THE BLOUSE BOOM
THE LAID-BACK LOOK IS MAKING WAY FOR A DRESSIER AESTHETIC, WHICH INCLUDES PLENTY OF BLOUSES.

Byline: Cami Alexander

While many women have been dressing down over the past few years, the resurgence of blouses and tailored shirts may be an indicator that the laid-back look is on its way out.
Popular styles for fall include leather trim, high Victorian collars, ruffles and shiny fabrics. Knits mixed with woven fabrics, such as a knit top with a woven collar, placket front and cuffs, will also be a key look. Here, a preview of what to expect this fall:

Finley, based in Dallas, became a pioneer of the blouse category five years ago when shirts became the cornerstone of its sportswear collection.
Finley focuses on wovens and cotton or all-cotton looks and exclusive prints, but co-owner and designer Finley Moll said that pieces combining knit with poplin are also doing very well.
“We are also continuing to address the very feminine, flounced, ruffled look for fall, and we’re going to do some great cinched and draped pieces with exaggerated waist detail,” added Moll.

At Miami-based A’nue Ligne, the blouse boom has completely changed the business.
“I was primarily [producing] body suits,” said president Lois Varat. “One to two years ago, they started to fall by the wayside, and we turned into a blouse house. Right now, it’s soaring. I’ll be surprised if my business doesn’t double this year.”
For fall, A’nue Ligne will stay with blouses, keeping with white and introducing a black-and-white and a gray group. “We’ll be using soft fabrics, like silks, as well as cottons and stretches, all with feminine detailing,” added Varat. Wholesale price points will range from $22 to $100.

It’s a similar story at New York-based View Collection, where tops used to be the weaker side of the business.
“Shirts were never really a big thing for me, but this last year, I’ve sold more shirts than ever before,” said designer and chief executive officer Walter Baker.
For fall, View will get more into woven, fitted shirts, Edwardian sleeves, high necks, banded collars, pleating and pin-tucking, as well as different types of sheers in white and eyelet.

At Muse in New York, they’re trying to tame all the reorders they’re having on animal prints.
For fall, Muse is making room for weskit looks, lace and bustiers. Many of the company’s silhouettes will still be traditional — framed bodies with trims and cuffs, and they’re also working on peasant blouses. Muse pieces wholesale between $49 and $89.

The blouse business at Drama, produced by New York-based Kolsen Enterprises, is “beyond gangbusters,” said designer Anni Koltun.
One item, a long-sleeved, placket-front, French-cut, button-down shirt, is selling so well that it’s being carried forward for fall.
Drama for fall will be adding a lot of leather trim and will continue doing lace pieces, with some in printed silk doupioni. Wholesale price points range from $59 to $79.

At Rayure Paris, buyers were hesitant to buy blouses when the company first showed them in August 1999. Their reluctance lasted at least a year, said Brian Downey, partner for RD Enterprises, a Houston company that imports the blouses from Paris. Since blouses have really taken off, RD’s business is expected to double or triple this year, he said.
“I think it’s a natural progression, as knits have been driving business for so long as a category,” reflected Downey, whose partner in RD is Mickey Rosmarin, owner of the Houston-based Tootsie’s specialty store chain.
For fall, the company is considering adding leather trims or shinier fabrics to their blouses, which wholesale between $25 and $80. At April market in Atlanta, buyers will find Rayure Paris in its own showroom, suite 3A03 of the International Apparel Mart.

Dallas-based Pong produces shirts and blouses only, so it has really felt the impact of the blouse rage. Business is expected to be up 10 to 15 percent his year, said Connie La Nou, co-owner of the company with her husband, Pong Phoneprasert.
Specializing in novelty detailing, such as hand-sewn rosebuds or bows, Pong will add a few colors to the line for fall, but most pieces will remain white.
“We’re also doing a lot of lace-up necklines right now, and some with lace-ups and ties on the shoulders and some button-back styles,” La Nou said. Pong’s wholesale price points range between $49 and $69.

Remember when blouses were only worn with suits? At MAG in New York, the blouse craze has inspired some dual-purpose shirts.
“We revamped the classic tuxedo shirt and infused it with romantic embroidery,” said Monica Belag-Forman, president of Magaschoni Apparel Group. “Some standout blouses in the collection are a Victorian-inspired blouse in stretch cotton and a classic white blouse with contrasting colored stitching.”
Tops wholesale from $58-$68.

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