Byline: Danielle Cohen

No doubt about it — times are tough. But those in the accessories business are seeing things from the brighter side. “Accessories have performed phenomenally. Consumers are spending more money and time 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 specializing in day-to-evening shawls, scarves, stoles and wraps in Nashville, Tenn., agreed. “Difficult economic conditions add up to additional interest in accessories. Accessories spice up the wardrobe without spending a fortune.”
All types of accessories are seeing a surge in sales. “The sterling business has been strong and steady. We look to go full speed ahead in the next few months,” said Richard West, regional sales representative for Barse & Co., a jewelry manufacturer based in Dallas.

Overall Outlook
This spring is best summarized by the three Cs: class, customized looks and color.
“Our spring line [with 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 novelty items, special treatments or bold, funky looks, women want to set themselves apart, with individual style. Strong said donning statement pieces like “a sassy handbag” or an item that speaks volumes about a woman’s personality will be all the rage.
Harding echoed those sentiments: “Accessories make bold statements, with clothing as the backdrop and a handbag or piece of jewelry as the focal point.”
Spring accessories will be smaller and lighter than in the past, said Elayne Leshtz, owner of Chicago multiline showroom Elayne Leshtz Accessories. “Jewelry will be dainty, with small drops and pearls,” she added. A “whimsical” motif, with animal and insect pins will be big. Many have stones, such as chalcedony (a bluish-gray stone) and yellow quartz. However, Leshtz noted, whimsical does not necessarily mean novelty, because it will have a touch of sophistication.
With the capri pants returning and skirt lengths hitting midcalf, Leshtz expects ankle bracelets, in a variety of metals, as a big accessory, especially those with one or several delicate drops. “Watches are still strong,” said said. Styles are fun and will vary greatly to coordinate with every outfit. Rings with one large stone or several stones, such as cubic zirconias or chalcedony, are hot for spring.
In light of last month’s terrorist attacks, Leshtz predicts manufacturers will include a last minute “Americana” addition into lines. In addition to nautical motifs, red, white and blue will be used for flag pins, belt buckles and other accessories.

Kaleidoscope of Color
From stones and beads to feathers and flowers, 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, said Mark Edge, owner and jewelry designer for Mark Edge Jewelry Co. in Atlanta. Greens, from soft shades to military hues, are everywhere.
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, along with diluted pales, said Neamtu, from dusty rose to periwinkle to banana yellow.
And in a natural and neutral category, mother of pearl, white, cream, sand, shell, skin and camel should be good, as well as earth tones with golden touches.
Black and white will continue to be big for the more traditional woman. Leshtz believes that earthy naturals and ambers will carry over, as well.
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.”

Inspiring Minds
Color stories, whether through contrast stitching on shoes or the interior of handbags, play a major role; Belasco cites an American theme, with red, white, blue and nautical designs.
“As fashion turns back to elegance and romance, 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 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 exposed skin.
Belasco expects “a bold, fun, girly factor” to impact spring fashion. Judi Flowers, president, co-founder and creative director for Bonjour Fleurette in Novato, Calif., 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. Body gems and jewel tattoos also represent the glitzy girl theme. Preppy is also a prevalent influence. With houndstooth, herringbone and pinstriped looks making their way into women’s clothing, Flowers has added an argyle slipper to her spring collection.
An equestrian theme carried into apparel can be attributed to a shift toward western influences. Kump said the ‘cowgirl’ look will be hot.
“The Sixties look is making a serious comeback,” Neamtu added.

Make and Model
Soft leathers and leather trims accent other fabrics, such as natural materials, wooden beads, straw, canvas and linens.
Materials will be across the board, from soft, supple jerseys to high shine satins to natural skins like suede and leather.
Davis sees pearls as the hottest new adornment, with single- and multi-strand necklaces 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 bare skin without going overboard. Bonjour Fleurettes, picks up trends and translates them into footwear, launching a line that includes doupioni silk, lace and sheer fabric. Another group includes fine Japanese chiffons, organzas and delicate sheers.
Mixing and contrasting fabrics and ornamentations give rise to the individual fashion statement. Soft meets hard, subdued meets bold. From denim and lace to knits and metals, “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.

Be Bold, Bejeweled
Spring jewelry, without being overstated, flashy or gaudy, is bold and big and 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, and can be worn with a scarf tied around the neck, dangling down the front or back or to the side. Open necklines dictate lariats, Edge said. Davis sees long, drops in both necklaces and earrings. West believe that crosses and cuff bracelets will be hot, especially in sterling.
The military influence brings dog tags into the mix, and pins will be big statement-makers. Watches, sunglasses and eyewear will change with every outfit, with fun, colorful accents added onto all accessories, even status pieces, said Davis. 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 that will carry a woman from the office to gym to dinner, a bag that will fulfill an active woman’s needs,” Harding said.
Relaxed, unstructured shapes reign supreme. Belasco pinpoints larger, carryall totes, with casual, slouchy appeal, especially those with hunting flaps and bandelero styles, a nod to the equestrian and western influences.
Strong and Davis both agree the clutch will be big, but not the small, wallet-size piece as in season’s past. Bags will have geometric shapes with clean lines.
An important feature will be hardware. In fact, Belasco said 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. From an an elastic cinch to a delicate ribbon, ensembles will not be complete without a belt.

Toe to Toe
Shoes have a new look — more silks and satins and ornamentation. With feathers and rhinestones, shoes have a fun element to them. “Heels won’t be as spiky as in the past, and toes will lose their pointedness,” said Davis. Heels will be thicker, butnot as thick as platforms.

On the Way Out
“Consumers are smart about spending money on pieces that carry them throughout the seasons,” said Harding. “People are sticking more to timeless pieces with an added statement.” Wild prints and flash are out. 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 office to a social event, but now, accessories will be bolder and carry into evening, West said. “The line between streetwear and eveningwear has become blurred.”