VELVET: SOFTENING THE RULES

Byline: Kathleen Nicholson

NEW YORK — Velvet has become a fabric for all seasons. Karl Lagerfeld showed warm-weather velvets on his spring ’95 runway for Chanel, and other designers, including Donna Karan and Martine Sitbon, embraced it a year later.
So, have we seen enough?
Apparently not. Fabric mills report a continued interest in the fabric, with new fall versions ranging from crinkle to printed to frosted looks.
“Velvet is very cyclical, and we’re on an upswing right now with it,” says Ellen Baumgarten, creative director for Majestic Mills. “It’s much more of a year-round fabric now. For fall, the news is in surface interest, new finishes that can be applied to velvet: metallic, frosted or flocked. Panne and stretch will also continue to be important, and, in terms of color, black is back.”
Frosty and panne velvets are also important looks for J.B. Martin, which supplies such designers as Donna Karan, Nicole Miller and Karen Kane. According to Christina Bifano, director of fashion, dress designers have favored pleated, frosted and panne velvets, while sportswear houses are buying velvets with menswear-inspired prints, like herringbone, houndstooth, paisley and foulard.
“Animals are still in,” adds Bifano, “but I think they will be cleaner and less obvious.”
According to Carolyn Ricci, fashion director for A. Wimpfheimer Velvets, embossed velvet is the next big thing. “[It] gives the velvet a three-dimensional look,” she says, adding that the mill offers the fabric in floral, geometric and animal patterns, some with an iridescent base.
An early look at fall shows that designers at all price levels are in fact still smitten with the lush fabric. Oscar de la Renta designed his own cut-velvet patterns for his Oscar line. At Rena Lange, there are crinkle velvet jackets and dresses, Steven Stolman offers argyle-patterned burnout velvet looks and David Warren is showing corded velvet dresses.

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