TRANSLATING THE FALL TRENDS

Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — It was a case of mixed blessings.
On the one hand, say moderate sportswear manufacturers, what was shown on designer runways here last week produced no major shocks, nothing that would jolt them into scrapping their own fall lines.
At the same time, however, makers say, the designer shows lacked the panache that could give the moderate market a badly needed boost for later in the season.
The trends that cropped up in and around Bryant Park — wide-leg pants, leathers, the boy-meets-girl looks and all that fabric interest — are already in moderate sportswear lines for fall. Manufacturers are upbeat about that.
But, grumbled Charles Glueck, president and designer of Focus 2000, that isn’t enough.
“We depend on newness to get a handle on things, to stimulate the filter-down effect,” he said. “Their job is to make it happen, and it is not happening.”
“What we are seeing now is that moderate sportswear is looking more designer,” said Charlotte Neuville, vice president of design at the Lerner New York division of The Limited, which is coming out with wide-leg pants, pleather and suede designs for fall. “Moderate is showing more fashion interest than ever before. I don’t feel any differently than I did before the shows, which is great, because I would have had to change something.”
Fashion observers say the scenario is just another example of designers playing it safe.
With no revolutionary sparks coming from the top, the question is whether that bodes well for moderate sportswear firms, which are constantly looking for the spice that will sharpen consumer appetites.
“There seems to be a cloning under different labels. All these designers are going after the same looks,” said Focus 2000’s Glueck. “There wasn’t anything new that I saw on the runways last week. Remember that pencil-striped suit that Ralph Lauren had on the runway? I had that five months ago. This wasn’t a revolution — this wasn’t even an evolution.”
Those moderate firms that didn’t already latch on to last week’s major trends are now scrambling to catch up, hoping to include them for late fall and holiday deliveries.
Of all the looks that were shown on designer runways, the wide-leg pants were probably the only style that got a mixed reaction from moderate vendors. That’s a big departure from what happened for spring, when designers served up lots of sheer and asymmetric looks that were difficult to interpret for the moderate customer.
Here is what designers and executives at moderate firms had to say:

“I didn’t really see anything from the American runways. It was salable but it looked very soft. I wasn’t inspired by American designers. I was more inspired by European designers like Gaultier, Versace and Armani. I took a lot of inspiration from that. I am doing some colorblocking, which was inspired by Versace’s show. That whole man/woman attitude is back, and I am definitely going after that. I am also showing the 30-inch wide-leg pants, which I think could really take off.
“I had some of the pinstriped suits, similar to what Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana had in their shows, but I think I am going to go after that look more aggressively for holiday.”
Alvin Bell, designer for Mosaic, the ethnic line for Sears, Roebuck

“We did wide-leg pants for early fall. Half of the pants are narrow, half are in wide-leg. We did not do any of these boy-meets-girl looks, but we are going to do so for later fall, which will hit stores in October and November.
“We are going to show feminine, fitted lacy tops with pinstriped gangster pants. We are going to try to make a bigger push for jackets — the bolero and fitted jackets — for the later fall season. All that girl/boy on the runways gave us the push that we needed.”
June Haynes, merchandiser and account representative for Jou Jou Journey

“We’re showing a lot of embroidery, feminine looks for fall, but we are going to push the whole feminine/masculine thing for late fall deliveries. We are not going to push shoulder pads, though.
“I’m not going to do wide-leg pants. I think it is too sloppy.”
Roberta Ciacci, vice president of fashion, Miss Erika

“For fall, we have a lot of head-to-toe striped suiting, which was shown on the runways. It just confirms how strong the trend will be, and I think buyers will be twice as excited about it because it was all over the papers. Ralph Lauren made a big push for it.
“For fall, we are also doing a lot of embroidered looks, which showed up on the runways, especially from Romeo Gigli.
“I liked the colors on the runways — the whole mixing of reds and purples, browns and purples. We have two different shades of red in our line.
“We did some leather collars for fall, and we are doing some stretch suede in our updated line, Nouveau.
“Overall, everything that was on the runways was salable. The wide-leg pants are something we will not be doing. It is a little tricky for our consumer.”
Ellen Becker, design director, Requirements

“I think we have the trends covered. We have given more shape to the jackets. We are also injecting some luxury fabrics into our lines, such as silk charmeuse and nylon shine. We also did silky pigskin and some leathers.
“The reaction to the new luxury fabrics from buyers is strong.
“For holiday, we are doing some double-layering sheers. Wide-leg pants will account for 60 percent of the fall line. The narrow-leg pants will be our basics.
“We are adding more embroidery for spring, based on what happened last week.
“I think there are a lot of trends happening, but the biggest challenge for moderate resources is to not give too much too soon. We can’t do that with the moderate customer.”
Arlene Tynan, president and an owner of Gloria Vanderbilt

“We are definitely doing pleather and leather trims. We are also doing some faux doeskin in jackets and skirts. We are doing some wide-leg pants, though they are about 22 inches wide.”
Martin Coleman, ceo of Ellen Figg Inc.

“We are doing 21-inch wide-leg pants and lots of leather trims on jackets and vests. We are also doing very shaped jackets, mixing that with feminine charmeuse blouses.”
Charles Glueck, president of Focus 2000

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