NEW YORK — The move away from dark and limp has begun in earnest.
That’s the word from retailers around the country, as they tally the season’s results so far in designer jackets, a key item in top-price collections and a bellwether of fashion direction in career wear. The big news for many stores is shape and color. While black is still number one for some stores, there is a growing demand for a variety of hues. Other elements are also coming into play, among them, plaid, fake fur, animal prints and brassy military styles.
Here, a survey of key regions.

“There is incredible versatility in jackets this season,” said Nicole Fischelis, vice president and fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue. “We are doing well with both boxy styles and close to the body, fitted silhouettes, long and cropped.
“The best-selling jacket has been the peacoat at all price points from bridge to designer. It’s a great item, with a lot of versatility, ” said Fischelis. Saks’ bestseller was from CK at $310.
“Fur and animal-print trims, and allover animal prints, are doing extremely well, and color is important,” she said. “We are selling a lot of brights.”
Top designer performers in animal themes at Saks were a zebra print motorcycle jacket with leather trim from Dolce & Gabbana for $615, and Moschino Couture’s leopard print peacoat for $920.
The best-selling military style was from Ralph Lauren in a long, double-breasted style at $900. In general, shine has been an important idea, Fischelis added.
Mary Jane Denzer, owner of a designer boutique under her name in White Plains, N.Y., said a Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche jacket was her bestseller. The jacket is in red plaid wool with a black velvet back and is hip length with a fitted waist.
“We sold it in many ways, with black pleated kilts, all types of velvet bottoms and a red and green plaid kilt, which was a different plaid than the jacket. That kilt was very short and was worn with over-the-knee boots,” she said.
All the bottoms sold were also YSL. The store sold 11 jackets, at $2,200.
“Everybody young, attractive and with a good figure bought that because it was a new look in a jacket,” said Denzer. “It had a real flair, and everyone adored it.”
At Toby Lerner, a designer boutique in Philadelphia, there were two best-selling jackets, both in the fitted shorter silhouette, said Trish Thompson, co-owner and buyer.
A brown alpaca style from Michael Kors, retailing for $755, and a black wool double-breasted jacket with black fake fur collar from Anne Klein by Richard Tyler, retailing for $935, both sold out at six units each, she said.
“Compared to last year, with all the Edwardian looks and the return of the hippie, these styles are very feminine, tidy, sexy and different,” said Thompson.
Thompson finds the shapelier body is popular because “women are tired of looking like men. Our customers are bankers, lawyers and judges, and they all want to look feminine,” she said.
“Jil Sander just flew out of here,” said David Rees, manager and buyer for the Linda Dresner designer shops here and in Birmingham, Mich.
Two Jil Sander styles were a sellout at the boutiques, at 16 units a style. One was a slightly asymmetric wool velvet style in bronze or black, retailing for $1,685. The other was a single-breasted double-faced wool style with three patch pockets at $1,200. The colors there were aubergine, bronze and dark green.
“These sold because of the fabric,” said Rees. “They are very special, and you can’t find them anywhere else. I don’t think any other designer used wool velvet.”
Most of Charivari’s designer jacket sales have been in black, said vice president Barbara Weiser.
“Contrary to what everyone was saying about color, I’m selling more black than anything else,” she said. “I think the most important jackets have novelty in some way or the other. Anything even verging on classic doesn’t seem to be selling well.”
Top sellers that just hit the floor were two jackets from Anne Demeulemeester: a three-quarter length black wool crepe jacket for $925, and the same style in jacquard velvet for $1,050, both with a 45 percent sell-through.
“Everyone looks at the jacquard in this beautiful dusty rose, but they buy the black,” said Weiser.
Other top performers were a brown tweed oversized jacket with patch pockets from Dolce & Gabbana for $740 with a 78 percent sell-through.
“I haven’t received all my jackets from them,” said Weiser. “I expect to do very well with the tighter fitted jackets in bouclé and tweed with knit sleeves.”
But she added: “I’ve had a lot of trouble with deliveries. There are some terrible fabric problems in Europe and all over. I think we’ll have to accept a longer selling season because the designers can’t control the fabric delivery. I think people will still buy a designer jacket in October if it’s a fashion piece.”
Also selling well are a black flannel double-breasted jacket with two rows of buttons, slightly fitted at the waist, at $800, and a short fitted black wool style for $850, both by Dries Van Noten and both with a 75 percent sell-through; a double-breasted short jacket with tuxedo striped trim in black wool gabardine from Future Ozbek for $595; a brown pinstriped single breasted style from Iriè for $610, and Jean Paul Gaultier’s black wool three-quarter length military style jacket for $1,800.
From Prada, the store sold its entire stock of two black nylon jackets: a bomber style for $1,220 and a shirt-style jacket for $1,440. Another strong Prada style was a black or brown nylon hooded windbreaker for $670 with an 88 percent sell-through.

In Chicago, the best-selling jacket at Ultimo, a designer boutique, is a long, fitted style by Richard Tyler, according to Lynne Henry, buying assistant. It comes in a double- or single-breasted style, in a pinstripe or wool tweed or velvet and in various dark colors. The store has sold about 36 of the jackets, retailing for $1,600 to $1,700, so far this season, she said.
A Richard Tyler trunk show in July helped stimulate sales, but several jackets have also been sold from stock, she said.
At Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s, based in Minneapolis, the designer best-seller is a simple double- or single-breasted wool jacket by Giorgio Armani Collezione, according to Mary Hughes, vice president and general merchandise manager.
She said the retailer has sold about 200, retailing for $600 to $800.
Jacobson Stores Inc., Jackson, Mich., has done well with two jackets: a Chanel black double-breasted wool bouclé jacket with a black and white trim, which has had a 50 percent sell-through at $2,465, and an Escada double-breasted wool glen plaid in royal blue and black, which has sold 58 percent at $1,280, said Mary Jo Scofes, vice president and divisional merchandise manager.
Both Chanel and Escada had trunk shows at the store, but these items both sold well from stock, she said.
A Dries Van Noten narrow, slightly fitted jacket has been the top seller at Blake, a designer boutique in Chicago, said Domininic Marcheschi, co-owner.
The jacket comes in a wool blend in solid brown, or a brown and black stripe. The store has sold 14 jackets this season at $950, he said.
June Blaker, owner of a designer boutique in Chicago bearing her name, said her best-selling jacket every season is a classic black, men’s wear-styled, wool gabardine number by Yohji Yamamoto. She has been carrying a similar style for about 10 years, and sells six to 10 every season, she said.
At Scarboro Fair, a designer boutique located in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago, the bestseller has been a casual oversized shirtjacket by Industria. The eight of the single-breasted style, which retails for $479, have sold from stock, said Margot Atkinson, store manager.

At Neiman Marcus, Dallas, fitted jackets have sold briskly this fall, according to Neva Hall, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for designer sportswear.
Early bestsellers include two short wool tweed jackets from Chanel, one gray and silver and the other a multicolor confetti style, at about $2,000 each. In just under three weeks, both jackets have registered a 65 percent sell-through.
Donna Karan’s hot pink wool velour long fitted jacket with asymmetric closure, at $1,350, has racked up a 36 percent sell-through so far this fall. Karan’s dark brown fitted jacket with asymmetric closure, at $1,200, has registered a 30 percent sell-through in about two weeks.
At Lilly Dodson, Dallas, a women’s better-to-designer specialty store, the single and double-breasted cashmere jackets from Augustus, at $450 apiece for either style, have sold a total 40 out of 48 units in less than a month, according to Bill Dodson, president. Colors include cognac, navy, black, vicuna and red.
Stanley Korshak in Dallas, a women’s and men’s designer store, has sold about 10 Giorgio Armani Le Collezione ruffle-front windowpane gray wool three-button jackets, at $935, in the last few weeks, said Kay Glatter, vice president and director of women’s apparel. Also noteworthy was Isaac Mizrahi’s fitted, hip-length three-button wool jackets in banana and brown houndstooth, at $715, with four selling.