THE REAL WORLD

Byline:

NEW YORK — How many seasons in a year? In fashion, the number just keeps growing. The latest addition to the New York calendar is “pre-fall,” which has suddenly infiltrated the schedule in a major way after several years as a European specialty.
Despite the fact that expanded pre-fall collections bring yet another round of presentations to an already packed schedule, retailers say they love the idea. They maintain that because of the prolonged selling potential, early deliveries should be a major priority of designers.
Retailers also appreciate the interaction of “up close and personal” presentations, when they can dish with designers, exchange ideas and pitch their own agendas.
Not that designers give away any runway surprises for pre-fall. Unencumbered by the pressure for theatrics, they’re using this season to make real clothes for real women.
“It kind of sets me free,” said Isaac Mizrahi. “On the runway, you make a statement, and often it’s something manic. And then I do coats, suits and dresses for women to wear all the time. That’s why I’m in business in the first place, but on the runway, it can get sacrificed. This is a dignified, sensible way of doing business.”
A few key themes run through Mizrahi’s pre-fall collection. The simple shapes — jackets over slim or gently fluid dresses, girlish jumpers, skinny pants — are often cut in tartans, classic men’s wear flannels or cozy wool bouclé laced with a little cashmere. Mizrahi says all this forms “the bread and butter” of fall; “the cream” comes later, on the runway.
But he says doing such an extensive pre-fall is tempering his runway plans. “I don’t want to do sponge dresses, or pasties in chinchilla. To me, it’s all got to make sense.”
Calvin Klein, too, has gone all out for pre-fall, expanding the capsule approach of past years into an extensive lineup of day and evening; dresses, suits and coats.
The lean, sexy silhouette Klein introduced for spring continues, but there are glimpses of new things to come. His first point of departure is length: Klein’s new skirts bare the knees completely. Second, after two seasons in which he played the matched suit for maximum punch, Calvin is now also working with fabric mixes, a concept honed in his recent men’s wear collection. “It’s the new way to wear a suit — treating a suit jacket like a sports jacket, mixing patterns and textures,” he says. “It’s a sophisticated approach to clothing.”
Klein suggests the sudden interest in pre-fall has been a long time coming. “There are always a lot of people out there ready to shop early,” he says. “You have to show them you have what they want. Very simply, it’s just good business.”

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