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Fashion Adjusts To Global Warming

wall street journal all weather wardrobe
A few days ago the Wall Street Journal published an interesting article about how some fashion designers are adjusting their collections because of global warming and creating “all-weather wardrobes.” Designers have adjusted fabrics, color palettes and styles with the idea of adding and taking off layers to adjust to changing weather patterns. The article is a good read and it’s interesting to note how important issues like global warming can trickle down and affect fashion. Read the full article after the jump . . .

The All-Weather Wardrobe
Climate Change Hits the Fall Season at New York Fashion Week
February 1, 2008; Page W7

At New York’s twice-yearly fashion week, which gets into full swing this weekend, designers often trot out collections inspired by popular culture, art and history.

For fall 2008, however, the inspiration is more practical: Global warming.

This season is shaping up to be one of the most seasonless autumn fashion collections in recent style history. Thanks to increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, designers including Donna Karan, Tracy Reese, Malo, Badgley Mischka, Peter Som and Nanette Lepore are moving away from chunky knits and heavy furs and will be showing collections filled with lightweight fabrics such as lace, chiffon and jersey, more commonly found on spring runways.

Many are pushing looks that involve layering several lightweight pieces and topping them off with a heavier coat, with the idea that some layers can be removed if the weather is warm.

“We’re paying more attention to climatic issues — we need to create garments that are independent of the seasons,” says Tommaso Aquilano, who designs both the Malo line, which shows in New York, and the high-end Milan-based 6267 line with partner Roberto Rimondi. “You can keep it in your closet and pull it out and wear it at any time.”

For the past two years, unseasonably warm autumns prompted consumers to shun wool coats and chunky sweaters in September and October. Poor fall sales nudged women’s apparel sales up only 2% last year, marking the first time in a decade that the category saw a smaller increase than menswear and children’s apparel, according to NPD Group, a market-research firm.

Stephanie Fish, 31, a kindergarten teacher in Gardner, Mass., says that while she’s usually big on “fall clothes that look like fall,” last autumn she didn’t enjoy shopping and ended up picking up a few lightweight, short-sleeved sweaters. “It’s hard when it’s 80 degrees out and I’m looking at a wool sweater — I don’t want to buy it yet,” she says.

The notion of seasonless dressing has been percolating in the fashion industry in recent seasons and some retailers and mainstream apparel companies have started paying more attention to the weather. Liz Claiborne Inc. consulted with a climatologist last year, for example.

On the high end, however, designers up until now have largely stuck to the usual drill of designing heavy clothes for fall and lighter clothes for spring.

But for this fall, designer Donna Karan says she is showing layered ensembles featuring several pieces in gauzy, flowing fabrics. “There’s an airiness to them that gives a sense of transparency,” says Ms. Karan.

Mark Badgley and James Mischka will be introducing looks in silk chiffon and tissue-weight wools that still look heavily textured. “These will look like fall but they’ll feel really weightless on the body,” Mr. Badgley says.

Designer Nanette Lepore says she is showing flowing bohemian skirts and “springy floral prints” featuring colors such as pale pink, white and purple.

At the Tracy Reese fashion show this weekend, the designer will be trotting out flouncy skirts in soft, crinkled silk georgettes, lightweight fabrics such as organza and cotton and lively patterns that feature massive flowers and grass blades done in pale blue, green and pinkish red. Ms. Reese also notes that she’s altering her collections so her first fall shipment, which hits stores in July, won’t feature any wool pieces at all.

The Halston label, which is relaunching, and online retailer Net-A-Porter are further blurring the line between the seasons. The retailer will be selling two looks from Halston’s fall 2008 collection just one day after its Monday fashion show.

Some designers say they’re resisting a complete switch to showing seasonless looks. Designer Michael Kors, for example, is planning to show pieces done in the fabrics he normally uses for fall collections — fur, cashmere and wool melton, a fairly heavy, tightly woven type of wool.

Carmen Marc Valvo, who designs eveningwear and daywear, says he’s designing with more lace and lighter fabrics and is showing some layered ensembles. But he says he’s been careful to create a collection that still looks fall-like either in its color palette or by using fabrics that look textured and heavy but are fairly light. “Otherwise it confuses the buyers,” he says.

Some retailers think the new looks will have commercial appeal. Michael Fink, vice president and women’s fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue, got an early look at several fall collections before New York’s fashion week began and praised what he saw.

“It’s a season where we’re seeing people really think about the weather and that’s important,” Mr. Fink says. “These clothes are delivering in July and it’s not getting cold until October now.”

Broadly, fashion week will also feature a return to feminine, full 1950s-style circle skirts and early-’60s-style tailored sheath dresses and suits; deep and vibrant colors ranging from peacock blue to bright, hot pinks; and multicultural looks with bohemian prints, which high-end labels such as Oscar de la Renta and 6267 had begun showing for spring 2008.

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