Byline: Patricia Lowell

The question that everyone keeps asking is, ‘How do the 9/11 events impact fashion?”‘ reflected Carol Meek, the Dallas-based co-president of New York trend forecasting firm Color Portfolio, at a trend forecast seminar hosted by Fashion Group International in February at Haggar Clothing Co.’s Dallas headquarters. “The answer is, ‘People want comfort more than we’ve ever seen.”‘
At the seminar, largely targeted at moderate sportswear vendors and retailers, Meek asserted that the fashion world is experiencing a tremendous pull toward escapism.
“There’s a strong desire to get away from the stresses and frustrations of daily life,” she said. “But on the other hand, worries of possible job loss are influencing people to dress up more for work and become reacquainted with all those classic pieces that invoke images of stability and trust.”
The result, she said, is a blend of tried-and-true elements mixed with fantasy touches that promise to take women away from the stresses of daily life. The trends Meek referred to have already been paraded down runways from the likes of Celine, Valentino and Miu Miu for spring-summer 2002 collections, but she said it will be spring 2003, by the time the trends hit the mass marketplace, particularly on moderate sportswear sales floors.
Color for spring 2003 will be one element that allows consumers to leave behind the doldrums of daily life. White and layers of various shades of white and creme, combined in one look, will add a fresh, yet simple edge to many wardrobes, Meek said. Whether it’s stark and startling or creamy and rich, various shades of white are turning up in everything from the classic cotton shirt to strappy white sandals that go everywhere from the office to dinner.
Also on the color-trend front, a return to yellow is expected to occur, in soothing and eye-popping variations. From canary to subtle chamois, yellow is being paired with khaki, purples, active brights and all types of denim.
Apricots and peaches will also become important to complement these paler tones, as will earthy browns, taupes and organic greens, Meek said.
Next spring will also see a move toward color tints that are slightly more intense than pastels. Designers will favor candy colors such as lemon drop, cotton candy pink and all the shades found in a bag of tutti-frutti jelly beans. These vibrant tones will work well with the whites and khakis, indigo denims and the stronger rusty reds and cinnabars that will carry into summer next year. All of these fresh colors will be seen on silhouettes that are looser and answer the call for comfort, including shirt-dresses, tunics and roomier pants, Meek said.
Sweet and innocent looks, including lace, cutouts, sheer fabrics and romantic silhouettes such as camisoles, exposed shoulders and delicate blouses, will continue to be popular, working with everything from suit jackets to denim skirts. And T-shirts will be passed over for little tops layered with sheer fabrics, trimmed with ruffled edges and finished with tiny embroidered flowers.
The push toward comfort means that relaxed silhouettes will be held in place by drawstring waistbands and elastic edges. Drawstring pants, off-the-shoulder-peasant tops, belted shirtdresses and tunics will reflect this trend.
As consumers seek an escape from their stress and warm up to traveling overseas, they will adopt part of the fashion aesthetic of foreign countries.
“Consumers are going to pick up these cultural references in their clothing,” said Meek, adding that gypsy themes, Asian embroidery and cultural symbols such as geisha girls and tropical birds will increase in popularity.
This desire for prints will also spill over to more classic pieces, which will be reinvented with unique color combinations. Spectator stripes that go beyond navy and white to include emerald green, lilac and cotton-candy pink are expected to be a hit with shoppers. Stripes will be diagonal or screened with floral prints, and nautical classics will be touched with active colors such as lime green or lemon yellow.
For juniors, Meek predicted a similar blending of classics, brights and cultural references and called the look a “happy mix of preppy, grunge, hippie and golf.”
Accessories will also reflect the sweet and innocent look, with plenty of pearls and delicate crystals. Both ethnic silver and classic gold will decorate everything from belt buckles to pocketbook handles, and many accessories will sport icons such as peace signs and Asian-language characters.
With so much to choose from, retailers are hoping that these colorful and creative options work to lure customers away from their homes and back into the stores.
“Of course we have been hearing for several months now that retailers are struggling,” said Lou Spagna, senior vice president of Haggar Brand Outlet Stores and a speaker at the presentation.
“But there are some very real positives going on as well,” he said. “The apparel market has never been as large as it is right now. Technology now allows us to be in markets that we couldn’t reach before, and those markets have never been as diverse. All in all, I believe we’re in the midst of a challenging, but rewarding time.”

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