Here's a new indicator economists may want to monitor: National prosperity may have a serious correlation to the amount of suede and leather pieces highlighted in fine men's sportswear collections.
Judging from a first look at three resort 2000 collections -- Marc Jacobs, Joseph Abboud and John Varvatos -- the bulls should be running the market through holiday.
A nominee for the CFDA's Men's Wear Designer of the Year at the American Fashion Awards 2000 next week, Jacobs has seen his men's wear business grow so much that he's created his first complete resort collection for men and will launch underwear for men and women this fall.
According to Marc Jacobs men's designer Richard Chai, men's wear sales have increased to the point that it's now equal with women's, which prompted this added collection. 'There was a demand for what we are doing, which bridges a gap in the designer market,' Chai explained.
The collection is marked by the casual, classic elegance for which Jacobs is known, or when preppie and rock-and-roll collide head-on.
The preppie element is executed in classic cotton, square-bottomed, buttondown shirts in pastel blue, yellow and pink with MJ monograms; lots and lots of papery cotton khaki pants and lightweight jackets; and colorful cashmere crewneck sweaters with contrast bands at the neck and sleeve.
Of course, Jacobs is not without edge, hence the cool black leather jeans, trench coats and jeans-jackets. There is also a gray, enzyme-washed denim grouping that revisits an '80s trend in a way that, surprisingly, works. This grouping includes blazers and trousers -- sold separately -- as well as five-pocket jeans and three-quarter-length coats.
Abboud's resort collection has made slight changes in color, fabric and silhouette to give a youthful, fresh breath to his collection. Knits have been washed and square-bottomed to be worn layered and relaxed. Pants have been given a slightly lower rise and are worn to rest easier on the hip. Wovens, too, have been given square bottoms and a banded point collar.
And most noticeably, while Abboud's focus still remains grounded in shades of soft browns, black has taken a permanent place within the collection, a spokesperson said, and will be offered in select pieces from season to season.
Woven patterns and sweater knits are far simpler than in past seasons, making Abboud's collection as focused as it is clean and carefree-feeling.
Suedes and leather are among the designer's seasonal bright spots. A driftwood-colored, bandless bomber jacket is fashioned in shirt-weight suede to emphasize its versatility as a layering piece.
A tiny cableknit cashmere V-neck sweater that was used in Abboud's fall 2000 runway show has been added to the line as the resort season's 'key, luxe piece.' The sweater is given a melange effect, for colors from oatmeal to azure blue, because the yarn has been top-dyed -- the treatment was spared for sweaters in sun yellow and black, for a matte effect.
Also added to Abboud's line is a selection of cobbled cotton casual pants in a five-pocket jean silhouette. Expect true-blue denim, or at least indigo-related, offerings from the designer for spring 2001.
Consumer confidence, happy holiday feelings and new attitudes toward a men's resort category make little difference to John Varvatos right now. The designer is riding high -- he is nominated for CFDA's Perry Ellis Award for Men's Wear -- and that feeling of elation is seen clearly and with such thoughtful craftsmanship in his second seasonal collection.
Being Varvatos, he's thought big and has created three groupings for the season -- two for holiday and a resort grouping.
'Tundra' plays off the themes Varvatos generated in his fall debut. The grouping -- further evidence of the skins theory -- is an extension to Varvatos's fall shearling statement. Merino and New Zealand shearlings have been 'antiqued' for a hooded, waist-length jacket complemented by a raw-edged suede trouser and a six-ply cashmere cable with hand-finished detailing. A raw-edged napa-backed suede shirt is paired with coated-cotton trousers with suede binding on the front pockets.
Varvatos's 'vintage formal' mixes black-tie classics with items like black leather lambskin pants with on-seam pockets and a coin pocket with dusty-pink, full-pleat, crinkle tuxedo shirts in 140s cotton, a black leather convertible sport coat and a cashmere/silk, wide-rib-cable, high-buttoned cardigan.
'These offset the classic tuxedo,' said Varvatos. 'It's for when you don't want to wear the same thing over and over again and want to go for something kind of cool.'
Varvatos's debut resort collection centers around five stone-based shades, from cement to sage, which the designer describes as 'a middle ground between khaki and olive.' The colors are used for the groupings' two anchors: coated-cotton, straight-leg pants and pima, mini-rib cotton T-shirts with what has quickly become Varvatos's trademark -- a double-stitched crewneck.
The T-shirt/pant combinations are energized by pieces like a sage lambskin motorcycle jacket treated with an aqua-glaze finish; a rubber-coated, funnel-neck, cotton jacket with bluff-edged pockets and a high-twist cotton hand-finished sweater.
'With the heaviness and richness of fall, color is like fresh air,' Varvatos said. 'We want to bring color into the store without being so vibrant, or athletic, about it. It's such a challenge to design for seasons like resort and spring -- there are no layers and coats to hide behind.'