FALL ’98: SOFT FOCUS

Byline: Allegra Holch

NEW YORK — Activewear fabrics used to be all about bright, bold, aggressive colors and patterns. But for fall ’98, the mood is shifting to a more subtle esthetic.
That’s the message from Iris LeBron, fashion director for activewear at DuPont, in a recent series of activewear fabric trend workshops held at the company’s offices here.
Soft, sophisticated colors and less obvious patterns and textures will be the key direction for the season, she said, adding that performance properties have become a priority as new technologies make fabrics quick-drying, muscle-massaging and water-resistant. It’s also becoming more common for these fabrics to cross over into ready-to-wear, as LeBron demonstrated with a pair of jeans made with Cordura nylon.
Discussing the season’s color palette, LeBron said, “There is an absence of basic primaries this season.” Instead, there are refreshing berry colors and reddish browns working off coral that have a masculine/feminine appeal, tones of blue and lavender and an inky blue as a substitute to black for a citified look. For a more casual mood, LeBron suggested a palette of earth tones such as olive, grayed blues, charcoal and lemonade yellow that work well for hiking and biking gear.
LeBron presented three trend categories for the season, all focusing on the Great Outdoors: Up in the Mountains, Down in the Valley and Across the Plains.
Up in the Mountains focuses on fabrics and colors for snowboarding. “This is a palette change for snowboarding,” said LeBron, “away from icy shades toward red.” Textures are subtle, in twills and corded effects. “There’s just enough texture to make a difference,” said LeBron. Patterns and logos are very subtle, and satins are not too shiny, she said, describing the new toned-down mood. Fabrics such as rip-stop nylon, woven Tactel nylon with Lycra spandex (newest in the men’s swimwear category) and nylon, polyester and Lycra blends were some of the fabrics LeBron showed here.
Down in the Valley has an urban, workout feel, said LeBron. “The fabrics are a little more techy, with lots of metallic accents,” she said. Fabrics she showed for this category included printed mesh in Supplex nylon and Lycra, pique textures in Tactel nylon and Lycra, and Cordura nylon that looks a lot like cotton canvas. “Traditional weaves such as pique look new in nontraditional Tactel, and there is added performance,” she said. Brushed surfaces have “visual impact without being loud,” said LeBron. She also noted a trend to mixes of knits and wovens within a single garment.
Across the Plains revolves around sturdy looks for biking, trekking and hiking. Here, patterns are a bit more bold, with large-scale rip-stop nylon patterns and dimensional looks. Fabrics for this trend include Cordura nylon; stretch wovens in nylon, cotton and Lycra; terry cloth textures; canvas-like Supplex nylon, and a new fleece made of CoolMax. Heavyweight Cordura nylon with Kevlar as a design element — for instance, in a windowpane pattern — was another important look LeBron showed.

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