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New York Designers Seek to Embody Clients' Dreams

The look of luxury was in the air with sultry velvet, sleek satin and soft furs dominating the collections for next fall shown last week by designers at New York's semi-annual fashion week extravaganza.

Fashion experts, many of whom see design as a reflection of the public mood, say we may be seeking things in the clothes we wear that we otherwise don't have.

"It means even if we're not rich, we like to feel rich. Those who are, can look rich, and those who aren't can look rich," said Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail consultants.

To look rich in next fall's fashions, consumers can scarcely find a designer who does not indulge in luscious textures and decorative design.

Last week, Oscar de la Renta delighted his high-end clientele with embroidered sable trim coats, nubbly tweeds glinting with silver sparkles and bejewelled sweaters with fur collars.

Bill Blass decorated silk cocktail dresses with sable trim and wove silver metallic thread through tweed jackets and coats, while Carolina Herrera evoked a jet-set ski trip to the Alps, with sporty cropped jackets in dark sable and reversible mink of chocolate and gold.

Fur was simply everywhere in shawls, stoles, shrugs and sweaters. Douglas Hannant dyed a mink hooded halter vest an eggplant hue, Jeffrey Chow coloured a fox capelet cinnamon and Michael Kors unveiled a show-stopping mink poncho in lavender. Chaiken showed short fur stoles over nude mesh tops, and shrugs were popular with Vera Wang and Narciso Rodriguez.

"There's a lot of fur," said Jaqui Lividini, senior vice-president, fashion merchandising, at Saks Fifth Avenue. "It feels very glamorous, but it's not the kind of sexpot glamour we've seen in the past. It's more of an innocent glamour."

Designer Michael Kors used paisley print for a fringed scarf skirt, off-the-shoulder blouse and halter dress, while Nicole Miller used peacock prints. Narciso Rodriguez used contrasting seams and ribbons to accent his structured solids.

Textures and patterns that evoke earlier eras such as the Victorian or Art Deco ages will be popular for fall, said Ben Gomes of the fashion and trend information company OPR.

"We are looking for things that are very reassuring and comfortable and also very interesting. We're looking for things that are gratifying," he said.

Liebmann said she saw consumers craving an "emotional richness."

"Multiple textures and beading and silks give a sense of richness emotionally and financially in a time that is pretty bare of that," she said. "It's the economy. It's an uncertain economy. It's an uncertain world geopolitically."

More than a few designers this week liberally mixed looks, combining dense with sheer or rough with smooth.

"A great tweed jacket with a satin skirt is perfect, and it's not a typical combination," Lividini said. "It's consumer-friendly. It's very commercially viable. It's very much what the customer wants right now.

"I think the New York designers are on the right track," she said.

More than 100 designers showed their latest collections last week in New York. The semi-annual event wrapped up on Friday with shows by trendsetting Ralph Lauren and elegant gownmaker Richard Tyler.

(China Daily February 21, 2004)

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