COLOR TO POWER SPRING KNITWEAR

Byline: Lynne Richardson

DALLAS — A heavy dose of color — from brights to neutrals — is expected to turn up some green at the cash register for knitwear manufacturers for spring.
The category is performing well at retail for fall, and Adrienne Vittadini, Liz Claiborne, August Silk and Eileen Fisher said they are working to keep the momentum going through spring.
“The category has been well-received,” said Mikki Thomas, vice president of merchandising for Adrienne Vittadini. “The high interest level for knits should continue as the customer appreciates the ease of care and comfort.”
Vittadini’s spring line mixes natural tones such as indigo yarn with natural-colored linen; maize and butternut with navy as a base, and coral and daffodil with indigo as a base, she said.
“We still believe in natural fibers as well as blends of silk, linen, cotton and also fine 12-gauge cotton and cotton tape yarns,” Thomas said.
Silhouettes will be slim. Knitted dresses and tunics are very strong, and there will be more layered pieces for spring. Twinsets — sleeveless spaghetti-strap tops and cardigans with one or no buttons in silk, cotton or silk blends — should be important, Thomas said.
These styles offer women the option of covering up or exposing more, he said.
For spring, Vittadini will offer more novelty stitches — open, pointelle, mesh, variegated ribs and stripes.
Bright colors like orange and red influenced by the deserts of Africa and the Mideast, as well as soft neutrals, will be key at Liz Claiborne, according to Kathy White, president of the casual knit division.
“There will be more color than in past years,” White said.
For spring, the company will focus on such feminine looks as touches of lace and pin tucks on casual knit dresses. Core fibers are cotton and linen, but new synthetics are being tested.
“Stretch is being utilized for its comfort and stability, more than for cling,” White said.
In terms of silhouettes, long knit skirts will be coupled with fine-gauge twinsets. To offer lightweight styles, there will be more nine-gauge and 12-gauge sweaters, White noted. Pleased with consumers’ reaction to novelty coordinates, Liz Claiborne expects the trend to continue through spring, White said, adding, “A good portion of the stronger sales have been due to novelty coordinates and that will continue into the spring. The floors will look brighter for spring.”
August Silk knits will balance a vibrant color palette with neutrals like khaki and vanilla and dusky shades, according to Jack Weinstock, president of Pacific Silk, which markets the August Silk label.
“The yarns are blends of our classic silk with cotton, linen, nylon, and we use striated yarns also,” he said.
August Silk’s newness will be in asymmetric necklines with deeper scoops, wider V necks and other relaxed styles.
“Tank tops and cardigans will be an important look and ribs with inverted stitches, together with complex stripes, will constitute novelty,” Weinstock said.
August Silk’s business has been strong, Weinstock said, and he expects spring knit business to shoot up 10 to 15 percent. The company has gotten a boost from August Silk shops in such stores as Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Dayton Hudson.
“It’s been very well received,” Weinstock claimed. Although knits account for only 30 percent of Eileen Fisher’s spring contemporary bridge collection, they are a key part of the projected 50 percent increase in the firm’s business for spring 1998, said Eileen Fisher, president and designer.
Fisher’s colors are lively — aqua, iris and blueberry; amethyst with currant and sage, and lime against natural oyster and black. Styles will be more body-conscious for spring. “We’ve extended our range to include camisoles, tanks and small T-shirts in fine-gauge cotton, silk and viscose crepe knits,” said Eileen Fisher. “The pieces are fitted and sexy, so a woman can feel sensual without feeling exposed.”
Fisher will offer flat and ribbed knits. Viscose crepe sweater dressing is selling well, she said, and easy rayon matte jersey “reads narrow, but has a sense of ease.” A simple tie-belt will add newness to V-neck dresses, tanks, wrap tops and cardigan jackets. There are other options for dresses, including a Japanese-inspired obi and skinny tie belts.

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