Byline: Leonard McCants

NEW YORK — There are 267 billionaires on the 1999 Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. In 1999, the U.S. was $3 trillion richer than the year before.
Designers apparently sensed this when they presented their fall 2000 collections, or at least had luxurious fabrics on their minds, according to retailers and editors participating in Fashion Group International’s seasonal trend reports — hosted by Diane Von Furstenberg and Oscar de la Renta — on Thursday.
Case in point: Hermes showed a sleeveless crocodile jacket that will retail for $40,900, a crocodile wrap skirt for $30,900 and a pair of crocodile boots for $10,400, as pointed out by columnist Marylou Luther, creative director of the International Fashion Syndicate.
“The high cost of high fashion is about to separate the haves from the have-mores,” she said.
Luther and other panel participants gave their takes on fall directions from the world’s fashion capitals and came up with 14 key trends that emerged from the runways. Among them:
Fur neck warmers and scarves, as seen at Han Feng, Celine and Prada.
Shearling, which appeared on boots at Christian Dior and on gloves by Josephus Thimister.
“The coat,” as presented by Tom Ford for Gucci.
“The suit,” from nearly every designer.
Intarsia, the intricate inlaying of fabrics, like one shown by Dolce & Gabbana, which used 2,645 pieces of mink for a chevron-striped coat.
The return of the pump in versions from Prada, Helmut Lang, Chloe and Jil Sander.
The use of fur and other expensive materials for fall points to a form of ostentation, said Von Furstenberg. Despite high-profile protests from animal-rights activists at the shows, the use of leather and fur went on unabated.
“This is a moment in which one thing is for sure,” she said. “We are totally politically incorrect.”
Yet many of these trends point to the continuation of a refined, feminine element that was seen in spring collections.
“We’re delighted about the ladylike clothing,” said Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue. “It’s perfect for our customer.”
One theme touched on during both sessions was the move to schedule the New York collections first among the major fashion cities. De la Renta said it proved to be a blessing. He indicated his sales had increased 35 percent since the move.
But Judy Collinson, general merchandise manager for women’s at Barneys New York, said that though the move was promoted as a way to speed deliveries, that’s not happening.
“It hasn’t had that much of an impact on delivery for us,” she said.
For Linda Dresner, owner of eponymous shops in New York and Michigan, the length of the shows was too much.
After watching a slide presentation, she said, “I realized how hard we worked. It’s like torture.”
Still, with all the talk about fashion on the runways — and at designer prices — the committee noted that the real impact of the trends was at a price level accessible to a greater portion of the population.
“These days the media does a good job of breaking down the trends for all customers,” said Sally Singer, fashion news director for Vogue. “The ideas this season are not that hard to comprehend. The information is out there everywhere now. It’s runway to real life. You know that Club Monaco will have that fur collar in a week.”