NEW YORK -- Ask women to name their favorite fashion designer and you'll hear a litany of names from Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein to Donna Karan and Bill Blass.
Ask women which designer label dominates their closet and many will tell you it's Liz Claiborne. They love the "big names," but they come with equally big price tags.
Claiborne, on the other hand, is more affordable and often more applicable to their lives.
Although the company's founder, Ms. Claiborne, retired three years ago, the design team she trained has continued her oft-repeated philosophy of clothes the "working woman" can afford." Most jackets sell for under $200 with skirts, pants and blouses around $100 or under.
Each year Claiborne ships more than 5.5 million pieces of clothing to stores across the country. Throw in accessories, hosiery, sunglasses, shoes, eyewear and men's clothing, and annual sales total more than $2 billion.
For fall 1992, the Claiborne customer is going to find what the designer does best -- variety.
"The consumer can choose what she wants," says Sarah Patterson, public relations manager for the company. "We provide options to consumers, things they will be comfortable in."
To this end, women will find long-pleated skirts, short-pleated skirts, short-slim skirts and shorter walking shorts. The long and short story is much the same with Claiborne jackets, and in pants both sleek stirrups and fuller trousers can be found. In almost all cases the different looks are available in the same colors and materials.
Still, there are some surprises for fall and some definite directions. Here's a look at a few of them:
* Denim: In dark indigo, lighter washed blue or white, denim moves beyond jeans into shirts, dresses, skirts and a cardigan style jacket that would have put a smile on the face of Coco Chanel.
* Menswear: This is done with a light touch, such as pairing garnet-red corduroy walking shorts and a matching long cardigan with a white shirt and a pre-tied necktie. Or how about brown walking shorts with a shirt and tie, topped with a paisley vest?
* Plaids and stripes: There's a variety of plaids from a busy, bright combination of clear red, yellow, blue and green that work well when paired with items in any one of those colors or with black or denim. More subdued is the combination of blue, green and black in both plaids and horizontal stripes.
* Equestrian: The horse world continues to influence design with jodhpur pants and hunting print blouses.
* Exercise: The jogging suit has become something of a classic, worn just as often for comfort as for serious workouts.