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Fashion's Fast Track: Season of Change

Designer fashion is going through some major shifts, which could define how observers look back on the fashion decade.

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THE COSTA MOMENT
With CFDA's 2006 Womenswear Designer of the Year Award under his belt, all eyes are on Francisco Costa, whose challenge will be to sustain the creative momentum for Calvin Klein Collection, where he is creative director of women's. Costa has been charged with turning Collection, which is less about bottom line and more about setting the tone for the entire brand, into a viable business. Parent Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. recently made some major moves to correct the problems it had with Collection where former licensee Vestimenta couldn't deliver the timely, quality product. With the past spring collection, Fingen SpA took over the Collection license, which will be transferred to Warnaco Group in 2008. Costa's contract, meanwhile, remains the subject of much speculation. Earlier this year, he was reportedly locked in contract negotiations with the help of former CKI chief Barry Schwartz. Calvin Klein Inc. executives remain tight-lipped on the state of the negotiations and whether a deal has been signed.

MOONLIGHTING
Will the craze for designer liaisons end soon? Ever since Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney created runaway hits for H&M, the concept of more mainstream retail chains picking designers to create less expensive, limited-edition lines has proliferated. This fall, Viktor & Rolf will unveil a collection for H&M; Mark Eisen is creating a 35-piece collection for Wal-Mart's George labeled George ME by Mark Eisen, and Vivienne Westwood, Thakoon and Sophia Kokosalaki have designed capsule collections of apparel and accessories for Nine West, which will launch beginning in September. And Doo-Ri Chung, the winner of Swarovski's 2006 Perry Ellis Award for Womenswear, is said to be in talks with Nine West to design a limited-edition collection for the next round of its designer collaborations. These liaisons can offer newer designers a much-needed cash injection, which could explain the willingness among fashion's young guns to jump on the bandwagon. But a trend can only balloon so much until it bursts because of too much, well, hot air, and lately the trend has grown with such voracity that the momentum could slow down.

BRIDGE COMEBACK
After years of tank tops, lower-than-low-slung pants, bare midriffs and excess beading and embellishment, designers have finally opted to steer the fashion pendulum in a more sober direction with polished clothes. Instead of color and bling, the details are in the proportion and cut of the clothes. "It's the rediscovery of good taste," said David Wolfe, creative director of trend forecaster The Doneger Group. "We kind of maxed out the flashy and the floozie, and we glittered ourselves to death. Bling is now boring, and we need something that looks fresh, cleaner, simpler."

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