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Menswear : Larger Firms Warming Up for Fall


RYE, N.Y. — Many of America's most directional and innovative menswear designers didn't turn out as they usually do for the Men's Fashion Assn. (MFA) fall press preview, held here recently for more than 200 editors from across the country.

But the larger companies--Arrow, J. C. Penney, Jantzen, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and Allyn St. George--were there to promote their "wears." They showed examples of what they hope will be worn by the fashion-

conservative masses this fall.

The latest high-fashion news for fall did emerge through a series of special events during the five-day session. These included an overview seminar on trends for the upcoming season; a designer showcase of creative talents at smaller, newer companies, and shows presented by designers such as Jhane Barnes, Robert Stock, Sal Cesarani and the newest ascending menswear star, Bill Robinson.

At the seminar, MFA's fashion director Chip Tolbert explained the importance of elegant new looks in evening wear; the use of bold color in sport jackets, sweaters and as collar accents on tweed or plaid suits; the emergence of brown as a new neutral menswear tone, and of black and white as wardrobe base colors that work well with bright accents.

Sweaters were clearly the most exciting element for fall, with the most innovative (by Jhane Barnes, Tijuca's Laura Pearson and the Marienbad Co., among others) in bold geometric patterns.

Nordic and outdoorsy designs--such as Cesarani's oversize, snowflake patterns, Stock's ski motifs and Robinson's deer-motif sweaters--are also popular.

Other sweater stars are from Mansel-Fair's John Fair, whose "Cosmic Tidbits" group features stars, planets and maps. Tony Lambert's American Indian-inspired knits range from Navajo-blanket looks to bold Indian-head or buffalo designs on the front.

Mixing patterns, textures and prints in a single outfit continues for fall as the most innovative way of putting together traditional elements in menswear. The basic wool tweed sport jacket tops a striped shirt, accented with a bold print tie that's tucked into, say, striped trousers in another wool texture. Designers often add a patterned V-neck sweater or knit vest to complete the look.

Patterns and Prints

The idea here is to combine patterns and prints in a complementary way for a refined, collage effect.

The most provocative expression of this mixed-media look comes from Jhane Barnes, who uses computer-designed fabrics in lightweight, geometric weaves to great effect. Her diagonal-stripe sport jacket, for example, goes over a broken-stripe shirt and a patterned tie.

The most exciting new trend of the season is a simpler, more minimal look in suits and sportswear. The silhouette is streamlined and loosely constructed. It is comprised of rich-looking fabrics in solids or very subtle checks or plaids. This look is being called "refined sportswear" because it melds the dressy and the casual into one look.

The designer who epitomizes this new refinement is Bill Robinson, whose collection for fall is his first under his own name. It was the hit of this MFA show.

Robinson's broad-shoulder jackets with slightly suppressed waistlines and his tailored, yet amply cut, trousers focus on the male form as do his innovative, zippered knit tops with turtlenecks or deep-V necks. The newness of his knitwear for men is also evident in knit sport jackets and trousers that are incarnations of the leisure suit taken several modern steps ahead.

Robinson also gives new life to the Eisenhower jacket, translated for today in a casual suit of gabardine.

The secret of Robinson's success is his ability to take traditional menswear garments and make them look new--not recycled. It's a concept that has evaded most American designers who are still relying on bolder pattern fabrics or colors to make old togs look new.

Also New For Fall

Other innovative elements at MFA: Dianne Brill's sophisticated and bold-proportioned, double-breasted suit worn with elegant white turtleneck shirt; Mary Jane Marcasiano's casually dapper ensemble of a double-breasted jacket layered over a double-breasted suit--all in gray wool twill--richly mixed with a gray cashmere and silk turtleneck; Christian Kenth's futuristic-looking wool jersey knit jump suits, tunics and ski pants; Telegraph's youthful, softly constructed separates that mix patterns and dressy/casual elements in an all-purpose way.

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