Byline: Patricia Lowell

Dressing for fall 2001 is going to be a very touchy experience. Fabric designers are filling the market with all kinds of tactile elements, from hairy finishes and tweedy wovens to soft velvets and smooth leathers.
“It’s going to be a great season to walk though a store and just touch the clothes hanging on the racks, says Marilyn Kern, president of Marilyn Kern Textile Design Inc., in New York. “Clothes are going to feel as good as they look.”
Following, some snapshots of key trends:

Leather and suede
“You saw it everywhere last fall, but leather is going to continue to be a big seller going forward,” says Beaver Raymond, president of Central Falls, an updated sportswear company based in Dallas.
“It was one of our biggest categories last year, and it’s going to continue to do well for us because it’s so versatile. The newness is going to come in the design rather than the color or finishes. We’re doing some really terrific pick stitching on jackets and using suede for some great fringed shirts that don’t necessarily have a Southwest feel.”
According to fabric industry experts, imitation leathers and suedes will turn up in everything from tiny shirts and miniskirts to barn jackets and slim pants. Black and chocolate brown are the most popular colors, but some brights and pastels also are being added to the mix.
Retailers should also keep an eye out for stretch real leather and suede backed with cotton/Lycra.

Men’s wear
Perhaps the big news of for fall is the reintroduction of men’s wear fabrics ranging from plaid to paisley. Many fabric experts are using phrases like “men’s club” and “horse country” to describe the look, the colors and the blending of these traditional favorites.
“It’s a very classic, very traditional look,” says Peter Lennox of Peter Lennox Textiles sales rep firm in Dallas. “We’re seeing a lot of those Donegal tweeds, mini herringbones, foulards, club checks and pinstripes. It reminds me of Ralph Lauren or Brooks Brothers, and it’s all of a sudden a very hot look.”
Not surprisingly, these traditional weaves are appearing in chocolate, tan, moss green, tobacco and charcoal and olive. By far one of the biggest sellers will be tweed, especially when it’s pumped up with interesting colors such as plum or teal. These tweeds will work their way into everything from suiting to accessories, and many will be layered with checks and plaids or pale chalk stripes.
What makes these fabrics new, however, is in how they are being mixed, blended and layered to create fresh new looks.
“We’re seeing a lot of that no-print, print mixing,” says Ms. Kern. “Herringbones are going with pinstripes and plaids are being printed with paisleys or foulards. It mixes it all up and makes the look more interesting and contemporary instead of the straight Hermes look that everyone is already so familiar with.”
Even argyles, which for years have been largely relegated to sock patterns and children’s vests, are coming back in woven and knitted versions. The harlequin motif is also on the horizon for fall 2001.
“These argyles are much more colorful than before,” says Kern. “It’s not just charcoal and red. We’re seeing argyles in greens, tobaccos and plums.”

This fall, the cloth of kings is going to be popular for everyone from college professors to boy-band fans.
“We’re seeing all different weights and wales,” says Lennox. “Right now, the 14- and 15-ounce solid cottons are selling very well.”
“One of the most interesting things we are seeing is lightweight corduroy with Lycra added for stretch and comfort,” says Roseann Forde, fashion director for ready-to-wear for DuPont. “We’re seeing it in finer wales that don’t add bulk to the body but still have that soft look. It’s kind of like L.L. Bean goes to Paris.”

You can’t talk about the return of tactile fabrics without touting the importance of velvet.
Whether it has been cut with lasers, knitted with Lycra, shot through with iridescent threads or printed with the paisley of the moment, velvet is still one of the most popular fabrics in the market. Printed velvets, including small flowers, paisleys and novelty motifs, are selling especially well right now according to Lennox.
“We’re moving from velour back to velvet,” says Lennox. “The knitted velvets with stretch are doing very well. People love that stretch and recovery, especially for tops, so it’s looking to be more and more of a staple.”
Black and brown continue to be strong colors, but updated choices include cranberry, moss, navy and charcoal.

For fall 2001, prints can be divided into roughly three categories — traditional, geometric and the animal of the moment.
“Our biggest print for fall is the paisley,” says Raymond. “It has that traditional Northeast feel, and we’re doing both big and dramatic or small and subtle. In either case, the paisleys are much more colorful than I’ve ever seen them. We have 10 or 12 color screens on some of these paisleys.”
Although the pattern may be tried and true, textile designers agree that the appeal is in the new ways it’s being used. Whether paired with an animal print, knitted into a jersey wrap dress or blown up to giant proportions, the paisley will be everywhere from men’s ties and women’s cocktail dresses to children’s corduroy pants.
Those looking for a more modern take on fall prints will find that bold geometrics — from cubes and squares to dots and swirls — remain popular, especially for jerseys and knits.
“It’s a very Seventies look that comes from a Twenties inspiration,” says Kern. “You see Art Deco in all of these designs.”
These big bold graphics often come in look-at-me colors like chartreuse blended with rust, but the biggest sellers will most likely be the black, gray and white combinations that are both dramatic and versatile. According to fabric representatives, the positive/negative prints have been some of the biggest sellers of all fall 2001 fabrics.
And although retailers have seen a virtual jungle parade in the past few seasons, it seems that the love of things wild hasn’t yet faded, with cheetah and snake prints still appearing on both woven fabrics and knits.
Textile designers agree that print sales have been on the rise for several seasons. The newer looks, however, are designed with layers of patterns, colors and designs. Look for plaids layered with paisleys and foulards, animal prints combined with stripes, plaids or florals and Op Art geometric shapes piled on top of zigzags or dots.

Gold finishes and threads have gained in the market for the past several seasons. According to Forde, fall is the time to watch for the return of copper.
“We’ve seen a lot of copper-colored microfiber fabrics, gabardines and iridescent nylons tinged with copper threads,” says Forde. “And of course there will be quite a bit of denim with copper washes and copper metallic thread running through. Copper is a fresh, new look for those who love shine but are tired of gold and silver.”
A bit of shine, both gold and platinum, is also showing up in prints where the iridescent touches are highlighting paisleys and foulards.
Sweater knits are glittering, too, especially when they are worked in open weave patterns that are lightweight and somewhat lacy.

In a season where so much emphasis is placed on classic colors, weaves and prints, it’s no surprise that sweater knits are high on the demand list.
“We do twinsets every year, but people keep asking for more,” says Raymond. “The trick is not so much to change the knit but to change the styling.
For us, that means going from a four-button to a one-button cardigan and a boat neck instead of a tank. What sells these sets is the design and the color.”
This season, many designers will choose knits in berry, olive, gray, and dusty blues — all meant to pair up with the ubiquitous traditional men’s wear fabrics. Buyers looking for something less traditional will find lots of hairy treatments that give sweaters and dresses a shaggy, casual look.

Stretch denim is here to stay. Now, the challenge is to make it look hip. Textile designers are doing just that by keeping colors very dark. Washed indigo that holds its color is popular for both contemporary and misses markets.

The passion for luxury fabrics certainly includes a desire for things that sparkle and shine, and that means the current trend for beaded, embroidered and sequined fabrics will continue. Same-color beads and sequins are popular for twinsets — especially when they turn up in the autumnal olives, browns and berry colors of the season.