So said fashion directors from Macy's (M), J.C. Penney (JCP), Banana Republic (GPS) and Forever 21, who analyzed the trends that emerged during New York Fashion Week and will inspire their autumn merchandise.
Mall stores are watching the catwalk's tony looks more closely these days. Thanks to the populist equalizer of the Web, everyday consumers have become fashion insiders.
"A decade ago, the mall was a fashion oracle," says Susan Scafidi, director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School. "Chain store buyers had exclusive access to designers' runway visions."
Today, the once rarefied world of high fashion gets devoured by a mass audience in real-time. Most major designers live-stream their runway shows online, and fashion bloggers -- unofficial critics who've become the new arbiters of style -- weigh in on trends from the catwalk.
As a result, "every fashionista with Internet access has a front-row seat at Fashion Week, and the buyers for stores at the local mall need to make sure that their picks for next season reflect what their customers saw -- and what the bloggers who critique the shows liked best," Scafidi says. "Trend awareness is much more widespread, and retailers at all price points need to keep a close eye on which runway looks are likely to have legs."
Faster Than the Speed of Fashion
That couldn't be more true for Forever 21, a fast-fashion chain that's in the business of churning out high-end runway looks in a New York minute -- at bargain prices.
Cyndie Washburn-Nester, women's trend director for J.C. Penney, agrees.
"Everyone is trying to get the merchandise out there as quickly as possible by looking at the runways and adapting incoming trends," she says. "Whether it's a color or a design detail like a peplum, the consumer is definitely more savvy."
Here's what four of the nation's big clothing retailers had to say about Fashion Week and what looks from the catwalk might turn up on their racks come fall.
Leather, unisex pieces and 1960s looks were three key Fashion Week themes that her stores will adapt, Washburn-Nester says.
Glossy leather items from designers such as Derek Lam and Donna Karan could be interpreted at J.C. Penney in a pair of denim pants, coated so that they exhibit a leather-like sheen, she says.
At the same time, "androgynous, sexy looks" made a splash, Washburn-Nester says. "The menswear trend is pretty exciting." These include a fresh take on the tuxedo jacket, including single- and double-breasted pieces, as well as fuller trousers and jacket dresses -- which will likely influence Penney's fall clothing mix.
|Wine colors||330 (50.8%)|
|Full black skirts||68 (10.5%)|
|Pleather pants or skirts||31 (4.8%)|
|Fabric blocking||24 (3.7%)|
|Painterly Prints||41 (6.3%)|
|Feminized Menswear||113 (17.4%)|
Washburn-Nester noted a preponderance of berry tones, including "oxblood," which will be key colors for the season.
Designers' collections were also reminiscent of London's Carnaby Street in the 1960s, she says.
The retro-British looks included structured tunics, shift and A-line dresses, slim ankle pants, rounded shoulders, collarless necklines and swing shapes -- all design concepts the chain will build on for fall.
And while color blocking was all the rage during Fashion Week last September, this season, it was all about fabric blocking -- contrasting bands of materials in a single garment -- another promising look for fall, she says.
Rather than chasing trendy pieces with a short shelf life, Banana Republic looks to Fashion Week for "quintessential pieces with a twist" that would resonate with professional working women, says Simon Kneen, creative director for Gap's high-end sister chain. The idea is "don't be a fashion victim, be fashion right."
This season, the runway was awash in wines -- from clarets to barolos -- used by designers like Diane Von Furstenberg and Alexander Wang, "which felt very new," he says. "We'll definitely make sure we have enough reds. I think red is like animal print: a neutral in your closet." Look for textured and plaid claret and red coats and dresses at Banana Republic this fall.
Also expect to see some whimsical touches of fur in the retailer's stores, after fur was sprinkled into the collections of designers like Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Preen and Herve Leger.
"There was a lot of real fur on the runway, [but] we'll definitely be doing the faux fur that feels a little more cheeky and not so serious on coats, fur hats, and fur trim on scarves and gloves," Kneen says.
Menswear with feminine, "sensuous" notes and "architectural minimalism" were two of the big stories coming off the runway that will inspire fall apparel at Macy's, says Nicole Fischelis, its group vice president and fashion director.
Calvin Klein's fresh take on minimalism included simply-cut dresses with full skirts that created a feel of "pure and exquisite new volume," she says.
Fischelis also cited Ralph Lauren's British, feminine take on menswear, describing body hugging jackets and coats in plaid and argyle as Fashion Week standouts.
In addition to the burgundy, teals, blues, deep-forest greens and poppy orange on the runway, black, shine, such as silver, painterly prints, and the mixing of textures in a single outfit took center stage, Fischelis says.
These included black-and-sheer dresses from BCBG, and a range of prints from several designers -- from digital floral prints to photo and "arty" prints, she said, which would work well on dresses, skirts and blouses at Macy's.
Based on its runway-to-rack business model, shoppers will undoubtedly see looks from the runway in Forever 21's stores pretty fast. "The fashion cycle has always been fast in our market," Chang says.
And this season, the chain, with 452 U.S. stores, was hot on the abundance of prints, color- and fabric-blocking, as well as the vibrant colors strutting the catwalk.
"We're loving the excitement around gorgeous prints," she says. "We also love the new ways of blocking with multicolor combinations and with fabrics."
And the explosion of color was a refreshing reprieve. "Color is so inspiring after so many seasons of sameness," Chang says. "We are in love with all kinds of color combinations."
But New York Fashion Week, while important, is only one source of inspiration for the chain.
"We have always felt that fashion comes from many directions," Chang says. "We watch and interpret from all the ready-to-wear runways, European couture catwalks, from the international streets, the cinema, art and exhibitions -- everywhere," she says. "For us, it's a combination of influences, each important in a different way. We have always been passionate about bringing the excitement of what's new and emerging to our customers at a price that's affordable and in a way that's wearable."