NEW YORK — Designers combing the booths at last week’s Première Vision Preview were faced with trends and fabrics that seemed to represent opposing forces.
On one side were classic fabrics styled in traditional ways, such as textured plain wovens and men’s wear-like looks that included plaids, herringbones and chevrons. On the other was a move toward fabrics that were more compact and had a technical feel.
Doris Bobick, fabric director for women’s wear at J. Crew, felt a pull toward what she called “traditional, old-fashioned, couture weaves.”
“I saw some baratheas in wool — they are traditionally offered in silk — that I thought were gorgeous,” Bobick said.
Also important, she noted, were clip jacquards in wool and cotton, as well as plain weaves that featured coarser yarns. “They’re rustic, yet refined,” she said.
Bobick also said European mills were offering more in the way of base cloths in old-fashioned weaves as opposed to just strong novelty looks.
“They’re recognizing the importance of developing their plains — that in the American marketplace, the volume business is in offering great basic fabrics,” she said.
Kevin Carrigan, creative director of the ck and Calvin Klein white label lines, was feeling more of a technical push for the fall 2007 season.
“I’m finding that the synthetics, mixed with wool, alpaca or mohair, are looking really strong for the season — things that create volume and shape,” Carrigan said.
Rayon, he added, is a key synthetic to give fabrics more weight so that they drape easier.
Carrigan likened the trend to the cleaner, more minimalist look from the late Eighties, noting one major difference: “Instead of a sport feeling, the clothes are taking on more of a couture-like feeling, things that are more tailored. It falls right in line with the heritage of the house.”
In addition to Limonta, an Italian mill known for its sleek, techno fabrics, Carrigan cited Swiss performance fabric producer Schoeller as one of the mills he had shopped for these looks.
“I’m looking at these mills in a new way,” he said.
Mills across the board were offering both looks. Becker & Fuehren Tuche offered a new wool, angora and cashmere flannel that had a classic appeal, with the exception of its weight.
“We’ve heard so much from our customers about how the wools need to be lighter,” said sales director Joerg Guelicher, noting that new products like these are a way to move customers away from Asia and back to Europe. “Everyone buying goods from China is creating too much sameness. China can’t offer the diversity we can in Europe. There have been quality issues with goods coming out of China, and I think many customers are realizing that with everything else added onto the price of the fabric — travel costs, quality issues — it’s really not much of a savings and much more of a headache.”
Some mills, such as Japan’s Cobo, were adding novel twists to the classics, such as a traditional plaid with a circle jacquard pattern on the ground for added texture. A selection of seersucker wool plaids also was strong.
At Luigi Boggio Casero, sleeker, more compact plains were in abundance.
“The feeling is cleaner and less rustic,” said Mario Melchisedecco, sales manager. “Customers are responding to these more constructed looks.”
Another luxury mill, Laurent Garigue, was also having luck with heavier goods in mostly natural fibers.
“I think people are ready for good, honest fabrics again,” owner Laurent Garigue said. “I think people were attracted to synthetic blends because of the perceived value, but are now realizing that simple can be beautiful again.”
At Picchi, mélange flocked flannels were doing well, and at Moon, recolored classics such as plaids and herringbones were key.
“We also created a new, more natural finish that works well for the deconstructed look so many designers are doing now,” said Judith Coates, a designer at the mill and the sales director for the U.S. market.