BETTER: SHEDDING THE CUTE STUFF
Byline: Georgia Lee
ATLANTA — Better knitwear manufacturers are looking beyond the basics.
Their aim for fall is to deliver novelty through sophisticated specialty yarns, patterns, details, colors and silhouettes and to leave cute themes behind.
“Basics and novelty conversational sweaters have now been done at every price and can be found everywhere,” said Jane Gordon, vice president of Design Options Inc., a New York-based knitwear company that is phasing out its thematic novelty line in favor of a more sophisticated look for fall.
“Novelty is now about yarn, color and silhouette,” said Gordon. For fall, Design Options will offer imported European yarns, vintage Nordic designs, patchworks and embellished houndstooth patterns. “Embellishment is still important going into holiday, but not like cutesy dog and cat buttons,” said Gordon.
Zimmer Enterprises, Dayton, Ohio, makers of Peanut Butter & Jelly embroidered novelty tops and PB&J Sport novelty sweaters, is also cutting back on thematic sweaters in favor of patterns, texture and color interest, according to Jeff Zimmer, president.
For fall, the line includes plaids and Nordic patterns in boiled wools and chenille with mohair accents. Colors include dusty jewel tones and browns.
Le Moda, a Cincinnati sweater manufacturer, is concentrating on novelty looks rather than basics.
“Basics don’t mean anything anymore,” said Jay Spar, president. “We’re taking last year’s chenille basics and updating them with mixed yarns and patterns.”
Le Moda will also offer new silhouettes, such as sweater jackets, as an alternative to blazers.
Spar described better sportswear as healthy and getting stronger. “[Department store] retailers can’t compete with mass merchants; they have nowhere to go but up to better prices.”
Avalin, a New York knitwear firm, will also update chenille sweaters, offering lighter weights for summer and details such as animal print trim, according to Matt Cohen, vice president.
Eagle’s Eye, a traditional better house based in Conshoshocken, Pa., is “simplifying our approach to novelty,” according to a spokesman.
That means the sportswear maker will offer novelty through color and pattern, with more colorblocking and chenille sweaters, instead of heavily embellished looks.
In addition to sweaters, the company will also offer more classic fashion pieces, such as suede jeans, Navaho wrap sweaters and quilted nylon jackets.
Not all companies have abandoned the thematic novelty sweater look, however.
“We think there’s still a novelty sweater customer out there. We’re not afraid of her,” said Michael Wallace, sales manager for Belle Point, a sweater company in Westerville, Ohio. “We know everyone else is abandoning her, and we expect to pick up all their business.”
Belle Point is going into fall with Halloween sweaters, as well as dog and cat motifs. In addition, the company has increased novelty details such as zippers, novelty stitching and textures and less traditional color palettes, with new colors such as lime green.
Belle Point will also introduce a new flannel sleepwear line at WWDMagic. This collection will incorporate licensed collegiate logos that the company also uses for sweaters.
Pioneer Wear, an Albuquerque, N.M., western clothing manufacturer, will offer a simple, clean, tailored line with western details for fall.
“Western wear is a big seller, but the look is still conservative,” said Don Tampo, chairman. “Our customers are increasingly concerned about quality, in fabrics and in construction.”
For fall, Pioneer Wear will offer longer skirts and embroidered vests in a conservative color palette of gray, burgundy and red. The company also makes outerwear in wool, melton and denim.
For fall, A Barcelona Enterprise, a New York-based maker of coats, gloves, hats and other accessories, will offer more shearling, which has been a bestseller.
The company, known as ABE, will also feature white-tipped wool on coats and accessories for fall. Colors are bright, including red, orange and yellow. Silhouettes include shawl collars and sportier three-quarter length styles.
Caroline Healey, vice president, said that the coat business had been good this year, with bestsellers emerging from higher-priced merchandise.