NEW YORK — Will the economy still be in the doldrums come spring?
If one follows the long-held view that when times are good skirt lengths go up and when they’re bad they go down, then the spring collections just shown on the runways here — which generally received rave reviews — may not be enough to pull the economy out of its doldrums. Skirts are longer for spring, while wide-legged pants are also back.
And if further evidence is needed that American designers might not be feeling particularly optimistic about the economic outlook, many collections shown during New York Fashion Week last week referenced another period of malaise: the Seventies.
Despite all that, the overall mood was buoyant as the season celebrated a new show venue, Lincoln Center, and store buyers felt the collections on the runways were stronger and more commercial than in quite a while. And there was lots of white, which buyers said represents optimism.
So go figure which way the economy is headed.
“This is the most exciting season I’ve seen in years,” said Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s. “When the silhouette changes, it’s good news for retailers. ”
As for the Seventies looks seen at the likes of Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford and drawing inspiration from everyone from Ali MacGraw to Yves Saint Laurent, retailers agreed customers would respond to bell bottoms and platform shoes. “Think halters, high-waisted trousers, gypsy blouses and fluid midi-length skirts and dresses,” said Linda Fargo, Bergdorf Goodman’s senior vice president for the fashion office and store presentation.
Some felt the celebrities at the shows had reached a fever pitch. “The consumer is still celebrity-obsessed,” said Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction for Holt Renfrew, Canada. “The designer is becoming that celebrity as well. We’ve got to move away from turning [fashion week] into a circus.”
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, was enthusiastic about spring’s trend but remained grounded in the reality of consumers’ financial health. “We’re still not through this economy,” he said. “Fashion designers need to bring as much newness to the market. The customer is not buying anything she already has in her closet.”
Here, a look at buyers’ favorites and the key trends for spring as seen in New York. Now on to London, Milan and Paris.
Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s
Trendspotting: Longer lengths for skirts and dresses, wider-legged pants, a plethora of prints and color and white.
Sound off: “The fact that some of these [bloggers] are not experts is misleading and their blogging isn’t accurate. It dilutes the message of the store or the designer. Some bloggers are really credible and good. My issue with the bloggers is that they don’t have the authority.”
Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president of designer merchandising at Nordstrom
Trendspotting: Ladylike cool, as seen at Proenza Schouler and Jason Wu. He also liked Olivier Theyskens’ Theory, especially boot-leg jeans with a white jacket, and the Seventies-style printed sheer pants and sheer top at Thakoon.
Sound off: “Are there too many celebrities at fashion week? Anything that brings attention to New York Fashion Week is great. More people than ever are taking an interest in fashion. Customers don’t fit one profile anymore. There are people who love instant gratification and people who bought their fall-winter 2010 clothes in June, July and August. There are people who love to shop in a store, people who want to buy online and people who want it now. Fashion can’t stay stagnant.”
Nicole Fischelis, group vice president and fashion director at Macy’s Inc.
Trendspotting: Sport combined with feminine, the Seventies, white, shine and shimmer and knits. “There was shine and shimmer blended in unexpected combinations. There were fabric manipulations and a whole new treatment of lace and crochet.”
Sound off: “There’s something to say about celebrity power and blogger power. It influences businesses. It’s not just who designs [the clothes], it’s who wears them. What worked very well was all those static presentations. You see the clothes even better because you’re closer to the clothes. In many ways it’s much better this way. Designers have to leave their egos at the door. What Tom Ford and Ralph Rucci did will probably lead the way toward rethinking a new way of presenting. The whole show concept needs to be completely revisited.”
Linda Fargo, Bergdorf Goodman’s senior vice president for the fashion office and store presentation
Trendspotting: The Forties and the Seventies. “We will see new silhouettes in sportswear separates for seasons to come. The trend for clothing with ease and away from the body will have legs, as well as the new buoyant mood for color and prettiness.”
Julie Gilhart, senior vice president and fashion director at Barneys New York
Trendspotting: “Trends that have staying power.…A sexy dress from L’Wren Scott; a trenchcoat from Derek Lam; white will always look fresh, Thakoon; an easy pant from Proenza Schouler, and even a great pair of shorts from Marc Jacobs.”
Sound off: “The intensity of the schedule!”
Miriam Lahage, general manager at eBay Fashion
Trendspotting: The resurgence of the American spirit. She particularly liked the trench at Derek Lam, Tory Burch’s midlength skirt with a white blouse, the black asymmetric top paired with slim pants at Narciso Rodriguez and Sophie Theallet’s cream sheath with black lace layering. “Minimalism made a comeback on the runway. It always has staying power.”
Sound off: “Truly, people adapted to all of the new environs and seemed pleased at the ease of check-in especially — no more bottlenecks!”
Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, Canada
Trendspotting: “The big story was American sportswear and the whole idea of the timeless classics, easy toppers, trenches and beautiful, easy pants. In a way, another trend is New York producing a whole new wave of young designers with more democratic price points, such as Alexander Wang, Phillip Lim and Theyskens’ Theory.”
Sound off: “Everyone’s taking pictures of everyone else. Everybody has a blog and some site they wanted to drive you to. We’re being swallowed up by social media. People are adapting a look and seeing how to wear it immediately as the runway show is happening. Social media will affect how we buy and it will affect our deliveries. Consumers have no patience. They want instant replies.”
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus
Trendspotting: Flowers; the white pantsuit à la Bianca Jagger; shorts; Yves Saint Laurent-style colors and le smoking and lingerie details. “There was also a Boho carefree spirit or rich hippie lux.”
Sound off: “The conversation that appeared most throughout the week was the challenge of how many shows are uptown, downtown, uptown and downtown, back-to-back. They should try to bundle or cluster the shows within one neighborhood by day or time period.”
Colleen Sherin, women’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue
Trendspotting: The new midi length; the Seventies; the trenchcoat; white, which was especially well done at Ralph Lauren, neutrals and bold colors; transparency; abstract painterly prints; python; the flap handbag, and the city sandal, often with a wooden sole.