Hometown boyHe was just 9 years old when Women's Wear...

Inside Fashion

November 08, 1990|By Catherine Cook

Hometown boy

He was just 9 years old when Women's Wear Daily showed enough faith in his talent to publish his fashion sketches.

Last week, at the age of 28, Baltimore native John Scher got

another endorsement by the powerful trade publication in a favorable review of his very first runway collection.

Mr. Scher has been in business for a year and a half and his clothes are already sold in such stores as Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Ruth Shaw in Baltimore, but with last week's formal runway show of his spring collection, his clothes received the kind of exposure that significant expansion demands.

While top designers spend as much as $75,000 on a runway show and stage them in high-profile locations like the Plaza Hotel, Mr. Scher pulled off his feat last week with the help of friends and volunteers in a small downtown venue.

Despite the scale, the room was packed with reviewers from major fashion publications, retailers from around the country and even a significant handful of potential investors intrigued by the fresh, young silhouettes for which Mr. Scher had already received much acclaim.

He describes his collection as "fun and up. That's what spring is all about this year. It's happy. Happy colors and light and sexy too."

Among the most successful items in the show were his chiffon dresses, the raffia designs and a striped organza piece.

By Friday of last week, American designers had sent hundreds, maybe even thousands of floaty new silhouettes down the runway. There were trapezes and tunics and tents and "the new loose look" was being touted.

Then two very influential designers slowed the trend just a bit and ensured even more variety for consumers next spring when they included in their collections not only the popular A-line, but also distinctive designs that hugged the figure.

Geoffrey Beene even went so far against the tide as to show his sleek, racer-back dresses in groupings of stark black. Donna Karan's sexy collection included brilliant red and yellow and scuba suit styling. Her innovative use of zippers and metal chains may also turn out to be as influential as her shapely silhouettes.

One of the new A-lines or trapeze dresses will definitely have a longer wearing life if you buy it in a solid black. But the very newest dresses next spring will be pulsating with color, preferably in some kind of print that combines shades like fuchsia, taxi cab yellow, electric blue, orange and green.

Zigzags, polka dots, awning stripes, floral bouquets and checkerboards were some of the other popular prints that came down the runways last week in significant contrast to recent seasons when solid fabrics have prevailed.

When designers didn't opt for a print, they color blocked an outfit, adding perhaps one yellow sleeve and one red sleeve to a green jacket, pairing it with a navy skirt.

The most conservative approach to the color craze was the application of contrast piping to a garment, on the collars, cuffs, pockets and hems.

You probably thought hemlines were already as short as they could possibly get. Come next spring, however, they're going to rise even higher.

With the conclusion of the American collections last week, the vote for short became unanimous among the designers of the world.

"All over Europe and New York the skirts are even shorter tha last year," says Nan Duskin buyer Tom Marotta. "You see it in all the restaurants in Europe, short is the mode.

"I think women have become comfortable with the idea of short and are willing to go shorter." How short, all depends on a woman's figure and individual taste.

"Many women will just go above the knee, but the young girls will wear the seventeen inches," he says.

A few designers, such as Geoffrey Beene and Isaac Mizrahi inserted a couple of very long hemlines in collections of predominantly short skirts, but these were viewed mostly as the kind of experimental looks unlikely to affect mainstream fashion in the near future.

Ooh baby!

Many of next spring's fashions will show the influence of the '60s, but retailers are having to make some judgment calls about just how much nostalgia customers are willing to bear.

While bold prints and geometric shifts seem to have widespread appeal, the extreme baby-doll styles shown by designers have left most buyers cold.

Cut extremely short and very full, the dresses do everything to camouflage the figure that the typical fashion customer today works so hard to maintain. In fact, a great many dresses were so full that the maternity department seemed a more suitable showcase than the couture salons for which these designer collections are intended.

The ultimate irony is that it is young people fascinated by the novelty of the Sixties who are the likeliest customers for these dresses, yet many of the dresses shown last week were created by established designers whose collections are priced well out of reach of all but a few of the world's wealthiest teen-agers.

Donna Karan, Bill Blass, Carolyne Roehm and Carolina Herrera are just a few of the designers who offered interpretations for next spring.

As if all that youth and sweetness weren't enough, designers are also offering a more youthful variation of last spring's walking shorts -- the romper suit.

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