By Jennifer Quail
NEW YORK-Pale. Peaceful. Elegant. Whimsical. Sound like trends for several different seasons? Well, every one of those adjectives is actually drawing attention in designer showrooms at present, oftentimes combined into one design.
The concepts are folding into one another. Designers said there is a definitive return to elegance, but it is elegance of a more subtle nature, sans the opulence with which it was coupled in the past. On the flip side, both whimsical designs and those steeped in simplicity have taken a turn to the elegant, using silk accents and textural details to illustrate less as more. The very idea of each combination points to the consumer looking for balance in design, a yin and yang to every piece.
As the higher end of the market is significantly less affected by any economic failings, it stands to reason that for many a designer project, whimsy and exuberance in design, typically associated with a positive economy, is never completely out of fashion. Elements such as palette, however, are in constant flux. What's winning now are polar extremes: soft, pale, cool blues and grays; and rich, deep, vibrant reds, pinks and oranges, plus a growing smattering of regal shades of purple. Hues tend to the cool, as opposed to the warmer shades of recent seasons.
This season, for example, designer Stephanie Odegard turned to combinations of wool and silk, in shades as varied as soft gray and magenta. Designer Emma Gardner provides both punch and peace with a peony design in vibrant shades, but with the soft touch of silk. And soothing, swirling shades of blue evoke seaside visions in a rug from designer Angela Adams.
Just as the mainstream area rug market tends to use the textiles and furniture upholstery categories as gauges for what should come next, so, too, does it follow just behind the fashion-forward workings of the designer market and to-the-trade showrooms. The same holds true in the fashion business of course: First it's on the runway and, as soon as the factories can manage, it's everywhere else, just in time for the average consumer to realize she wants it.
At summer markets, vendors did indeed speak of a return to elegance, but with a casual treatment; the usage of varying shades of pink, purple and orange to mix up the standard palette and add splash to the earth tones that had been running the show for too long; and the idea of whimsy being on the brink of a comeback, as consumers regain at least a slight level of confidence in the future of the economy. With such ideas already working for the high-end business, vendors and their own designers appear to be right on target for the coming seasons.