WHAT’S AHEAD FOR LEATHER

Byline: Merri Grace McLeroy

If consumers have tired of black leather classics and over-the-top extremes of past years, 2002 trends should lure them back. Steven Cutting, PalFair trend speaker and design director of S. Rothschild Men’s, said, “Sept. 11 made a big impact on American consumer attitudes. No one wants to be ‘out there’ this year, so everything is more subtle.”
For fall-winter 2002-2003, texture, color and style blend across all domestic groups. Distressed leathers, shearlings, soft earthen colors, pastels and interesting updates on classic silhouettes are trend leaders. Following, a look at what the year ahead in leather holds:
“Luxury fashion customers will embrace light-colored, soft leathers, and active customers will prefer more distressed looks in deeper colors,” predicted Onder Canal, foreign trade manager for Emelda Leather & Textile Industries of Istanbul, Turkey.
New textural finishes and effects from dirty and distressed to crisp geometric looks should entice even the most conservative consumer. The same distressed finish that’s popular for bombardier jackets will now apply to looks such as a camel-colored western jacket or a black oiled-leather motorcycle jacket. Details such as whip-stitching for Southwestern looks, retro top-stitching and colorblocking are popular.
“Distressed leather is definitely gaining strength and trending down to mainstream price points,” said Cutting, “and suede, in any form, is a serious trend.” The trend will be updated via embossed and printed suedes patterned after herringbone, denim, houndstooth and corduroy, in shades of cognac or dark chocolate.
The color conundrum caused controversy. While trends tend to cross all consumer profiles, the new color palette scares some American retailers. While calming, desert colors such as camel, dark brown and natural are big hits, the dreamy sky color palette of lavender, blue and pink, along with rich navy and purple and extended earth tones of olives, yellows and orange-reds, so in demand in the rest of the world, have American buyers nervous.
Said handbag designer Lana Marks, chief executive officer of the Palm Beach, Fla.-based Lana Marks, “Colors are new, novel and sophisticated. But, European and Americans differ on color choices. In Europe, burgundy is a staple leather color, in the U.S. it’s considered a fashion color. Even though fashion is worldwide, these subtle differences must be noted when marketing fashion collections.”
Canal agreed. “In Europe, light, optimistic pastels are the big trend, but U.S. buyers, given the current political and economic climate, are still buying deeper colors and neutrals.”

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