* Semi-annual New York Fashion Week opens
* Relaxed styles in luxury materials such as silk, leather
* Consumers willing to spend - but carefully
(Updates with fashion show by Nicholas K)
By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK, Sept 6 Pajama styles, track pants and
bomber jackets are the trends that top U.S. department store
buyers expect to see on the runways at New York's Fashion Week
that started on Thursday - a relaxed chic they say was inspired
by the London Olympics.
More than 80 designers will show collections for the
spring/summer 2013 season as part of the semi-annual event. Many
of the shows take place at Manhattan's Lincoln Center as part of
the official Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, while dozens more
labels will parade their collections elsewhere in the city.
Dresses are likely to feature strongly on the runway, but
buyers say this season will be all about sporty separates.
"The Olympics were probably on many designers' minds when
they were designing these collections ... so we will see sporty
jackets and track pants and some athletic inspirations," said
Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue.
The excitement generated by the summer Olympics inspired
designers to focus on comfort and ease, but while the athletes
in London donned Spandex and cotton, designers will instead use
luxurious materials such as leather and silk.
"It's hard to deny that everyone has been paying attention
to the Olympics. We've been looking at these fit and healthy
individuals and all these interesting sporty silhouettes," said
Ken Downing, fashion director of Neiman Marcus.
"But it's not the idea of wearing casual clothes in casual
fabrics. It's often this movement about doing something with a
relaxed sensibility, with less structure, but often doing it in
a very luxe fabric," said Downing, dubbing it "relaxed chic."
Sporty bomber and motorcycle jackets are expected to feature
in a variety of fabrics and prints. "It's a jacket moment,"
Indeed, the first model to walk the runway on Thursday for
New York-based design house Nicholas K sported a bomber jacket
in supple beige leather. Other jackets - safari, cargo, cropped
and swinging - dominated the casual spring line by Nicholas K,
the first designer to show this season at the Fashion Week tents
at Lincoln Center.
Despite rocky stock markets and worries that the Euro zone
financial crisis and global economy could dampen luxury
spending, consumers are still willing to shop. Consumer spending
makes up about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
"The customer is very savvy. She's willing to pay for the
quality and something that looks like the price tag that's
attached to it," said Downing.
COLOR REFLECTING OPTIMISM
As the United States slowly recovers from its worst
recession in decades, Sherin said customers are more thoughtful.
"That is just how people shop now. They look for items they
can wear several different ways, where there's a multi-use
factor that they can certainly wear more than once," she said.
Color can grab consumers' attention, and department store
buyers said they hope to see lots of it in New York.
"Fashion is reflective of and responsive to the times," said
Barneys New York Senior Fashion Director Tomoko Ogura. "At the
moment, I think people are looking for optimistic ways of
dressing and infusing bright happy colors is an easy way to
"I expect to see soft spring shades with shocks of brighter,
more saturated tones," she said. "Blue and ocean colors will
also play a significant role in spring's color palette."
Sak's Sherin said she expects to see shades of yellow and
green and bright blue, while Neiman Marcus' Downing predicted
that lace would feature prominently.
"Lace brings a lovely romantic spirit, and it gives an
instant femininity to everything it's incorporated into,"
Downing said. "Designers are really paying attention to what
emotionally women gravitate to. Women love lace, there's no
When it comes to dresses, Downing says it will be a tale of
two silhouettes - tight-fitting and loose cuts. Dresses remain
popular because women can skip the extra, sometimes more costly,
step of coordinating skirts or pants with a blouse or T-shirt.
But what expected runway trends may not work?
"Head-to-toe pajama dressing," said Saks Sherin. "It needs
to be broken up.
"In the real world we need to show women how they can
incorporate a piece into their look. Not head to toe, unless
you're Hugh Hefner," she said.
Fashion Week in New York is followed by events in London,
Paris and Milan.
(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing Jackie Frank
and Vicki Allen)