Jeffrey Banks is showing another brand of eased-up English shapes for fall. His are in bold colors. The polo shirts are turquoise or tangerine. His pullover sweaters in fuchsia and royal blue have patterns copied from East African shawls and blankets. Banks adds wit to his collection with cotton shirts made of fish-print fabrics that recall English zoological drawings.
He is one of the designers giving up heavy wools for cotton and linen blends in his fall collection--fabrics once shipped only to California and Florida during winter months.
"Across the country, men want lighter-weight clothes," he said. "We live in climate controlled environments, in the office, the car, at home. And every place is overheated." His styles are sold at Nordstrom.
Jhane Barnes, known for her bulky knit textures and optical print sportswear, says even she now works with lighter weights. "The clothes still look heavy and chunky, but they aren't," she said.
Her fall collection, sold at Bullocks Wilshire, is made up of subdued gray-and-white tones. Her wide-body shirts with rounded shoulders and pants that go from wide at the hips to tapered at the ankle, are very much in keeping with the most popular shapes seen at the Designers' Collective.
Among California designers, Nancy Heller is true to her love of '50s men's fashions. She is showing nubby fall cardigan sweaters, soft-collar shirts and easy tweed pants.
Axis menswear, designed by John Leitch and Martin Weening, is a study in soft edges and muted colors. Michele Lamy's menswear, designed by Ricky Castro, takes off on the "Star Trek" look. Castro named a fitted, two-tone jersey pullover "Captain Kirk," after the show's lead character.
Some of the wool jersey pants in the collection fit like sweat pants, others fit like leggings. Body-conscious Castro designed a separate collection of dance wear for men. Nordstrom carries the Lamy line.
Aside from retro shapes and soft, draped fabrics, another sort of trend has emerged this week. It has as much to do with marketing as fashion design. Three New York stores--Barney's, Charivari and New Republic--are now wholesaling the menswear collections they once designed, produced and sold exclusively in their own shops.
From Barney's comes the '50s-inspired Basco by Gene Pressman and Lance Karesh. From Charivari, the modern, architectural Sans Tambours ni Trompettes by Corinne Delemazure in association with John Weiser. And from New Republic, a SoHo shop that originally sold both vintage and new clothes, the first wholesale collection by store owners Thomas Oatman and Jim Silverman.
Store owners turned designers are in what is generally considered to be the optimum position. Not only can they test new styles on a small scale in their own stores before they mass produce them, but they can also control how their clothes are displayed and with which other clothes by which other designers. This is a privilege they are forced to give up once their designs are shipped to department stores.
Based on comments heard in the halls of the Omni Park, there will be more of this in the seasons ahead.