LUXE ITEMS SET THE PACE FOR FALL

NEW YORK — Luxury looks such as fake collar trims, chenille and velvets are driving fall bookings for moderate sportswear, according to a spot check of retailers and sportswear firms.
Other trends that are booking well include knitwear, especially in tunics; anything in stretch, and embroidered treatments. The emphasis continues to be on casual looks.
Overall, buyers who were interviewed are optimistic about the fall season, pointing out that moderate firms have done their homework when it comes to staying on top of the trends.
Here is what some manufacturers and retailers had to say:
“Moderate is a stable business. We’re planning fall up 5 percent, which is less aggressive than the better business, where the real growth is. Based on what’s selling for spring, we’re spending more dollars in casual and knit areas than in structured career dressing.
“Top resources include Koret, Tan Jay, Alfred Dunner and Leslie Fay, which all had double-digit increases in March.
“Basic and traditional areas have also been strong. Key items include basic wrinkle-free and elastic-waist pants by Savon and layering pieces from various resources.
“In knits, luxury fabrics, such as chenille and velvet, texture and strong color should be big. Animal prints also continue to be popular.
“Many companies have introduced updated divisions, which haven’t done as well as we expected. We still want to develop them but are trying to decide how to do that for fall.”
— Linda Kerr, general merchandise manager for ready-to-wear at Proffitt’s.
“Moderate is growing because the category is more fashion-aware. Moderate used to be a look, with a clear distinction between moderate and better. Now there’s more crossover, and it’s not so much of a look as a price point. Moderate now has more current fashion trends, and the customer base is growing because of more diversity.”
— Laurie Wilson, fashion and promotion manager at Mercantile Stores.
“Our fall budget for moderate is up between 6 and 10 percent. Moderate sportswear is a money-maker and a good steady business. Newness is driving sales now. Fall 1997 is the best we’ve seen in years. Manufacturers have done their homework, and it will pay off. Sweaters should be good with luxury yarns such as chenille and velour, and natural fibers should be good as well. We see a resurgence of tunic lengths, with leggings and stirrups, for the ease of wear.
“Our key people are Alfred Dunner, Sag Harbor and Norton McNaughton. In knits, Delta Knitwear and Cathy Daniels are strong.”
— Bert Szabo, divisional merchandise manager for moderate sportswear at Mercantile Stores.
“The customer has a real reason to buy this season in new colors and fabrics. Microfibers, velvets, pannes and weighted fabrics are leading the way. Silhouettes are also new. This is the year of the pants with silhouettes from narrow to wide in both career and casual. Skirt lengths are either long or short.
“Key brands that we are building for fall for career are First Issue, Apostrophe and Mosaic. For casual wear, they are Crossroads and Levi’s.”
— Lana Cain, vice president of women’s apparel at Sears, Roebuck.
“The bookings are very large in woolens and knitwear with two-button and double-breasted jackets. And we tie it off with pants, skirts and shorts. And we do the same thing with novelty knits… Everything goes together.”
— Harvey Solomon, president of Sag Harbor.
“The things that are booking best are things that are usually commodity items: solid and patterned wool jackets and the layering pieces that go with them. And we have vests and sweaters that go with them. We’re doing an item called washed wool in a cardigan and a vest. That’s a new item for us. We’re doing a lot of pantsuits, because pants are becoming such a commodity. We have an embellished vest with a coordinating pleated skirt and pants in a stretch polyester that has been excellent. Vests in general have been the single biggest category we have; we reordered them 12 times.
“We’re selling a lot of print blouses, which seems to be important. And we’re doing a lot of embroideries. Wherever you can embroider, we’re embroidering. I think it’s a more feminine touch.”
— Ellen Becker, design director and partner at Requirements.
“Fall bookings are up by about 20 percent. What’s doing well are the seasonless fabrics such as knitwear and polyester rayon crepes. Textured fabrics, such as herringbone, are also popular. Knitwear has replaced the blouse part of the business. Novelty knitwear is selling well, including boucle yarns and hardware on knits, such as zipper treatments. We are also doing well with wrap knits. It has replaced the jacket.
“Zip-front, shaped short jackets in polyester/rayon blend, played off with a 32-inch black skirt, which hits mid-calf, have also booked nicely.
“The belted classic trouser continues to be strong, as well as the mock turtlenecks.
“Forest green and eggplant are the new fall tones.”
— Jayne Jacobs, vice president of sales at Cricket Lane.
“Our moderate business is strong. We are seeing that our customers are trading up in fabrics and styling. One of the biggest hits has been the stretch suede in pants, shirtjackets and skirts. Other fabrics doing well are stretch velvets and velours. We are putting a lot of details on our jackets, such as stitchings.
“Knitwear — boucle knits and chenille sweaters — are also doing very well.”
— Alan Cohen, principal at Maren, a manufacturer of casual and career clothes.
“Bookings are up 50 percent from last fall. Chenille is doing very well, as well as all different [kinds of] embroidered sweaters. Tunics and cropped sweaters are the key silhouettes. Tonal stripes are becoming very important for fall.
“Consumers are looking for opulent treatments. For fall, we are showing faux fur collars and beaded sweaters.”
— Mitchell Herman, senior merchandiser and vice president of sales at By Design.

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