies-inspired looks on the runways of New York, London, Milan and Paris. And they are boosting their buys to be prepared.
This story first appeared in the October 20, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I’ve never seen so much fringe,” said Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director at Barneys New York. “It’s a trend that’s making a strong statement across all categories.”
Sarah Easley, cofounder of New York boutique Kirna Zabête, described fringe as “festive, flirty and artistic,” calling out Proenza Schouler’s handbags and shoes as prime examples. Rochas, Marni and Salvatore Ferragamo were also praised by buyers for their exceptional work with fringe. “From Ferragamo’s bags and shoes this season, we saw the best use of luxury exotic fabrics and a great incorporation of fringe,” said Mary Chiam, Moda Operandi’s vice president of merchandising. “Rochas also had a lively use of fringe in their shoes and handbags.”
Suede played an important role in handbags, prompting many buyers to reexamine the importance of seasonally appropriate accessories. “It’s not about seasons anymore,” said Barbara Atkin, vice president of fashion direction at Holt Renfrew. “We just buy things because we’re in the moment and we love it.”
Suzanne Timmins, senior vice president and fashion director of Hudson’s Bay Co. and Lord & Taylor LLC, said, “I loved all the suedes, and there was suede in practically every collection. Lanvin did beautiful bags, and Proenza Schouler had some beautiful mixes. I love the textural feeling it gives.”
Neiman Marcus’ Ana Maria Pimentel, fashion director of women’s accessories, erred on the side of caution when it came to the material, saying, “I think our buyers approach suede cautiously because we have so many warm-weather doors. I think it’s best as a detail, rather than as a full bag, like at Chloé.”
Chloé’s handbags were also widely lauded by buyers for their decidedly un-springlike color palette, a trend seen across the four cities. “The color palette was surprising and exciting,” said Pimentel. “All of these spice-market colors — curry, paprika, cayenne, olive — are generally fall colors but felt very fresh for spring. “
Added Easley, “[They’re] not traditional spring colors, but they do look great when you have a tan, so it makes more sense to debut those colors for spring.”
Fivestory’s Claire Distenfeld agreed, stating that she, too, liked the rich palette. “At this point, people are realizing that accessories don’t have to be [seasonal],” she said. “They are kind of forever. If you buy a yellow suede Chloé bag in March, you can wear it forever.”
While buyers expressed a united front when it came to the season’s color story, footwear proved to be a controversial topic, specifically the resurgence of staggering platform heels. “I’m a giant-platform person until I die,” said Distenfeld. “Its very hard because eight out of 10 people will not buy a giant platform. But, at the end of the day, you have to take a risk on these trends.”
Net-a-porter’s buying manager Sasha Sarokin applauded platform offerings from Victoria Beckham and Michael Kors. Erica Russo, Bloomingdale’s operating vice president of fashion direction and fashion accessories, cited Kors, Prada and Ferragamo, saying, “We are a store that caters to the fashion girl who loves anything that’s new, and a platform offers her both height and fashion.”
It was Hedi Slimane’s footwear for Saint Laurent that had buyers either delighted or disconcerted or, for a few, somewhere in between. Sarokin said Slimane “blew it out of the water” with his heavily decorated platforms, while Atkin described it as a “what-were-they-thinking moment.”
“[Slimane] was actually the one who buried the Yves Saint Laurent Tribute platform, to a certain point, and brought back that single-sole kitten-heel and flat boot,” she said. “Now all of a sudden, here we are again. It’s a Hedi Slimane move. He’s always a bit controversial. As a fashion director, I say, ‘Let’s move away from the Tributes and into new silhouettes,’ but then he puts that platform back on the runway. I did feel it was a bit too retro, but, at the same time, I know that, whatever he puts his name to, it’s going to sell, and we’re going to be proud to buy them.”
Justin O’Shea, buying director for Munich-based luxury e-tailer Mytheresa, shared similar trepidations regarding the overall trend. “It will be interesting to see how platforms perform,” he said. “It’s something that I did buy into a lot because it’s nice to have a different aesthetic, but I am curious to see how they will perform.”
Those looking to get the Seventies spirit at a much lower heel height praised the resurgence of strappy gladiator sandals, particularly those at Valentino and Chloé. “The high-end sandals were key,” said Jennifer Cuvillier, style director at Le Bon Marché in Paris. “The new Greek-inspired sandal was very important this season, and we saw it developed in many collections. It is a really nice novelty.” Sarokin described gladiator sandals as a “hero moment” of the season, once again calling out Valentino and Chloé. Other popular styles among buyers included those from Paul Andrew, Rodarte and Nicholas Kirkwood for Erdem.
Gladiator sandals aside, flat shoes ruled the runway, whether it be mini boots, espadrilles, ballet flats or flat forms. “I could not buy enough shoes even if I tried, and, trust me, I tried,” said O’Shea. “This is probably the best shoe-buying season we’ve ever had. Everything is easy — it’s about espadrilles, it’s about flats, it’s about sneakers. These shoes are for everyone. A lot of espadrilles and flats have better price points, so it’s more accessible, and that consumer is getting their first taste into buying a luxury brand.”
Sarokin bought heavily into the flat-form category, selecting pieces from Derek Lam and Tibi but, like many of her peers, was quick to point out that the sexy shoe is far from dead — it has just gotten a makeover from its stiletto heyday. “There was a sense of very provocative, sexy shoes, but they weren’t the traditional pumps,” she said. “They were lace-up thigh-high boots from Givenchy or a Miu Miu statement shoe or a Lanvin shoe with an extra strap for that bondage reference.”
Atkin also referenced Givenchy’s new boot as a must-have. “In Canadian dollars, that shoe is going to retail for $4,000,” she said. “And it’s got a screw heel. It’s not even a real heel — it’s a screw. But the woman who will wear that is going to covet the shoe, and we know we have customers who want it already.”
Also on the top of Atkin’s list of coveted items for spring: micro bags, such as those seen at Fendi. “They basically reinvented the baguette by offering the new micro version,” she said. “I thought that was genius.”
The petite design was a popular style among retailers, with Fendi being the most mentioned brand, along with smaller brands such as Giamba and Mark Cross. “The mini and bucket bags are the key shapes,” said Ruby Chadwick, accessories and jewelry buyer for Liberty. Added Saks Fifth Avenue’s fashion director of accessories Kate Lassar, “These petite iterations of our favorite handbag styles are too cute to resist and a great way to play with the color palette of the season.”
Beyond handbags and shoes, buyers found plenty else to buy. In the realm of jewelry, Céline was widely heralded for its chunky offerings, which Catherine Newey, deputy chief merchandising officer of luxury and accessories at Printemps, described as “modern costume jewelry.”
“I am excited about the long, layered look on the neck,” added Pimentel. “We still see a lot of chokers, but I think there is a lot of opportunity to add onto the neck. I love the long pendants at Céline. We’re going to have a lot of fun with our vendors in terms of developing this look.”
Less traditional categories made an appearance on the catwalk. “One thing that has really surprised me is hats,” said Susan Stone of Savannah in Santa Monica, Calif.
“Wide-brim hats were very prevalent, as evidenced by what we saw from J.W. Anderson, Rosie Assoulin and Gigi Burris,” added Chiam.
Scarves also made a surprise return to the runway. “I haven’t seen scarves have such a prominent role on the runway in a while, but it’s really a category that, I think, is going to have a moment for spring,” said Bloomingdale’s Russo. “We saw some great ones at Gucci, Tom Ford and Saint Laurent, but it was really shown across the board.”
Though the major luxury players were most widely mentioned, a few less-well-known designers piqued buyers’ interest, as well. Loewe, with new creative director Jonathan Anderson, was named several times for its handbag collection, which Newey described as “eye-catching.” Cuvillier was “impressed” by Parisian shoe designer Francesco Russo, saying, “His collection represents the essence of luxury.”
Atkin brought up two under-the-radar handbag designers, M2Malletier, which Holt Renfrew has carried, and the London-based Sophie Hulme. “This is her moment,” Atkin said of the latter. “We love her tote bags with [a] strong gold hardware treatment. She has an accessibly priced bag, which this day in luxury is hard to find.”
Ogura mentioned Paco Rabanne, which Barneys reintroduced for fall. “We are impressed with the evolution of the bags,” she said. “It’s a focused collection, but each shape is strong, and, as a whole, the collection stands out from other offerings. We are particularly drawn to the cabas tote and bucket bag.”
Laura Larbalestier, buying director at Browns in London, liked the jewelry offerings that Russian designer A.W.A.K.E. presented, saying, “I like that the brooch comes with the outfit. It’s such a modern twist.”
New or old, the message was clear: Spring was a winning season for accessories. “There are lots of new ideas and, ultimately, reasons to buy,” said Larbalestier. O’Shea noted that accessories will make up more than 50 percent of the e-tailer’s spring buy, up “at least 6 percent” from last spring. Atkin saw similar growth for Holt Renfrew, observing that the store’s designer business is already up 15 percent over last year and, as a result, has a bigger buying budget.
“The Age of Aquarius during the Seventies was a good time for fashion because there were a lot of options,” Atkin said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about increasing your sales. We’re in a business to make a lot of money, and our customers love when they can buy things for a variety of lifestyles. This is that moment.”