Fall 2011 Trends: New York Fashion Week

Michael Kors is evoking the 1970s with a tunic—and fringe. Tracy Reese is going long with a pleated skirt and cape. Rebecca Taylor is introducing “a flavor of NY Disco.” Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman is channeling Miss Havisham.

Xinhua/ZUMApress.comA look from Jason Wu’s Spring 2011 collection

New York Fashion Week opens Thursday, offering the first glimpse of fashion’s themes for fall. An advance look at several designers’ sketches for their collections offers hints of what’s to come: Look for many designers to go with the flow of recent seasons and feature comfortable, easygoing styles. Other designers are featuring minimalist lines and evoking the feel of family heirlooms—sometimes tattered ones—in their clothes.

Here are six trends-in-the-making and events to watch for at fashion week:

Seventies Silhouettes

Michael KorsMichael Kors



Matthew WilliamsRebecca Taylor



The 1970s have been bobbing around fashion for several years, but they hit their stride in the spring collections. The sense of ease and comfort was welcome, and the collections shown in New York, London, Milan and Paris last fall were the best-received—by consumers as well as retailers—in recent memory. They posed a sharp contrast to the highly embellished looks shown in New York two years ago, which coincided with a sales slump.

Consider the long tunic and pants proposed by Michael Kors, a champion of wearable luxury fashions who will be celebrating his 30th anniversary in fashion this week. With a few pen strokes, he evokes the 1970s with a graceful silhouette.

Elswehere, shin-length skirts, wide-legged slacks and tunics are likely to be dominant looks for fall 2011. Tracy Reese’s long pleated skirt and knit cape suggest the sort of clothes that a woman can curl up in and still look elegant.

Getty ImagesRebecca Taylor: “The collection is about patched fabrics, lace appliqués, and found beading cocooned in silvery shearlings with a flavor of NY Disco,” says the designer.



Other designers have picked up jazzier elements of that period. “I was inspired by New York ’70s disco,” says designer Rebecca Taylor, whose collection includes a cropped jacket and flirty dress that brings to mind a woman carrying her heels after dancing all night.

An Heirloom Feel

The most important trend in both men’s and women’s fashion in the past year has been heritage clothing—updated versions of classic garments such as the trench coat or the plaid shirt. (It was this cozy, fashionable look that inspired me to order some iconic footwear for the wintry conditions at New York fashion week: a pair of shearling-lined boots from L.L. Bean.)

Updated classics have sold particularly well and have influenced many designers, even encouraging them to look back through their own archives. The power of classics was illustrated when Billy Reid, a Southern designer known for his quirky take on classics, became a dark-horse candidate for the influential CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award last year—and won.

Quite a number of designers are referencing antiques and heirlooms in their collections for fall. Kaelen Farncombe, designer of Kaelen, says she wanted her collection to “feel like pieces had been passed down through generations of a family, re-worked, and made modern.” Jason Wu says he was inspired by the restoration of the Palace of Versailles. Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman says she was thinking of the “Great Expectations” character Miss Havisham, using lace, python, leather and goat skin to create “classic opulence.”

Jason WuJason Wu



Lacy Looks

Lace and transparent looks (in real life, with an extra layer underneath) will continue to be important. Lace will be used in a big way, not just in accessories and but in whole looks: blouses, dresses, even skirts and pants.

Ms. Taylor and Ms. Chapman both cited lace appliqués as elements in their collections.


Simpler, more minimalist lines—a big look for spring—will continue their prominence this fall. Designer Sophie Theallet, known for her bohemian-chic clothes, says she’s experimenting with minimalism this season. It’s also likely to show up in Paris and Milan, in brands such as Céline.

Ms. Theallet also says she’s trying to create clothes that reveal a woman’s personality, rather than covering it up. “This season is an homage to the bad girl,” says Ms. Theallet. “She might try to disguise herself as a lady, but her personality always shines through.”

New Routes Off the Runway

A new online venture, Moda Operandi, is set to go live on Feb. 16, enabling consumers to buy off the runways from their living rooms, receiving their clothes at the same time Saks and Barneys do. Moda Operandi will open with Alexander Wang’s fall collection, which will have been shown just four days earlier. Sales of Carolina Herrera and Prabal Gurung will follow.

In another new development, Bergdorf Goodman and Jason Wu are teaming up to sell Mr. Wu’s collection online just days after his show.

Store buyers will be joined this season by clothing renters. Rent The Runway will be placing orders for designer clothes that it will lease by the week (four or eight days, precisely) for roughly $75 to $200.

New Collections to Watch

Some of the buzziest events during New York Fashion Week surround two designers with new jobs. On Monday, Olivier Theyskens will present “Theyskens’ Theory” in his first full-time gig since his contract at Paris-based Nina Ricci was not renewed. Matching his considerable creative talent with the discipline of the Theory brand is likely to lead to intriguing results.

Devi Kroell, who left her eponymous brand last spring in a disagreement with investors, on Feb. 16 will launch Dax Gabler, a new line of mid-priced clothes, shoes and handbags. She has said she will design unfettered by outside investors’ demands.

In addition to showing her clothing collection, Diane von Furstenberg on Friday morning will launch her Home collection—table linens, bedding, and decorative accessories—at Bloomingdale’s. For fashion—an industry that fulfills more wants than needs—her expansion is a sign of confidence in the economic recovery.


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