Byline: Allegra Holch

NEW YORK — “Investment dressing” has been a mantra for women who value quality over quantity, but prices are often prohibitive.
Enter bridge designers who, for fall, are delivering luxury fibers and fabrics in must-have shapes that are meant to last beyond next week.
“I have said consistently, since starting my bridge line, that there’s no reason why this customer can’t have luxury and sophistication. She craves it and wants it — at the right price,” said Michael Kors. “In general, the designer business has become so predicated on luxury. The bridge customer can find the answer with blends.”
For fall, Kors said about 35 percent of the line will be made up of luxury fabrics, including leather and suede, cashmere and wool blends, alpaca blends for coats and sweaters and camel hair outerwear.
“With luxury fabrics, the clothes are investment clothes. [In designing with luxury fabrics] you have to keep the balance between timeless and new,” said Kors. “People won’t invest in a trendy item or color when you get into these fabrics.”
“The consumer has less disposable income, and as a result, she makes buying decisions much more carefully,” said Donna Karan. But she doesn’t skimp on fabrics, even for her secondary lines. “Clothing is a sensory experience. I love the feel, the touch, the smell of incredible fabric against my skin. There’s nothing like it.”
In DKNY, she’s offering the kind of investment pieces she says women want: a leather suit jacket, a cashmere wrap, a great silk knit sweater or suede pants that can be mixed with what they already own. Karan cited angora, silk knits, butter-soft leathers and high-twist stretch wools as key luxury fabrics for fall.
“The way people are buying clothes now, they’re being careful and they want a good investment,” said Maurice Antaya, design director for Anne Klein II.
“It’s also a status thing,” he said, pointing to the renewed popularity of high-end luxury lines like Gucci and Hermes. “It’s all part of that scheme.”
Antaya said about 15 percent of the collection will be made up of luxury fabrics.
“We’re returning to all our wonderful fabrics — the fabrics and good quality we were always known for.”
To that end, camel hair and angora are the key luxe elements in the collection. “We’re doing a camel hair, notch-collar wrap coat that’s very Forties Hollywood, as well as a peacoat and blazer,” he said.
The angora pieces will be offered in a pretty palette, including lavender, patina green and pale bordeaux, as well as almond and black in coats, dresses and jackets.
“Luxury fibers make everything more special,” said Allyson Shenar, head designer for knitwear at Oscar, Oscar de la Renta’s bridge line. “The customer knows quality fabrics, and color lends itself better to nicer fibers.”
The company will offer knits in a yarn blended of 70 percent wool and 30 percent cashmere, as well as luxuriously thick, cabled mohair sweaters and fine-gauge merino wool and silk sweaters.
“Because of our price points, we couldn’t do 100 percent cashmere,” said Patricia Clyne, design director for Oscar, who oversees wovens. Instead, she’s working with a cashmere and wool blend in colors ranging from pink and light green to navy and rum that will be offered in a long coat, jacket and structured dress silhouette.
“We’ve done a lot with luxury fibers in the past, but this season, there’s something in the air that suggests opulence,” said Linda Allard, designer for Ellen Tracy. “The clothes are simple, but the colors and textures create a wonderful aura.”
Allard said there will be lots of leather and suede, which the company did particularly well with last fall. She also cited camel hair, alpaca and silk for knits and iridescent shirts, and blends of silk with wool and cashmere as key.
“Silk blended with wool and cashmere lends a nonseasonal quality to the fabric, which is important as more women travel all over the world.” Allard also noted a return to simple styling for fall: “Basically, the shapes are lean. Lean jackets, flat-front, straight-leg pants and lots of coats.”

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