NEW YORK — Hippie chic might be bombarding the stores for spring, but is it really for everybody? Probably not, according to fashion observers, who believe the trend is better suited to the younger crowd.
That's why for fall, the fashion industry —at all prices is embracing the classic ideas, from plaids to tweed suits, that ruled designer runways in February and March.
"There's a real value in the classics, and they are easy to interpret across the board," said Wendy Leibmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail, a retail marketing firm. "It has a broad enough theme. That's the strength of its appeal. With hippie chic, it is harder to understand. It is more about items."
Here, WWD tracks how four trends —plaid, ladylike, the slim coat and the suit — are being interpreted at the contemporary, better and moderate levels.
Plaid: From Burberry-inspired patterns to the tartan, there was a big plaid push on the fall runways. And designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Miguel Adrover and Anna Sui put plaids in unexpected silhouettes, from ballgowns to deconstructed coats. For its hipster audience, contemporary firms are having more fun, infusing plaids with brighter hues, like purples and greens, and pushing body-slimming pants. For example, ABS Allen Schwartz is serving up plaid hip-hugger pants, while French Connection created scarf plaid skirts. The moderate and better firms are taking a safer approach, sticking to recognizable plaid patterns and classic colors.
"We didn't put them in weird things or in jackets," said Robin Howe, design director for Jones New York. "I was inspired by blanket wraps and shawls and used classic colors."
Ladylike: Think Forties Hollywood starlettes, with all the ruffled blouses and rhinestone accessories. Designers like Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta and Prada all made ladylike look costumey, but the trend is being interpreted more subtlety for a mainstream audience.
Contemporary resources are making it sexy, showing come-hither, tight-fitting ruffled blouses with plunging necklines. Moderate and better resources are offering hints of it, like skirts with ruffled hems and bow-tie necklines. For example, better-priced sportswear firm Carole Little is offering polkadot dresses with bow-tie necklines, while moderate resource John Paul Richard is showing printed nylon skirts with ruffled hemlines.
"We're not grandstanding with ladylike," said Ellen Dawson, director of operations at August Silk, which is showing ruffled treatments in blouses. "It is all about wearable, feminine looks."
The Suit: After a long hiatus, the suit, particularly in tweed, is back, and it's being embraced at all prices. Designers, including Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, made a major suit push and, along the way, brought back shoulder pads. The designs are nipped and tucked.
Contemporary resources are giving the suit a downtown spin, serving up leather trims, shrunken blazers and hip-hugging waistlines.
"We are doing shrunken blazers with snap closures in classic tweed fabrics with pants with a high waistline," said Howard Sheer, president of New Frontier, a contemporary firm. "That's how we are making the suit look fresh."
Moderate and better companies are showing suits in classic shapes, and many of the designs are in washable fabrics.
"Our suits aren't nipped and tucked or tight-fitting," said Brenda Sabol, design director at Lasting Impressions, a moderate-price, large-size firm. Lasting Impressions is offering suits in washable polyester that, while not tight, do have shaped waists.
The Slim Coat: Slim coats, particularly in luxe skins like crocodile, were all over the runways. For the contemporary crowd, leather, moleskin and high tech vinyl were key fabrics.
Further down the food chain, in the better and moderate markets, the slim coat takes a boxier shape. Popular fabrics are khaki and tweeds.
"We are not doing skintight coats, but they do have a shape in the waist," said Sabol of Lasting Impressions. "Our customer might be a little overweight, but she wants her waist accentuated."
Lasting Impressions' versions are in pony print and fake fur.