I started my career as a knitwear designer, so I will always have a passionate love affair with sweaters. The stores are filled with some of the most irresistibly cozy, sporty and whimsical knits seen in many seasons. Knits have their fashion ups and downs, but we are currently spinning in one of the biggest sweater cycles in years.

Sweaters are the dominant apparel category for holiday 2012. Fresh shapes, colorblocks, fairisles, metallics, embellished and quirky intarsias are everywhere. When intarsias come back in style, you know you are in full-blown knitwear revival.  I suspect sweaters will be standout sellers for 4th quarter 2012 and will be back with a vengeance for 2013.

Shape is the biggest story with a flair for the dramatic. These scene-stealers are easy and oversized.  There are voluminous cardigans, off-the shoulder scoop necks, batwings, kimonos, crops and capes. Details include uneven hems, ties, wraps, outside seaming, sporty details and back interest. The silhouettes are full- fashioned or sewn into radically new shapes. Outside seaming is used to tailor and create interest.  Oversized shapes tend to have some close to the body element, like tight sleeves on a boxy wide crop. Dramatic necklines include oversized cowls, deep v’s, shawls, wide scoops and mega ruffles.

Color is either wearable sumptuous neutrals, especially greys and navy or mouth-watering bright and bold.

Gauges are either very chunky or drapey, soft fine gauge.

Fibers are soft and inviting, not itchy or harsh. Cashmere and merino wool dominate in fine gauge. For chunky machine knits there are complex blends of soft, lightweight wools, acrylics and slub yarns.

Techniques include machine and hefty hand knit Jacquards, fine gauge intarsias, pieced and patched materials and stitches, color blocking, cables, sporty details, embellished  jeweled collars and  bibs and ribs of all weights.

Here is a roundup of the looks:

Dix&Pond is the blog of www.dixandpond.com Creative and strategic consulting for retail and wholesale apparel, shoe and consumer product companies. Contact us for custom trend analysis, creative direction, strategic marketing, brand profiles, merchandising, etc.

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The Feminine Five

Colored jeans are getting all the press, as the biggest trend you can get your mannied paws around this season. There is another huge trend quietly demanding the hearts and wallets of the fashion obsessed and ordinary mortals alike.

I call it The Feminine Five, five big trends in women’s (and girls) styling that can inspire romance novels and separate the girls from the boys. These ladylike details, fabrics and techniques are infinitely flattering and straddle the boundary of classic and fashion. They fit into most women’s lifestyles, contemporary and classic and work on all ages. Consequently, they are ringing registers around the world.

The trend looks especially modern when paired with casual pieces like jeans, shorts and washed jackets. These trends take on a dressier attitude when worn with refined pieces like tailored jackets, pleated and pencil skirts.

5 top fabric and styling trends!

5 top fabric and styling trends!

Lace fabric is everywhere from netting to heavy over-embroidered cottons. Lace fabrics are found on tops, skirts, shorts, dresses, shoes and bags.

Ruffle mania has continued to dominate on tops, skirts and dresses; from bold irregular ruffles at Crewcuts to tiny reflective ruffles on Lululemon sleeves.

Eyelet fabrics are having a renaissance on breezy tops, shorts, dresses and flouncy skirts. They lean folkloric or juvenile worn head-to-toe or in color.

Crochet details are showing up on shoes, bags and trims, as well as lacy crochet sweaters.

Pleats and peplum details are found on skirts, tops and casual and tailored jackets.

The Feminine Five are found in many of the hottest wholesale and retail brands – Free People, Zara, Club Monaco, Robert Rodriguez, Milly, Alice & Olivia, Joie, Rachel Zoe, Diane Von Furstenburg, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, Christian Louboutin and many more.

I expect these highly salable styling trends to continue in seasons to come.

Dix& Pond is the blog of Dix& Pond Consulting.

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Anthropologie -The Drag on Urban

Urban Outfitters recently released fourth quarter 2011 earnings that fell by 47.8%, as they were cutting prices to clear slow-moving holiday merchandise. Returning CEO Richard Hayne (former CEO Glen Senk has moved on to David Yurman) has pledged to get the ailing retail superstar back on track.

Admittedly, women’s apparel has been the problem. There has been weakness in women’s apparel at the younger Urban Outfitters division, but more dramatically at Anthroplogie, which targets a 30+ clientele.

An example of Anthropologie's stellar visual merchandising.

An example of Anthropologie's stellar visual merchandising.

Anthropolgie gets kudos for creating an iconic and unique brand experience in their stores. Their creative visual merchandising is second-to-none in women’s specialty retail. The daring use of unusual materials and space devoted to non-revenue producing theater is of legend. For me, the staged ingenuity has become the reason to visit the store and the merchandise is secondary. Visual merchandising is supposed to create excitement and drive traffic, and it accomplishes that. Their dark stores, filled with hand crafted products have a bazaar like quality, more “tourist attraction” than fashion purveyor. Mannequins are overly styled with pieces that may be very wearable in less fussy combinations. It is a treasure hunt through odd spaces filled with vintage inspired home furnishings, special gifts and arbitrary racks of apparel. It is more Green Movement, than fashion moment. Is visual merchandising dominating the fashion?

Anthropolgie has created an apparel marketplace for confident and avant-garde women. I applaud them for being risk takers in a copy-cat industry. They have created a big brand personality, but the difficulty of shopping the store and styling challenges the customer. She has to want an eclectic statement or be forced to sort thru cavernous spaces to find a pretty skirt, top or trend-right jean. Most women don’t have the time or confidence to do it, not to mention that fashion has gotten cleaner, slicker and more colorful lately. This division may have gotten bigger than the audience for its textural, third-world styling.

The complex styling of this dress makes it less salable.

The complex styling of this dress makes it less salable.

Free People stores performed better. Their stores are smaller and brighter than Anthroplogie and they benefit from their wholesale presence in fashion leaders such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. The stores are eclectic, but have some stand-out fashion items, in a more conventional, approachable space. Urban Outfitters may be suffering from the highly competitive youth market and growth of competitors such as Forever 21. Their college age customers are laden with debt and short on cash.

The collective combination of these pieces is very avant-garde.

The collective combination of these pieces is very avant-garde.

I think this retail luminary has the ability to glow again. Feminine, lady-like fashion, is trending now and plays to their forehand. They don’t need to compromise their identity. They just need to clean it up and simplify the message.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix and Pond consulting.

Minty Fresh

Mint and aquas look especially fresh with off-beat colors such as citrine and pops of bright coral.As a dedicated color hunter, I’m always scouting for colors or color families that are quietly emerging or haven’t been important in a while. The pale to medium greenish aqua family is sneaking up on us, with delicate seafoam, dinner mint green and green-toned turquoise washing up on all levels of the apparel market. They range from super pale, to dusty to white-washed brights. Except for the palest of mint greens, these colors have been omnipresent in home and stationery for a long time, but haven’t been important in women’s apparel.

It is often hard to explain the genesis of a color trend. Designers are influenced by color trend services, social influences and personal and brand preferences. We have been slugging it through tough times and this optimistic, sun-kissed color family is a virtual walk down Worth Avenue. These beachy-keen, retro 50’s, colors pack a sugary wallop. They are all over the market in collections as varied as Rachel Roy, Diane Von Furstenburg, Lululemon, Converse, 7 for All Mankind, Hudson, Free People, , Rag and Bone, St. John and J. Crew, in everything including dresses, tops, jeans, yoga wear, sneakers and sweaters.

The surrounding color players, will keep the palette modern and out of matronly, insipid territory. Pastel seafoam or minty green looks especially fresh paired with off-beat colors or deep pops such as citrine or bright coral. These colors are well anchored with pure white and navy neutrals. Head-to-toe dinner mint or greenish turq can a cause a serious toothache without an unexpected, modern accent such as a nude shoe or coral tote.

This fresh, emotionally charged color family is sure to gain importance in upcoming seasons.

Urban Exit

Love this feminine lace jacket from Free People!

Glen Senk has resigned as CEO at Urban Outfitter’s and is headed to another job TBD. The retailer is well-respected for taking creative risks with their merchandising at their core formats: Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People. As a retail junkie, I have enjoyed seeing a brand like Anthropologie dare to stand for something unique in their stores and online. I am always blown away by their creative OMG visual merchandising, that is second to none! They had decent same store sales in 2008 and 2009.

They are struggling a bit lately and this is no surprise as their Anthropologie stores have become more of a drab fashion graveyard, than exciting fashion leader. It is like wandering in a museum gift shop or Middle Eastern bazaar.

I find myself hard pressed to fall in love with anything in their stores besides soap and towels. It is hard to shop if you are seriously looking for clothes and the styling is challenging for unsophisticated shoppers. I think their frumpy, hipster rags are contra to the macro trends toward clean, modern, sexy fashion. After checking out the over-the-top windows, I get out into the light as fast as possible.

A bright spot (pardon the pun) for me is Free People. Their stores are smaller and brighter. They were chock-full of ageless, feminine items and newsy, comfy sweaters this fall!

 

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