Designers try happy clothes in trying times

November 14, 1990|By Loretta Grantham | Loretta Grantham,Cox News Service

Between Wall Street swings, the Persian Gulf crisis and a looming recession, Americans have other things on their minds besides lace and leggings.

Seventh Avenue's fashion czars face the challenge of getting you to shrug off your wallet woes and hit the mall.

Calvin Klein told Women's Wear Daily in September that he was "terrified about the situation. People are frightened, and when they are frightened they don't think of buying."

To seduce shoppers, designers offered a myriad of styles in their spring collections from Bill Blass' multicolored strapless cocktail dress (it resembled a bedside collection of Kleenex tissues) to Klein's creamy, simple separates.

Colors ranged from the Bazooka-gum pink of Isani and Carolina Herrera to Ralph Lauren's vanilla and smoky blue.

Sure, designers clung to a few classics like the little black dress and denim standards. But imagination wasn't in short supply. Take Geoffrey Beene.

He showed split-side tunics with uneven hems, and he sprinkled fuzzy, colored balls on dresses and jackets. Beene even plopped what looked like a satellite dish on a gown's shoulder.

Michael Kors pared to the basics with uncluttered lines, but he offered a few racy midriff cutouts for belly-baring flash. And while Donna Karan stuck to her leggings-with-everything philosophy, she also slung some gold chains to catch the eye.

Seventh Avenue met the global-gloom challenge by hitting all the bases.

One designer, however, chose to attack a world problem head on.

Charlotte Neuville didn't stage a show and instead donated money to the Gay Men's Health Crisis. "It was time for us to give something back to our industry," said publicity director Debra Bach. "We wanted to make a statement."

Other statements leaned more toward flash from Bob Mackie's glitz to Norma Kamali's '60s styles to Carmelo Pomodoro's nouveau rubber tank dress.

So if you get the chance come spring, close your stock portfolio, turn off CNN and pull out your purse. Seventh Avenue has seen to it that there'll be something out there you can't resist.

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