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Fashion Week 2012: Coats Make A Comeback

New York Fashion Week may be coming to a close on Thursday, but a cycle of fashion shows in cities around the world is just about to begin. Fashion editors and store buyers will descend upon London, Milan and Paris to inspect clothes that may appear in stores next fall. Sally Singer — editor-in-chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine — is one of those tastemaking jet-setters, and she joins NPR's Renee Montagne to talk about 2012's trends.

<strong>Bundle Up:</strong> Coats fell out of favor for a few seasons, but they're back — big time — in 2012. Above, a design from Joseph Altuzarra.
Neilson Barnard / Getty Images
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<strong>Bundle Up:</strong> Coats fell out of favor for a few seasons, but they're back — big time — in 2012. Above, a design from Joseph Altuzarra.

"Already we see a proliferation of great coats," Singer says. "That might seem like an obvious choice for fall/winter, but just a few years ago there was a trend against that, in part because of the reality of global warming — nobody needed a warm coat. It seems now designers are going back to that as a staple."

Designers are also returning to some tried-and-true approaches: "What I'm seeing is a return to people's signature strengths," Singer explains. "I think designers now, because of all the insecurity both in the industry itself — with hirings and firings and all the kind of nonsense that's going on within fashion and within the economy generally — I'm seeing designers deciding to sort of batten down the hatches and do the thing that they do best."

But there's no lack of new ideas; Singer has noticed that many designers are incorporating extravagant fabrics into their collections. The use of "evening fabrics and decorative fabrics for day," is a recurring theme, she observes. "Brocade for day. Brocade and a jean. Brocade and a little jacket you'll wear to work. Velvet. Embroidered satin. Fabrics that are expensive, exotic and a pleasure to wear."

With the global economy still struggling to overcome a deep recession, who will be able to afford these luxurious items? "There's a lot of discussion right now in fashion not about the U.S. consumer, but about the global consumer," she says. "The American economy is less a pressing concern for designers than the growth of Asia, the growth of China as an important market, the growth of Brazil ... I think that's where these companies are looking to see real growth in the next year."

<strong>A Pricey Purse:</strong> Singer loved Derek Lam's purse designed to look like an old-fashioned makeup train case. "He did it in lizard. I will never be able to afford it," she says, "but it was a beautiful, beautiful bag."
Fernanda Calfat / Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
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<strong>A Pricey Purse:</strong> Singer loved Derek Lam's purse designed to look like an old-fashioned makeup train case. "He did it in lizard. I will never be able to afford it," she says, "but it was a beautiful, beautiful bag."

Still, plenty of designers are working to create reasonably priced pieces. Singer points to Olivier Theyskens as an example. "I just love his slightly slouchy-through-the-hip trousers," Singer says of Theyskens' line for Theory. "And I can afford those. One of the great things about New York right now is there's a series of designers who make what we call 'contemporary' clothes, which are beneath the designer price point. They are not cheap, but they are less expensive than what top designer stuff costs. That's where I can spend my money."

Fashion doesn't only have a fraught relationship with the economy — designers also respond to world politics. Last year, designers took inspiration from the then-nascent Arab Spring. Singer hasn't seen any strong links to current events in this year's New York shows, but she expects to encounter plenty of politically conscious fashion in Europe.

"There's no question that the amount of protest on the streets of Europe in the past few months will be reflected somewhere," she says. "Designers have their antennae up. They know what's going on, and anyone who's been in London and Athens, across the board in Europe in the last number of months, is going to have to have something in their collection that feels different."

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