Fashion Facets

WHAT’S HOT AND NOT

Women’s Wear Daily recently reported how fall/winter fashion trends are selling at the retail level. The hottest sellers are schoolgirl looks, fake furs and fuzzy fabrics. Next are shiny fabrics and menswear looks.

Significantly cooler were animal prints and bright colors. And at the bottom of the list, the so-called “new length” has left customers cold. The “new” length hovers at the knee and has been pushed by designers such as Calvin Klein, Prada and Donna Karan. Customers, however, seem to feel that even a designer label doesn’t prevent a knee-length skirt from being just plain frumpy.

Customers “just don’t like them that long…they don’t want to look dowdy,” Peter Marx, vice president of the Saks Jandel specialty store in Washington, D.C., told WWD. He said many customers asked to have skirts in the new length shortened. Many others opt for short kilts and short A-line or flippy skirts.

A BIG BACK-PAT

Just for fun, here’s how JCK’s predictions for fall (“Open to Buy” issue, August 1994, page 13) stacked up. We’re proud to give ourselves an A this season!

· We predicted skirts would be shipped a few inches longer than the thigh-high versions seen on the runway; customers would decide whether to shorten them. By most reports, consumers are more worried about skirts being too long rather than too short. As we guessed, women are heading to the tailor if the length isn’t right.

· We predicted that schoolgirl looks would catch on with juniors while professional women would save short kilts and thigh-high stockings for nightclubbing or tone them down with opaque hose. According to WWD, we were basically right: Margot Brunelle, fashion coordinator for Chicago-based Marshall Field, said juniors are wearing kilts with thigh-highs, but working women pair them with office-appropriate blazers.

· JCK predicted fuzzy sweaters would catch on because the new texture turns classic into current. Reports indicate fuzzy sweaters are indeed selling well.They’re also catching on in new shapes such as cropped tops.

· We also were on target with a prediction that fake fur would be used mostly for outerwear or collar/cuff trim.

· JCK predicted customers would tone down bright colors, wearing one piece at a time with an otherwise neutral outfit. From early reports, it seems rich browns and grays are moving briskly, color more slowly.

MORE FROM PARIS

Ladylike looks and lots of color were the big spring accessory trends at the Paris Prêt-à-Porter trade show. And after several seasons of relative obscurity in the fashion world, jewelry is set for a comeback, says Women’s Wear Daily.

In almost every classification, glamour blended with romanticism at the show. Color was especially hot, with designers such as Catherine Haguest offering gold and enamel and Sophie Girma showing metal and velour chokers, pearl and chain necklaces and linked cameo bracelets.

CAREER CHANGE

Career clothes, a longtime department store fashion mainstay, have hit a crisis point and major career manufacturers are responding in a variety of ways, reports Women’s Wear Daily. Analysts cite several reasons for the downward slide in career clothes, including:

· The introduction of casual days in the workplace and a more personal and less “dress for success” fashion mentality.

· Continued fears of corporate layoffs and consolidations and their negative effect on apparel purchases.

· The clothes themselves haven’t had enough innovation or freshness to make customers want to buy. Debbie Laverell of Philadelphia-based Strawbridge & Clothier told WWD, “The biggest competition [for career] is women’s closets. The merchandise out there isn’t all that new.”

· The influence of TV programs such as “Melrose Place” that depict characters going to work in very casual dress.

· Specialty chains such as Ann Taylor, Bebe and Banana Republic now offer hipper, more enticing looks still suitable for the office.

Manufacturers of career apparel have responded in different ways: some have lowered prices while others have raised them, some have returned to classic roots while others have become more fashion-forward.

JH Collectibles, for example, is going back to its classic fashion roots and lowering its prices. It’s also launching a less expensive casual sportswear line that can be worn to the office or for weekends. Bernard Chaus, conversely, is moving upscale to attract an upper-moderate, trendier customer. Pendleton Woolen Mills, too, is seeking to loosen its tight-suited image. Liz Claiborne continues to fine-tune its product mix and has redirected its Russ division to attract an older customer.

JCK predicts this is good news for jewelers who want to add more contemporary pieces to their product mix. More relaxed clothes and shifting attitudes toward office dressing call for more individualistic jewelry.