Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — When in doubt, knock off Ralph.
That was the message from some manufacturers after a week of 7th on Sixth. The fishtails, mesh and asymmetric designs that sashayed down the runways left little for the moderate market to interpret.
There were enough suede, plaids, knits and nude colors, but many of the new trends that dominated the shows — mesh, off-the-shoulder looks, ruffles and all that layering — will be difficult to translate into spring and summer collections.
Some manufacturers said they simply won’t bother interpreting the trends, and instead will serve up more classic fashions, taking their cues from designers like Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan.
This season’s lack of wearable fashions on the runway, especially in careerwear, represents a drastic departure from previous years.
Moderate makers point to the fall 1996 runway shows, held in March, which were all about classic fashions, from tunics to turtlenecks and slim pants.
“I saw nothing that made me excited,” said Norty Sperling, president of Norton McNaughton. “I just looked at the trends, and that was it. There is nothing new that I can rehash to the moderate consumer. I will probably just do more of the classic fashions. A lot of my consumers like Ralph Lauren looks.”
Here is what other executives in the moderate area had to say:
Barbara Hayes, vice president of marketing at Lerner’s
“I’ll probably interpret all that suede on the runway by doing some suede trim on jackets. As for all the ruffles, we will probably be doing some romantic lace trims on dresses. But overall, there were a lot of unwearable clothes on the runway. It is going to take us longer and harder to think about how to translate the look for our consumer. Fishtails, all that see- through stuff? How can Middle America relate?”
Barry Cohen, executive vice president of Ellen Figg
“We don’t believe in asymmetry to any great extent. It is not the most salable trend. However, we will be doing some asymmetric jackets in Ottoman crepe and Tencel. We do believe in mesh, and we will be mixing mesh with polished linen in such items as skirts, pants and cropped jackets. We will not be doing off-the-shoulder.”
Steve Pitcoff, president of Francine Browner, which markets Francine B
“From what I heard and saw on TV, the trends on the runway don’t look so spectacular for my customer. How is the average consumer going to handle all that sheer and asymmetry? We may be doing some modified halter tops, which showed up at the shows, and some clam-digger pants, which were in the junior runway shows. We’ll probably be adding some ruffles with our slinky tops, but that is about it.”
Alan Cohen, a principal at Maren Sport
“For the most part, the clothes on the runway were far too advanced for the moderate market. The best things were from Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren. They had a lot of wearable career looks, like plaids, and elongated peacoats, and lots of trousers. There were also some great prints, like stem floral prints and watercolor prints, which we will be interpreting for spring. “But, most of the clothes that you saw on the runway were all about peekaboo styles.”
Marc Dana Baff, vice president of sales, Beverly Hills Polo Club
“There was so much frilly stuff on the runway, with all those ruffles. I don’t think we will add ruffles to our clothes; we are more of a logo-driven sportswear firm. The last runways were much better for us. We could easily interpret slim silhouettes.”