Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — From Miguel Adrover’s restitched Burberry trench to the hobo-inspired jackets and coats of John Galliano’s couture collection, outerwear as a category got some major fashion validation on the fall runways.
With designers like Dolce & Gabbana, Helmut Lang and Yohji Yamamoto also having created some fanciful interpretations on coats, even Seventh Avenue’s old-line coat houses are putting emphasis on creating looks that are technically and artistically advanced beyond basic trenches, balmacaans and peacoats.
Bonded fabrics, two-way zippers, geometric quilting techniques and advanced hardware are becoming more important features in coat lines as customers are more attuned to fashion trends, according to several outerwear makers.
“Basically, this is keeping along with the idea of function being a major part of what people are demanding of their clothing,” said Waleed Khairzada, design director of Harve Benard, which incorporated several sleek, streamlined technical coated looks in its fall collection, including a 36-inch snap-front quilted coat with a contrasting moleskin lining.
“A lot of mills are adapting to consumer demand and creating lightweight, technical fabrics,” he said. “We are bringing these in, particularly with our coat line. The fact that they have other virtues as well, that they are water resistant and warmer, plus the whole utilitarian factor of snaps and Velcro, is the main thrust of why we selected these fabrics.”
Herman Kay Bromley, which makes outerwear under such labels as Anne Klein, Herman Kay, Jason Kole and Bromley, is also incorporating leaner, more architectural looks than it had in the past, said Younghee Hahm, designer of Anne Klein outerwear, rainwear and leather. The company is also focusing on fabrics like coated cotton linen blends and leather accents.
“I’m designing some asymmetrical looks, whether on a pocket or hemline,” Hahm said. “Some designers have showed that kind of look, mostly in sportswear and at the designer couture level. In outerwear, it’s a little new.”
The fashion-driven look of coats on the runway has had a major impact on the way outerwear is being designed as a category in other collections. Adrover’s reversed Burberry trench and his patchwork poncho of the same plaid have already spawned their own imitations, and other designers said they were inspired by less conventional thinking toward coats.
One piece from the designer collections that has drawn considerable interest from the coat market is Marc Bouwer’s “fallout” coat, one the designer said was inspired by a futuristic vision of the environment, where elements like acid rain become more common threats to everyday life. The solution: a boiled wool coat with a matching, form-fitted skull cap that tucks under the coat collar to fully protect the hair and skin.
Bouwer said the look has been picked up by a few specialty stores.
Meanwhile, in the launch of the Blacklabel ready-to-wear and accessories collection from Samsonite, the luggage company placed major emphasis on high tech closures and fabrics, said women’s designer Gigi Vezzola. The line includes caramel and burgundy stretch leather jackets that close at the side, with two-way zippers and magnetic clasps similar to the closures on a suitcase.
“On a classic trenchcoat, we have added giant pockets with two-way zippers so that a woman can have ease of access to the pockets when the coat is belted,” Vezzola said.
Burberry has also incorporated some of the directional trends from its Prorsum line, designed by Roberto Menichetti, into its Burberry London collection and its New York-based outerwear business.
Martin Cooper, outerwear designer for Burberry London, said new technical fabrics and trends are helping move forward the direction of outerwear in general.
“I’m not sure in the beginning that a consumer is aware they need a particular function like Velcro or a two-way zipper,” Cooper said. “But what is starting as a design detail is now becoming part of its functional style.”
Three-quarter-length jackets with two-way zippers, for instance, have become more popular on the line as customers have adapted to the ability to unzip a jacket from the bottom while sitting down or to access inside pockets.
“We’re also working with a lot of bonded fabrics that give a certain technical quality to the cloth,” Cooper said. “There’s a strong feeling for technical fabrics right now. It’s the same conversation as Velcro or two-way zippers. While it started out to give a garment an edgier property, now the edgier property is mixed in to give the coat a performance- like feeling.
“Technical details have worked their way into the everyday marketplace,” Cooper said.