KNITWEAR: KEEPING FIT FOR FALL
Byline: Elizabeth Gladfelter
NEW YORK — Fitted looks abound in fall knitwear.
As with last fall, there is an abundance of chenilles, but this season’s stretch fabrics include merino wools mixed with Lycra spandex and velour ribs with Supplex nylon. Even classic looks, such as cashmere twinsets, have been mixed with stretch fibers.
In addition to fitted tops, manufacturers note that knit bottoms have become staples as separates. Knitted skirts, pants and dresses are being created by a host of manufacturers, some of them new to the game.
“The fitted look is still one of the hottest. We are doing very body-conscious and sexy looks,” said Shelli Segal, designer for Laundry by Shelli Segal, a Los Angeles contemporary sportswear company.
“Chenille is still in demand,” she added. “We did space-dyed chenilles with an open crochet stitch in halters, cardigans and cropped, long-sleeved sweaters.”
“Chenille quality has become even more important,” said Marnie Tihany, vice president of sales and merchandising at Erik Stewart, a contemporary knitwear firm here.
While the company will be adding many new looks, Tihan noted that fall will also include “traditional Erik Stewart, with soft cotton cables in long and lean, or short and fun shapes.”
Discussing the movement toward fitted looks, Laundry’s Segal said, “We are combining rayon and Lycra in a rib because it is more fitted and has more body, which we have never done before.”
Mag, the collection line of Magaschoni, based here, is serving up classics like cashmere, merino wool and twinsets, but has added Lycra to merino wool for an element of fit and shape.
Stretch has been added to much of Erik Stewart’s line, too. The chenille portion of the company’s novelty group has Lycra, while Supplex has been added to the velour ribs.
“Velour is sexy and practical,” said Tihany.
In terms of color, earth tones appear to be a dominant force throughout the market.
“The popular color scheme is fall foliage, like camels, olives, rusts and browns,” said Laundry’s Segal.
The color scheme for Mag’s fall knits ranges from the earthy palette to the vivid. Cashmere will be offered in basic black, red, orange, cobalt blue and green, in addition to neutrals like gray and oatmeal.
Both Mag and Erik Stewart are offering knit bottoms as separates.
“Bottoms in knits will be a healthy share of our fall knit business,” said Monica Belag Forman, president of Mag. Both wide-leg pants and a full-length wrap skirt for a softer look have been added.
In addition to knitted bottoms, Erik Stewart is also offering pants in six woven fabrics that wholesale from $44 to $79.
Stretch twill pants, side-zip clean-front pants with a tapered leg, and viscose and nylon pants with Lycra are among the styles. Silhouettes range from boot-leg to long and straight.
“Customers asked for knit pants in camel, tobacco and neutrals,” said Tihany. Styles include pinstripe with charcoal gray and black and glen plaid. In general, the hues are neutral.
“Color choices were done tonally,” Tihany said, citing caramel tones — camel, oatmeal, pumpkin, tobacco and cappuccino — as an example. “In the more vivid colors, we used cactus [an apple green], blue, melon and wine.”
Detailing such as trims, buttons and fake fur remain important, according to Tihany. However, the basic lines of the sleeves and the neck remain the most important details, she said.
“Our core yarns are cotton and acrylic,” said Donald Nowakowski, vice president of sales at Shu Shu, a better-priced knitwear firm here. “Boxy oversized bouclA and sweater jackets of mixed yarns are big, too.”
Earth tones are strong, he added, citing rust, marigold and toffee.
He’s also doing well with fully fashioned, updated ski looks in 12-gauge yarn.
The better knitwear company wholesales its line from $35 to $65.
Knitted shirtjackets, which the company started selling last fall, did well again for this fall.
Shu Shu’s volume of $2 million last year is expected to triple in 1997, according to Nowakowski. The company has already matched last year’s volume with its spring and summer shipments.