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Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2001

Fashionistas break out the stars and stripes

November 1, 2001

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— Stars and stripes are chic fashion looks. Red, white and blue is now the must-wear color combination.

These familiar and clearly patriotic styles are a far cry from the grommet-covered belts and leather jodhpurs that were touted as the season's hottest styles before Sept. 11.

But from the fund-raising flag T-shirts to beaded flag-emblazoned gowns, designers and retailers are using Americana clothes to comfort and court customers in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

"On Fifth Avenue (in New York City), every second person is wearing red, white and blue. It's a way to show solidarity and respect for the victims who died and survived," says Brian Rennie, the head designer for Escada.

Escada, which is based in Munich, Germany, recently opened its new U.S. flagship store in New York with patriotic styles in every window.

"I was nervous about putting it in the window of the new store because I didn't want it to be misconstrued that we were trying to cash in on the tragedy," says Scotsman Rennie.

But, he adds, "the clothing is a very powerful, bold statement to say we're still here."

The Stars & Stripes collection, which ranges from embellished jeans to cocktail-party clothes, was already in production when the attacks occurred. Even before the pro-America sentiment flooded the fashion industry, retails buyers from around the globe were very enthusiastic about the new line, Rennie reports.

"At first it was kind of tongue-in-cheek and I asked 'Will the rest of the world like it?' It surprised me, even then when we showed it in July, that it got such a good reaction."

From a style standpoint, the American flag is a versatile starting point for inspiration. It can be interpreted as a tailored pinstripe suit with a subtle flag-print jacquard blouse or it can be a bold beaded gown, the designer explains.

In the past, Rennie had used other nations, including Greece and Scotland, as themes for collections, but this was the first time he used a country's flag.

Rennie says the line, originally intended as a resort collection for the holiday season, will be carried for at least a few more months and not just in U.S. stores. From Britain to Japan, customers are clamoring for the Stars and Stripes.

"What's nice is that people are seeing the flag not only as a symbol of America but a symbol of the whole world."

Waving the flag

Tommy Hilfiger is probably the best-known designer for incorporating America's symbols into his designs. Flags, stars and stripes in the nation's colors are constants in Hilfiger's men's, women's, kid's and home collections. He has always done it and will continue to do it, says spokeswoman Caren Bell.

"The flag is part of our heritage; it's part of Tommy's heritage. Tommy grew up in a small upstate New York town and a lot of his influences growing up were real Americana," explains Bell.

The Rhode Island factory where Alex & Ani jewelry is made "is all red, white and blue," reports owner and designer Carolyn Rafaelian-Ferlise, thanks to the success of its Project U.S.A. collection.

Rafaelian-Ferlise had added some patriotic-yet-contemporary pins, necklaces and earrings to her regular jewelry line earlier this year but the response had been lukewarm.

That has changed.

"We have orders from every state. Teens are putting USA pins on their jean jackets," Rafaelian-Ferlise says.

All proceeds from Project U.S.A. pieces will be donated to The Tree of Life Foundation, which is dedicated to the restoration and beautification of the neighborhoods surrounding the World Trade Center.

Old Navy has brought back its signature Fourth of July flag T-shirt but this time in a limited run without the Old Navy logo.

"We did not think it was appropriate to brand these shirts. The flag alone said it all," Jonathan Finn, director of public relations and promotions.

All proceeds from the $5 shirt are being donated to the United Way's Sept. 11 Fund and the N.Y. Community Trust.

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