The fall collections that debuted Thursday at New York Fashion Week promised glitz, glamour, sparkle and shine — basically a full turnaround of what was offered during the recession.
Minimal basics only go so far, designers say, and if they want consumers to continue the shopping spree they started last year, they need to offer fashion-forward items people don’t already have in their closets.
“People are looking for newness,” says Elie Tahari. “They are looking for longer lengths, longer skirts worn with crocodile boots and a simple turtleneck. The message we’re trying to convey now is about luxury, about dressing up and looking beautiful.”
He adds: “If people are spending money, they want something they feel is special.”
Glittery gold, for example, is already proving to be a strong color this year for his Tahari label, so he’s continuing it through the new season.
Retailers, editors and stylists get a preview of more than 100 runway collections over eight days starting Thursday, as New York kicks off the catwalk season that will then move on to London, Milan, Italy, and Paris.
There was a very quick retreat from showiness when the stock market dropped so sharply in 2008, but the evolution to the simpler silhouette would have happened anyway, says Sari Sloane, vice president and fashion director for the boutique chain Intermix.
Starting with the spring looks that will start trickling into stores, there’s a renewed sense of optimism. Sloane says even if the holiday season weren’t as strong as it was, fashion probably would have looked for the next big thing after the simplified silhouette. “The cycle of fashion comes to a head with a trend,” she explains.
So, what happens after cozy cardigans?
“I think we’re ready to be dressed up,” Sloane predicts.
Rebecca Minkoff says what’s selling for her at retail now is embellishment, novelty and whimsy. Customers are looking for items that look expensive, even if they’re not.
However, there’s still a balance to be had with not being ostentatious.
“I don’t know if fashion will — or should — be that way again when it was literally dripping in gilded gold. I’m not sure that reflects a time we want to go back to,” says Lela Rose.
Her collection never went the fully no-frills route, either, but the shift in the economy as well as an evolution of fashion tastes, had designers pulling back for a while out of good taste, she says. But the moment has shifted to a point where it’s OK to embrace “dressing up and turning out,” she says.
Her favorite item for her Sunday fashion show is an ivory-to-gray ombre dress with feathers all over the body.
“I hope we’re ready for some more glitz and glamour. I keep pushing it!” adds Georgina Chapman, designer of celebrity favorite Marchesa. “Our customer loves a bit of fantasy and escapism.”
Like Rose, Chapman says her collection could only pare down so far while keeping its feminine, glamorous identity, but she is sensing an overall change in mood among designers and fans of fashion. “Our job on our end is for clothes to stay special. It’s our way to stand out from the crowd,” Chapman says.
Minimalist luxury is “still happening,” says Intermix’s Sloane, “but things will be more done up as opposed to undone.”
Here’s where a few of the designers’ heads are for Fashion Week:
Minkoff: Her muse for fall is Charlotte Kemp Muhl, a model-turned-singer who has mastered the mix of vintage and new.
Reem Acra: “My collection highlights an emphasis on a new, refined feeling of luxury. I’ve done a lot of draping this season to highlight a woman’s figure with a range of unique prints and plenty of jeweled accents in all of the right places to reveal the personality of the wearer. “
Chris Benz: “It’s all about a return to American elegance, refinement, and the pastoral. I am particularly inspired by the romantic visions of the Southern Gothic writers who focused on the concepts of supernatural, ironic, or grotesque events to guide their stories.”
Rebecca Taylor: “Fall 2011 is inspired by dreamy illusive paintings, blurred images and sparkling lights, conjuring images of dimly lit nights in the chic Parisian night clubs of the ’70s.”