NEW YORK — The flag and its legions of insignias will be entrenched in the fashion fort for seasons to come.

The contemporary market has particularly been overwhelmed with patriotic merchandise — from sweaters with American flags on the front to red, white and blue striped jeans — for fashion-conscious consumers wanting to show their national pride.

The motif has long been a favorite of Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, and now smaller design houses have been able to incorporate the newfound patriotism since Sept. 11 into their collections. Some companies have chosen to donate a percentage of the sales of these items to various charities, while others see the success as part of the “American Way” — entrepreneurs capitalizing on a hot trend.

Andrea Marks, director of sales at Womyn, a parent company of suit house Garfield & Marks, said since the flag-print jeans on the line did so well, it will continue to offer more flag-inspired clothing for next season.

“I see this trend going through spring, for sure,” said Marks, noting that a portion of the revenue of the flag-print jeans benefited the Fire Department of New York. “It is defiantly still strong, but it is also difficult to incorporate the trend into fashion without making it look too touristy.”

Lizzie Melzer, a sales executive at knit-based company 525, said she sees the trend lasting well into 2002.

“I am sure the trend will last through all of these patriotic holidays that are coming up,” she said. “We have Presidents’ Day in February and July 4,” she said. “These holidays are going to be stronger than they ever have been.”

Melzer said that by adding Americana-themed merchandise to the line, employees get a lift, as well.

“I think we, as a company, felt very patriotic after the 11th,” she said, noting 525’s contributions to the World Trade Center Fund. “We are a New York-based company and our products are made in the USA, so this is just another way to show our pride.”

Liz Weinmann, vice president of design at Lynn Richie, said there is no doubt in her mind that this July 4 will be more patriotic than ever. She said the Lynn Richie collection offers variations of flag prints on many different pieces and that will continue as long as the trend is going strong.

“That’s a long time for a trend to last, but even when you leave New York City, the patriotism is still going strong,” Weinmann said. “People in upstate New York still have flags outside their houses and on their cars. Women are still wearing their flag pins and bracelets.”

David Byrne, owner of the Atlanta-based David Byrne Showroom, said vendors will include more patriotic items to their collections for at least the next five seasons.

“For the manufacturers who do it, I think it will be around for quite a while,” Byrne said. “There are pants with a New York skyline print that we can’t keep in stores.”

Byrne said 525’s cotton blanket that looks like an American flag is also popular. He said that in Atlanta, he has seen the American pride reinvigorated in the last few months.

“I really don’t think this is a trend that will die,” he said. “It will defiantly continue to be strong, at least over the next year.”

Byrne said it is a challenge for designers to come up with new ways to display patriotic prints, but so far, he thinks the creativity has been sharp, such as a denim line that offers a pair of jeans displaying the Manhattan skyline in black and white.

“The only patriotic items we have not yet seen is anything related to Washington D.C.,” he said. “But I am sure that will come.”

At another Atlanta-based showroom, Bilthouse, a spokeswoman said New York City skyline T-shirts are “selling like crazy” and flag accessories also remain strong.

“I see the trend running at least through the spring,” she said. “Even though it is not as popular as it used to be, patriotism is a great fashion trend and I am sure it will remain for a while.”

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