Byline: Leonard McCants

Severe winter, mild winter — it won’t matter, say outerwear vendors and retailers, because 2000 will be the year of the fashion coat.
Coat vendors and retailers are counting on a continuation in leather’s popularity, some changes in coat silhouettes and a rainbow of color options to ramp up sales.
“This was the season of the incredible coat,” said Judy Collinson, Barneys New York’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager.
“The sales are going to be better because of the influence of furs and other higher-priced items,” added Allyson Cohen, a buyer at Henri Bendel.
Leather, in outerwear as well as pants, skirts and dresses, seems to be the hottest trend of the season, vendors and retailers agreed, saying they will make a major push with it this coming winter.
“Leather is going to be one of the strongest-performing categories throughout the store,” said Terry Thornton, associate divisional merchandise manager for fur and coats at Neiman Marcus.
Key treatments, he said, include laser cutting and stretch leather as well as the textured and embossed leather like snakeskin, crocodile, ostrich and iguana.
“Python seems to be the skin treatment of the moment,” Thornton said.
As the season moves on, he added, the prints will move toward crocodile and ostrich.
Leather pieces in short and longer length performed well in the Calvin Klein division of Fairbrooke Enterprises, which holds the license for Calvin Klein Coats.
In addition, crocodile-embossed leather trench coats were key at Donna Karan, said Van Isaacs, president of Donna Karan Signature and DKNY Coats.
In the fur category, retailers and vendors alike hope the sales increases of the past few years will be surpassed, owing to the fact that designers have been spreading the ladylike esthetic and splashing fur all over the runways.
“We’re expecting it to be better than last year,” said Guillaume Poupart, designer for Ben Kahn. “It’s the item of the moment. It’s been great in the past few years, but we think it will be better.”
Poupart said the key items for the holiday season will be the smaller fur pieces and accessories like rabbit scarves and vests and fox handbags.
All of which, he said, “can appeal to a larger audience than the very expensive fur coats.”
Cohen echoed the idea of offering less-expensive options for consumers, noting the appearance of fur as trim on coats and sweaters. Other lower-priced pieces include rabbit fur bomber jackets.
Retailers are also predicting consumers will feel a need to purchase another coat as a fashion item this year, in alpaca or cashmere, to match outfits.
“It’s not about the utilitarian idea of keeping warm, but how the lady looks in the garment,” Thornton said.
He said coats will also get a bit shorter, inching up to just below the knee.
“It provides the customer a coat that she doesn’t have in her wardrobe,” he said. “With the emphasis on a wider-leg pant, it’s more appropriate. It’s more of an attractive proportion.”
Coats will be heavily textured in herringbones and tweeds, or will exhibit retro qualities like a Dries Van Noten coat inspired by the Thirties at Barneys.
“There are a lot of beautiful coat silhouettes,” Collinson said, “everyone is going to want to buy three.”

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