Byline: Janet Ozzard

It’s a bit early for turkey, but designer and bridge manufacturers are already giving thanks for the unstoppable luxury trend. It feeds right into the holiday spirit, they say, and is pushing sales projections up into double digits.
“Holiday has always been a sleeper season, but with a little attention it can be developed into a fabulous business,” said Dana Buchman, designer at the signature bridge line. “What’s great is that fashion trends are coinciding with what women like to wear.”
Trends like luxury fibers, coordinated dressing, the return of jackets, blouses, color and print are good for sales because they are familiar concepts that have come around to looking new.
The approach to holiday varies from company to company, though. For some it’s a chance to break away from trend diktats and flaunt some personality. For others, it’s the culmination of fall and the first peek toward spring.
“Resort really picks up where fall left off,” said Donna Karan, chairman and chief designer for her signature firm. For holiday, Karan’s collection line included gift-oriented items like cashmere sweaters in festive colors like red and orange, gold beaded or gold lace items, and an abundance of scarves.
For the season’s later deliveries, Karan said she went “back to basics, to clean the palate,” with black and white pieces like bodysuits, bodyshirts and slips. Key silhouettes include a short jacket over a full skirt or skinny pants.
“Underpinnings are the most important part, and everything gets layered from there,” she said. “Lightness and light fabrics are very important. We’ll be talking about that into spring.”
Cheryl Sterling, president of Polo Ralph Lauren Collection Brands, said the company took a very analytical approach to the season, and did well with its choices.
“Ralph’s direction was to do great takeaway items that are sexy, feminine, modern and fresh,” said Sterling. That ranged from gold snakeskin halters and pants, to an orange ruffled sarong paired with a black cashmere tank top, to a turquoise fringed suede pant paired either with a crisp shirt or a suede top. There were also plenty of day-into-evening looks like silk jersey dresses and separates, light feminine dresses and silk georgette dresses.
“We do very well with resort. It’s Richard’s most imaginative season,” said Lisa Trafficante, president of Tyler Trafficante Inc., the parent company for designer Richard Tyler. That customer has plenty of events to go to, and needs a few new looks to get her through the season, Trafficante said.
There, holiday tends to mean sexy, top-dollar evening dresses with beading intended for cocktail parties and dinners. And while this New Year’s might not be as noteworthy as the last one, Trafficante expects that people have gotten into the swing of dressing up, so her sales expectations are up over last year.
“We don’t usually do a lot of evening clothes, so resort is always a chance to try that out,” said Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs. “There’s not a lot of pressure, because you’re not showing, so it’s a fun season. We try things, like new silhouettes, that we might want for spring.”
Duffy said Jacobs did well with cotton suitings and bias satin evening dresses, among other looks.
“For us, holiday is about shine and sheer,” said a spokesman at Calvin Klein. “Metallic looks in gold and copper; paillettes, micro-sequins, polished leathers — and sheer iridescence in chiffon, organza and metallic gauze. Soft colors such as coral and lavender are important in tone-on-tone combinations for a total look. Key new pieces are sexy shirts and the return of the shirt dress.”
Leather is a unifying theme for many brands, particularly in exotic skins and colors.
“It’s a zoo,” said Elie Tahari, owner of the bridge brand. “Anything that has to do with an animal is selling.” That means animal prints, said Tahari, as well as leather and exotic skins. To tempt consumers who have had their fill of fall merchandise, Tahari said his company tries to create looks that can be worn into spring, or that can work as a party item during the holidays and then become a resort item for trips.
“Leather mixes with a lot of things and goes from day into evening,” said Buchman. Her brand is showing colored, embossed and printed leather separates.
“It fits in with the trends toward luxury and color,” she said.
“Color is going to dictate a lot of holiday and resort,” he said. “They are going to continue to be bright, but are also getting deeper and stronger.”
Anne Klein president Wendy Chivian said the brand focused on “quintessential American chic and polished looks, like head-to-toe dressing.”
“Although it has been particularly great for the jacket business, that philosophy is across all classifications,” said Chivian. For evening, Anne Klein is showing looks that feature handbeading, silk and mohair blends, or long skirts worn with one-shoulder cashmere sweaters.
In fact, the knit business isn’t dead, but it is in need of refreshment. Companies are doing knits in luxury fibers, or with beading or other embellishment to tempt jaded consumers. Chivian said Anne Klein is showing a cashmere mock turtleneck with a matching stole “as an alternative to the twinset.”
The blouse, however, is coming on very strong. While there’s still no unanimous item, blouses are clearly a hot category for most companies.
“One of the great things about blouses is that there’s the customer who has never stopped wearing them, and there’s the customer who is just discovering them,” said Buchman.
At four-year-old bridge resource Lafayette 148 New York, the company is going long with its wrap-front blouse. The style has been a regular for a while, said executive vice president Aileen Dresner, but for this year it has become the star.
“We started doing it in a Swiss cotton and Lycra spandex, but now we have taken that whole concept into other fabrics like charmeuse, taffeta, animal prints,” said Dresner. “It’s sexy without being too revealing, and feminine but not girly.”

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