Byline: Daniela Gilbert

PARIS — It’s never too soon to think about spring.
While retailers and fashion editors are just digesting trends from the fall runways in New York and Milan, like coonskin caps and barely-there microminis, many designing minds are already racing toward spring 2002.
The latest edition of Premiere Vision wrapped up its four-day run here on Sunday, delivering a verdict of textured, naturally blended solids, as well as classic patterns like stripes and florals.
Colorwise, muted tones of aqua blues and greens are on the rise, while black-and-white combinations, reds and melons will continue to be important.
Considered the world’s key fabric show for helping to craft upcoming seasons among the designer crowd, Premiere Vision has also grown from a sampling to an ordering show, a result of the shifting calendar for the twice-a-year runway collections leaving less time to contemplate piece goods purchases.
The unclear economic picture did impact overall attendance — down by 8.9 percent from last March’s spring edition.
While buyers witnessed an onslaught of highly decorative looks at this time last year, this season gave them more textured plains, something many designers were happy to see.
Lars Nilsson, head designer at Bill Blass, was impressed with the wool and cotton combinations, as well as cashmere and cotton blends being offered.
“The cashmere and cotton blend is great because it’s lightweight, yet is still very soft and luxurious,” he said.
Also on his list were cotton piques because, he said, “They’re great for tailored, constructed suits, but are incredibly soft.”
A selection of 100 percent cotton piques were on view at Abraham, where they were printed with leafy florals and other patterns.
Craig Natiello, head designer at Halston, noted a wool and cotton combination to be “really light and airy, tropical and springlike.”
“I’ve also seen a lot of beautiful wool voile, which I plan to layer in very simple, throwaway shapes,” he said.
Angel Sanchez, shopping the show for his signature line as well as his ready-to-wear designs under the Angelo Della Croce line, singled out silk and cotton blended solids for day that feature “lots of structure, but still allow for a beautiful drape.”
Denise Seegal, former president of Liz Claiborne who was at the show keeping up on the latest fabric developments, saw a return to classics and an emphasis on lighter-weight materials.
“More and more, seasonless fabrics are going to be key to every designer,” said Seegal. “Fabrics that work for all 12 months but still offer temperature control will be increasingly important.”
Other buyers were also noticing a return to more solid fabrics, after seasons of highly decorated looks.
“We’re definitely seeing more plain than novelty fabrics,” said Kim Scala, in charge of fabric research and development at Lafayette 148.
Silk blends and linen blends were also key for the line. Edward Wilkerson, head designer, noticed a lot of heavier silk blends.
“They’re more structured, they create a stronger silhouette and the other fibers, such as rayon, make the fabric look not so precious,” Wilkerson said.
For Jeffrey Kong, another designer for the new Angelo Della Croce line, natural blends continue to be important.
“I’m looking at natural stretch blends that feature microtextures, such as ottomans and bird’s eyes,” he said.
More important this season than shine, these microtextures enhance “the luxury of a fabric,” said Kong. “It’s something novel without being overly decorative.”
The majority of exhibitors at the show were showing natural blends and many of them reported that the response had been positive.
At Weisbrod Zurrer, where silk was mixed with linen or cotton, Khaled Bouharrour, design and product manager, noted that “more buyers are asking for natural blends.”
The silk, cotton and linen that is mixed with synthetics, such as polyester, nylon and acetate, are the “fabrics with more substance and quality that our customers want.”
“Everything has a touch of luxury,” he continued, “whether it’s in the ultra lightweight or a chintzed or other finish, fabrics are more elegant this season.”
At Bonotto, elegant looks abounded, from simple, lightweight fabrics in wool and rayon to wool and linen voiles and twisted cotton and ramie blends that were washed for softness.
Fabrics were “all about touch and fluidity,” said Flavio Ortille, designer. Many of the selections, he noted, were washed, not treated.
“This return to more simple techniques, such as washing, is important for us,” he said. “They create a more natural, vintage look.”
Bucol featured its signature silk mixed with cotton and embossed.
“We’re getting a great response to our embossed looks, whether it’s animal skin-like or camouflage,” said Francois Damide, president of Solstiss/Perrin & Fils, USA.
At Ratti, natural blends continued in silk and cotton. Milk protein fiber, which the mill introduced last season, was mixed with silk as well as cotton to create a soft, fluid fabric.
Patterning, a key element for fall, continues for spring. Stripes, both woven and printed, were featured in a variety of constructions, and florals, most said, have replaced many of the geometric patterns of last year.
“I’m looking for florals that are abstract in nature and are not really small or really big,” said Natiello.
At Jakob Schlaepfer, he sampled a sequined floral that was overprinted for more dimension.
Designer Douglas Hannant praised these types of looks, and said, “I want things for my collection that look unique.
“Everyone keeps saying that all these plains are a result of an unsure economy, but I say that’s the perfect time to give women something really special,” Hannant said.
Scala at Lafayette 148 cited the importance of florals, as well, pointing to “everything from open florals to batik and Japanese-inspired ones, both big and small.”
Etro showcased a group of colorful florals on cotton, as well as silk. Color combinations were vibrant, with mixtures of purple and blue, blue and khaki and dark purple and green.
Hurel tapped into its archives to reintroduce a red and white floral on silk, fashioned after a fan.
“Our archives are an incredible source of inspiration,” said Christian Maloriol, an owner. “When we found this pattern we thought it looked really fresh so we tweaked it a little, adding a satin stripe.”
Bischoff also regularly nods at tradition. This season, the Swiss mill offered looks that were both colorful and intricately embroidered, as well as traditional English embroidery looks in white.
“This work is a very old Swiss technique where the work is very open,” said designer Rachel De Lagenest. “We think it’s going to be really key for tops.”
While buyers were divided on plain versus patterned, one thing they agreed about was color.
“For us, it’s color above all,” said Natiello. “We always feature a Halston red, but I’m also loving the turquoise blues, greens and oranges combined with chocolate, camel, black and white.”
Sanchez, meanwhile, looked at corals, roses and greens for his signature collection, while the team at Lafayette 148 was concentrating on muted pastels.
Donal O’Neill, design director for Carmen Marc Valvo, loved all the blue-grays, turquoises and celadon greens, as well as the more burnt palette of chocolate, terra-cotta and tobacco.
“I think the mix of the two is going to be so important,” he offered.
Hannant also stressed the importance of mixing neutrals with color.
“All the lavenders, blues and greens are great because they’re in between bright and pastel,” O’Neill said. “They’re more muted and grayed and look great next to a neutral palette. They almost become neutral themselves.”
Sarah Lord, director of fabric and product development at Susan Dell, saw the continuance of black and white, as well as mushroomy, sandy tones.
“I like them over the caramels of last season, they’re more gray,” Lord said. “Also, red is still strong for us.”