Fashion direction: For richer, poorer

The 2012 presidential election season was driven mostly by economic policy and much was made of the disparity between rich and poor. The most telling statistic was that of UC Berkeley’s Sylvia Allegretto, who pointed out that the six heirs to the Walmart fortune maintain the same net worth as the bottom 30 percent of American earners. That very same disparity also seems to be driving fashion trends for the fall 2013 season—a level of richness and opulence in fabrics and colors, oddly complemented by a kind of minimalism and performance inspired by workwear and simpler times.

At September’s Arts & Tannery presentation many of the vendors showed versions of patent leather with surreal patterns. Gianluca Gori’s fashion forecast was led by a “Space Lab” theme, featuring images from the psychedelic ’60s sci-fi movie Barbarella. (David Wolfe at Doneger was prescient on this theme, predicting consumers’ desire for a new modernism a season ago.) This icon of strength, femininity and eroticism was shoehorned into an Art Deco-inspired group, both of which were about metallics paired with rich, dark color.

“We’re seeing navy, teal and purple…metallic gold and wine…a very regal thing,” says Stylesight’s Sharon Graubard. “Rusts, emerald and sage greens and mustard gold. It’s a very dusty, earthen palette—vegetal and broken-in. Think of fuzzy Shetland sweaters and marled tweed. And there are a lot of interesting fabrics now. At Premiere Vision some of the fabric editors and I were trying to pull swatches apart to see if they were knit or woven. It’s crazy what’s going on right now.”

PV’s fashion director, Pascaline Wilhelm, points out that fabrics for fall 2013 are luxurious. Velvet is important, as is medieval influence—ornamental and opulently decorated. “Fabrics are in precious mineral shades,” says Wilhelm, “featuring textured knits and jacquards, made with tone and light. There are a lot of dark shadows; these fabrics create a sharp, hollow silhouette that absorbs the light. There’s a look of old-fashioned synthetics, like old polyester bonded fabrics, but they are soft-to-the-touch wool.”

Wilhelm also remarks on the importance of workwear influences. “They are not complicated, but precise, with functional details including treatments to make fabrics stainproof, rainproof…ready for anything!”

Tim Bess at Doneger has also listed performance as one of the big ideas for the coming season. “It’s really all about fabrics and textiles this season, in contrast to spring 2013, which was really all about color,” says Bess. “We’re seeing performance, technical and functional, but achieved in vintage looks, heritage fabrics like tweeds that already have performance built in. Also the ‘athleisure’ movement is still gaining momentum, with a lot of emphasis on comfortable crewneck tops and sweats-influenced bottoms. We’re also seeing a lot of mixed media, particularly in knits with woven pocket details, or woven shirts mixing denim and corduroy from workwear.”

The Woolmark Company, which represents the Australian wool industry, calls out wools that are facsimiles of denim (and in their trend presentation, illustrates them with depression-era artwork), whose influence continues into deep, inky boucles and marled yarns. Military marches on in flat, crisp olive-toned fabrics, again, some featuring reversible faces for tonal or textural contrast. Garnets and lodens—either solid or woven into trad plaid, tweedy fabrics evoke gentlemanly sport- and topcoats. Finally severe, austere dark blacks and grays with touches that look almost hand-stitched.

Whether one percent or 47 percent, shopping at Walmart or Bergdorf Goodman, fall 2013 promises to be a season marked by consumers seeking comfort and a certain degree of glamour in equal measure. Though fashion always has one foot planted firmly in the future and the other in the past, this season’s influences seem to be more literal. Look for the retail success of blue to continue in darker indigo hues, and watch for cleaned-up classic forms—items that are familiar and comfortable, but with clean, modern styling, lightweight and full of function.

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