Byline: Kathryn Hopper

With what looks to be another item-driven season, spring collections will offer nautical-inspired designs, island looks and lots of color. With the slow economy and a chill on consumer spending, it’s more imperative than ever to carry items that catch the eye, said Walter Baker, owner and designer of View collection, a contemporary sportswear line.
“We can’t sell the same black suit — shoppers want something fresh,” Baker said. “It seems like everything has got to be special. Items are driving the business. Customers want something that will pop, a color or print that will match with what they already have, but will get them noticed.”
View’s spring 2002 collection will offer a wider assortment of printed and solid jeans that can be paired with a group of brightly colored shirts and prints to entice customers suffering from the winter blahs. Baker is cautiously optimistic that spring looks can revive sales, but said retailers will need to work harder to give the customer something that’s not already in her closet.
“The economy is slowing; people aren’t spending the money. Their pocketbooks are lighter,” Baker said. “They still want to buy something, but they’re not going to buy a whole new wardrobe, they might buy some pants or a jacket that has a great fit. The bottom line is they still want something that makes them feel fabulous.”
While some fall collections drew inspiration from equestrian looks, this year’s spring lines are going to the beach with Hawaiian prints and setting sail with nautical looks.
“Nautical is very hip, with red, white, navy and khaki,” Baker said. “We’re offering little polo tops and Hawaiian tropical prints to work back to it. It’s something fresh.”
Darcy Achzigar, vice president of sales at Renfrew, agreed that the new spring collections address consumer demand for a few items that will work with their existing wardrobe, but also said women want something new and exciting.
She summed up her assessment for spring 2002 by saying: “It’s novelty, novelty, novelty.”
Renfrew’s new collection includes mixed-texture designs featuring fabric combinations such as suede and wovens. Achzigar said fringed looks that found favor in the fall are continued in the spring collection.
“Customers are looking for something familiar, something they can feel comfortable in, but they want to be taken a few steps further,” she said. “They want something with embroidery or a new fabrication.”
Achzigar said the Renfrew spring collection will feature new versions of its popular corded crepe fabrics and embroidered denims. The collection’s textured fabrics will include softer colors including a light yellow dubbed “creamy butter” and a pale green called “tomatillo.”
At the Dallas market, Renfrew will spotlight what Achzigar calls “girly suits,” smart dresses and separates in black and white and pink and beige herringbone fabrics.
“They are great Mardi Gras clothes,” she said. “They will appeal to our customers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama — places women will be looking for something fun to wear to Mardi Gras parties.”
At Angelica Val, co-owner Valerie Unzens said her line hasn’t dramatically altered its collections for spring and will continue to show variations of items that were popular in previous markets.
“We’re going to be showing a lot of the same stories,” she said. “The denim story will continue. Lace is quite big. We’re going to have a lot of lace fabrics and fitted prints.”
The line isn’t about to abandon its hot, photo-print shirts. For spring, she’s showing more animal and flower themes.
“They are different subjects, but the technique and effect is the same,” she said.
At Los Angeles-based contemporary line Bisou Bisou, designer Michele Bohbot is expanding the line’s denim offerings to include more colors including dusty pastels.
“We’re bringing a lot of denim and everything related to denim,” Bohbot said. “Denim has become the new casual chic that you can wear anywhere and goes with anything.”
Bisou Bisou is introducing “African, ethnic” looks for spring that will be echoed by “tropical influences” that will come later for summer, she added.
The line continues Bohbot’s mission to bring Parisian street fashion to America and will be continuing looks that were popular for fall, including mesh and lace tops and a few beaded separates in dark reds and whites.
“The collection is casual sexy,” Bohbot said. “It’s a sexy, girl look.”
Two Star Dog had great success selling its printed linen designs in the last Dallas market and is expanding the line this market, said Allan Boutrous, vice president and one of the owners of the San Francisco-area company. The new linens will include colors such as “margarita,” a vibrant green; “fruit punch,” bright pink-red, and “blue Hawaiian,” a pale blue.
“They are in great island colors with a floral print,” he said. “To go with them, we have tropical-weight sleeveless sweaters.”
The spring line also includes a new reversible group of silk blouses, pants and dresses that have a red polkadot print on one side and a blue bandanna print on the other. Boutrous said the reversible can appeal to shoppers looking for wardrobe workhorses.
“Price points are a little higher, but they offer more flexibility,” Boutrous said.
The reversible group works with a Tencel denim group and a white blouse group.
“The main idea is to work with reds and whites that will go with the denim,” he said.
The company is also showing a new cross-dyed group with some pieces embellished with embroidery and crystal beads.
“It’s a little more formal,” Boutrous said. “It’s summer wedding dressing.”
Two Star Dog, which bills itself as the largest manufacturer of hemp apparel in the world, will be showing plenty of the garment-dyed hemp line that the firm is famous for.
In addition to earth-toned neutrals, the line will be showing bright colors such as “blossom,” a light, yellow-green, and “pool,” a cool blue.
“We do dark earth tones and neutrals everywhere, but what we’re finding in Dallas and the other Southern states is people are really looking for a lot of color,” Boutrous said.