Byline: Danielle Cohen

No doubt about it — times are tough. But those in the accessories business are seeing things from the brighter side.
According to Linda Strong, owner of Cornucopia Accessories, a multi-line showroom at Atlanta’s Americasmart, “Being in the throws of this so-called bad economy, accessories are easy purchases for women to make.”
“Accessories have performed phenomenally in past seasons. Consumers are spending more money and time on accessorizing and updating old outfits with a new bag or pair of shoes,” said Kristen Harding, owner of and designer for Zoogy inc., a high-end New York accessories manufacturer. “Fashion is relaxing and becoming more subtle, while accessories are becoming more pronounced.”
Iveta Neamtu, designer for Ivaxa, a high-end accessories manufacturer with a concentration on day-to-evening shawls, scarves, stoles and wraps in Nashville, Tenn., agreed. “Difficult economic conditions with lackluster interest in apparel adds up to additional interest in accessories. Accessories are more important than before and can spice up the wardrobe without spending a fortune.”
Across the board, all types of accessories are seeing a surge in sales. “The sterling business has been strong and steady over the past few seasons. We look to go full speed ahead in the next few months,” said Richard West, regional sales representative for Barse & Co., a jewelry manufacturer headquartered in Dallas.

Overall Outlook
This spring is best summarized by the three Cs: class, customized looks and color. Timeless, sophisticated, elegant and feminine, spring lines are dripping with class. “Our spring line [with its exquisite fabrics, handmade flowers, hand-painted patterns, subtle sheens and delicate adornments] reminds me of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy’s unforgettable style,” Neamtu said.
Whether through use of novelty items, special treatments or bold, funky new looks, women want to set themselves apart, with individual style. Strong said that donning statement pieces like “a sassy handbag” or an item that speaks volumes about a woman’s personality will be all the rage. “Globally, there’s a movement towards individual fashion statements. The most affordable and easy way to do that is with accessories,” Neamtu said.
Harding echoed those sentiments: “Accessories are going to make bold statements, with clothing as the backdrop and either a handbag or piece of jewelry as the focal point of the ensemble. People are sticking to the basics in clothing and sprucing things up with accessories.”

Kaleidoscope of Color
From stones and beads to feathers and flowers, spring accessories will be brilliantly colored, with pigmented textures and fabrics. Blue, in any shade, dominates, with an emphasis on indigo, denim, cool, misty, or oceanic flavors, that blend into blue-greens like turquoise and aqua, said Mark Edge, owner and jewelry designer for Mark Edge Jewelry Co. in Atlanta. Greens, from soft shades to military hues, are everywhere in spring fashion, including chartreuse, celadon, pale peridot and lime green.
Vibrant hues and lighter variations are important as well. Orange, burnt and citrus tones top the list, with paler varieties of coral, salmon and peach as well, said Marcello Belasco, design director for The Sak Elliott Lucca, a handbag designer and manufacturer in San Francisco. Deep, rich shades, from cardinal red to violet to raspberry to fuchsia, are also around. Expect the gamut of diluted pales, said Neamtu, from dusty rose to periwinkle to banana yellow.
And in a natural and neutral category of color, mother of pearl, white, cream, sand, shell, skin and camel should be good. Harding anticipates seeing earth tones with golden touches.
Urban-inspired colors, such as washed-out grays and metallics, will be seen, too, Neamtu said. “Classic black and white will be carried from winter but more so in tiny prints,” Neamtu said.
The unbeatable pairing of black and white will remain popular, said Kaye Davis, fashion director for Americasmart in Atlanta.

Inspiring Minds
Color stories, whether through contrast stitching on shoes or on the interior of handbags, play major roles in spring fashion; Belasco cites an American theme, with red, white, blue and nautical paraphernalia telling a story.
“As fashion turns back to elegance and romance for inspiration, we’re seeing a new passion about feeling and dressing more womanly, and that translates into terrific accessories: jewels and gems, ribbons and lace, beautiful colors and sensual textures,” said Denton Kump, designer for Poesis, a handbag and shoe manufacturer in Richmond, Va.
Belasco suggested that androgyny in fashion has driven designers to play up femininity this spring, straying away from men’s trends. This “ladylike sexy,” as Davis called it, will show bare legs and arms, skin through slits and cutouts and reveal plunging necklines, allowing for drop jewelry and wraps. Edge said “belly chains” will reappear during spring — perhaps to draw attention to the exposed skin.
Carrying this femininity into a more relaxed, exciting style, Belasco expects “a bold, fun, girly factor” to impact spring fashion. In fact, Judi Flowers, president, co-founder and creative director for Bonjour Fleurette in Novato, Calif., has introduced a vintage Hawaiian print slipper in her spring footwear line. Thong slippers, open-toe mules and the like allow for exposure of exciting toe rings with color and stones — one of Strong’s hot picks for the new season. Kump predicts a rise in body gems and jewel tattoos in line with the glitzy girl theme. Neamtu concurred. “Sparkle and glitter will continue on from the past season, but now more refreshed and lighter in spirit and handle,” she said.
Preppy is also a prevalent influence for spring fashion. With houndstooth, herringbone and pinstriped looks making their way into women’s clothing, Flowers has added an argyle slipper to her spring collection.
On a similar note, an equestrian theme will be carried into apparel. That can be attributed to a shift toward western influences. Kump said the ‘cowgirl’ look will be hot, stating that the “must-have” item of the season is a cowboy hat.
“The Sixties look is making a serious comeback,” Neamtu added. Strong agreed that there will be revised versions of repeated looks from the hippie era.

Make and Model
Hands down, soft leathers and leather trims accenting other fabrics are hits of the spring season. Even light-colored suedes will be big, Edge said. Belasco and Harding cited natural materials, such as wooden beads, straw, canvas and linens as top fabrics.
Davis predicted pearls will be the hottest new adornment, with single- and multistrand necklaces as the “it” accessory. Ivaxa’s spring line includes lightweight taffeta wraps, scarves, etc., with freshwater pearl, mother-of-pearl and pearl applications.
Offering a classy, but sexy style, sheers help to bare skin without going overboard. Bonjour Fleurettes, which picks up trends in ready-to-wear and translates them into casual footwear, has launched a line that includes doupioni silk, lace and sheer fabric. Another group of Ivaxa’s spring line includes fine Japanese chiffons, organzas and delicate sheers.
The mixing and contrasting of fabrics and ornamentations give rise to the individual fashion statement. Soft meets hard, subdued meets bold. From denim and lace to knits and metals, “the main rule is that we use unexpected combinations of materials, textures, and colors,” Neamtu said. Patterns, from polkadots to feminine stripes to floral designs to geometric shapes, will be worn head to toe and everywhere in between. Special treatments, such as sequins, said Strong, or antique brass and copper, said Belasco, keep accessories looking fresh for spring.

Be Bold, Bejeweled
Spring jewelry, without being overstated, flashy or gaudy, is bold and big and “will be all about color,” West said.
Keeping in tune with the Sixties counterculture, funky V-neck blouses in prints or solid colors are in now,” Neamtu said. They can be worn with a scarf tied around the neck, dangling down the front or back or to the side. The open necklines dictate lariats, Edge said. Davis sees long drops in both necklaces and earrings. West believes that crosses and cuff bracelets will be hot, especially in sterling.
According to Davis, the military influence brings dog tags into the mix, and pins will be big statement-makers, not small, simple details. Watches, sunglasses and eyewear will change with every outfit, she says, with fun, colorful accents added onto all accessories, even status pieces. And prepare to see an array of gemstones, especially paired with pearls.

Hand-Held Devices
“The big got-to-have it item for spring is an ‘everything’ bag, a bag that will carry a woman through the day from the office to the gym to dinner in the evening, a bag that will take you anywhere and fulfill an active woman’s needs,” Harding said.
Belasco also pinpoints larger, carryall totes, with casual, slouchy appeal as a hot item for spring, especially those with hunting flaps and bandelero styles, a nod to the equestrian and western influences.
Strong and Davis both agree that the clutch will be big, but Davis emphasized that this won’t be the small, wallet-size piece as in season’s past. Kump expects these bags to have geometric shapes with clean lines.
An important feature of spring handbags will be hardware. In fact, Belasco said that belt buckles are gaining momentum as the influence driving handbag’s hardware.

Hips Are Hip
Chain link, leather with grommets, double buckles — there is a resurgence in belts as a leading accessory, Strong said, with an emphasis on the hip. Whether its an elastic cinch or a delicate ribbon, ensembles will not be complete without a belt.

Toe to Toe
Shoes have a new look. Strong sees more silks and satins and ornamentation with silk flowers rising. Davis added feathers and rhinestones, pointing out that shoes will have a more fun element to them. “Heels won’t be as spiky as they have in the past, and toes will lose their pointedness,” she said. Although heels will be thicker, they are not as thick as the platforms.

On the Way Out
“Consumers are being smart about spending money on pieces that will carry them throughout the seasons,” said Harding. “People are sticking more to timeless pieces with an added statement.” Wild prints and flash are out. On that note, West said small, delicate jewelry is an emphatic “no,” while Neamtu says Indian influences have made a departure.

Dusk ‘Til Dawn
In the past, a woman had to completely change an outfit to go from the office to a social event, daytime to evening, casual to dressy, but now, accessories will be bolder and carry over into evening, West said. “The line between streetwear and eveningwear has become blurred over the last few years. The main rule is to choose accessories that combine function with luxury and elegance. A scarf or wrap worn with a simple and comfortable outfit will serve that purpose,” Neamtu said.