STAYING THE COURSE
FOR THE MOST PART, MODERATE STICKS WITH REFINED TAKES ON THE TRIED-AND-TRUE.

Byline: Shirliey Fung

In the moderate tier, it’s reinterpretation, not reinvention that will likely drive trends this year.
Last year’s hot items are still simmering: Vendors say that pashmina, geometric- and animal-print blouses, feminine silhouettes, applique, beading and embellishments will still be driving sales, albeit in slightly altered guises. Many of the trends are being presented in a cleaner and more sophisticated manner.
Vendors say that customers are still veering away from basics in favor of something more distinctive, be it unique handpainted fabrics or reinvented ethnic and bohemian prints. Denim will be a hot category as well. Many manufacturers are bullish on jeanswear featuring embellishments, patches and embroidery. Appliqued jeanswear was a hot category in Europe last year, and the consensus is that Americans are finally ready to embrace the trend.
Clothing will continue to become sexier and racier, as halter and backless tops grow even more popular. At the same time, however, resources say that customers are increasingly demanding comfortable, machine-washable clothing in natural, low-maintenance fabrics.

This season, Artisans International is looking to Europe for its trend cues. All of our big customers are talking about denim in lighter shades with patches and embroidery. “This was a very hot category in Europe,” said Arvind Singh, owner of Artisans. “Applique is moving into the States right now.”
The detailing will be done in light colors such as yellow, white, ivory and baby blue, in floral and geometric shapes.
Singh added that his company did well with the appliqued jackets it offered last season.

“Mass is out,” says Mary Vaughn Williams, co-owner and designer for White Rice. “People are really interested in items that are handmade and feel special and unique,” she said. This spring, the vendor is offering Forties-esque polkadot blouses, pants and skirts, layering T-shirts with beading and embroidery, bottoms and tops with soft ruffles and tropical floral prints.
And with customers demanding comfort, Williams said that feel-good fabrics such as washed linen will play a major role.

First Fashion Boutique’s Fabulous label will offer a handpainted fabric for the first time. Dolly Batra, the company’s president, said that the cotton-terry voile will be offered in backless tops, halter tops and miniskirt sets.
Batra added that clothing will continue to get more risque. “A lot of customers have asked us to bring them the sexiest clothes, things like halter tops and miniskirts.”

Blouses will continue to be a big item for upper-moderate label Beverly Rose. “Blouses will never die. It will always be number one if you have good prints and the right product washability,” said Ajit Datwani, president, who added that he’s high on geometric and abstract prints in bright colors such as orange, lime, turquoise and royal blue.

Although Simon Kakon, vice president of Infinity Fashions Inc., believes that embellishments will continue to dominate the market, he stressed that less would be more this season.
“When this embellished look started about 10 years ago, it was the more, the better. Now, the customer wants to see a more sophisticated look,” Kakon said. “They want to see details that are more unique and simple and that enhance the look of the garment. Today it’s the smaller details that are important.”
Infinity did well with ladybug and dragonfly festoons last year. “It matched with the accessories — the earrings, the handbags — that were hot last year,” said Kakon, who said that animal motifs will continue to be important this season. He added that animal-print trims will turn up in embellishments as well.
Kakon was yet another voice in the comfort-worshipping chorus. “One thing that I’ve noticed in the last year is that the more comfortable an item is, the better it sells,” he said. “In the misses’ market, customers are tending not to compromise on the question of being comfortable.” As such, Infinity is reaching for natural, relaxed fabrics and styling comfortable and generously cut apparel.

Dave Dewnani, president of New York vendor SoHo Village Wear, said that denim will be the key apparel item for this year. “Denim has been basic, but now it’s more trendy,” he said. He suspects the most popular styles with be a combination-washed denim decorated with patches and applique embroidery.
On the shirt front, Dewnani said that candy colors such as orange, lime and yellow will be important for items like neck-tie tops and backless shirts.
Sexy beaded belts for shorts and dresses will be important as well. Dewnani said that the accessory will add value to the garment.

Morning Sun’s Janet Stahnke, vice president of marketing, is still bullish on animal prints for its embroidered appliques. The sweatshirt and T-shirt company uses the same motifs — cats, birdhouses, hearts — year after year, but updates the look by using different patterns for the appliques.
This year, Stahnke believes that her customer is ready for zebra, tiger and cheetah prints. She said that raised textures will also be much in evidence.

Although Natural Fashions Inc. will be using embellishments such as border trims with bells, beads and paillettes on the capri pants, T-shirts and skirts that are sold under the Anu label, Punnu Chopra, co-owner, said that comfort will still be the number one concern. “With embellishment, a lot of times the clothing gets uncomfortable,” she admitted. “But you can wear this particular line every day. It’s fun and very low-maintenance. You can put it in the washer and line-dry it.”
Chopra also said that the ethnic trend is continuing to go strong, but added that “it has to be creatively done. People are wanting an updated look with a little bit of ethnic. At this point it has to be funkier.”

Ray Cell of Terazzo said that denim will be an important category for his company this year. The vendor will offer ladybug, turtle, fish and flamingo appliques in its jeanswear category.
Cell also said that basics such as twin-sets will be strong for the fall because they will complement skirts and pants that women can wear to work. “The casual trend is still building,” he said. “The suit look is not as important as it was a year ago. The world has turned into a casual world.”

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