Byline: Shirliey Fung

NEW YORK — In recent seasons, knits have stood aside and let blouses shine in the fashion spotlight. But even while everyone was fussing over wovens, knits never stopped selling.
With item dressing and plenty of novelty styles set to grace store shelves in the fall, sweaters look ready to take center stage again. The only definite about fall’s knits is that basics are out, and silhouettes, colors and yarns are refusing to conform to any one mold.
Come September, there will be no one way about it. Styles range from loose-fitting Eighties-inspired boyfriend sweaters to body conscious fine gauge twinsets to knee-length sweater coats with leather ties to sleeveless chunky, marled cowl-necks with geometric patterns.
“People want to take a pair of jeans and accessorize them,” said David Shelsky, president of better-priced firm Cousin Johnny. “The new accessory is a great novelty sweater.”
Liz Claiborne is putting a focus on knitwear offerings for fall in their better and moderate divisions. Kim Roy, group president of casual, special markets and accessories at Claiborne, said the overall knitwear focus has been intensified for fall.
“The sell-throughs are strong,” said Roy. “It’s signaling that the consumer has a great appetite for knitwear.”
After a few highly elaborate seasons, knits are toning down in terms of embellishments and colors. Bright pastels have given way to neutrals and muted tones such as earthy browns and reds, midnight blue, military green, bronze and fuchsia.
While browns and camels lead the pack this season, “We don’t want to get too browned out,” said Kathy Laikin, executive vice president of sales for Ivy, a moderate division of Kellwood Co.
“We’re back in that classic trend,” said Barbara Warren, cofounder of White + Warren, citing red, black, brown, navy and neutral as key combinations. “We always sell colors, but we’re selling more classic colors than we had been.” That includes classic black, the New York staple which vendors expect to have broader appeal this year.
“People underplay black, but we’ve been seeing an awful lot of black,” said Lou Breuning, president of August Silk. “It will be the biggest color for fall.”
In terms of silhouettes, the twinset is still holding its own. “We keep trying new ways to reinvent it,” said Sigrid Olsen, who is mixing it up with a knee-length cardigan and short tank combination.
Breuning said, “We forgot to tell the customer that twinsets were going out.”
In addition to cardigans, vendors expect sweater coats to be important as a casual career alternative. “Sweater coats will be a major classification for fall,” said Becky Blair, vice president of sales for Karen Kane. “They sold well last year in a small way. This year they’ll reach their height.”

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