NEW YORK (AP) - The resort season is not a time for fashion to take a vacation. Resort collections, which hit stores during the all-important Christmas holiday shopping season, are a growing part of designer businesses as consumers move toward styles they can wear year-round.
The idea that people fully switch their closets between seasons is outdated, agrees Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director for retailer Neiman Marcus. Shoppers want clothes they can wear the day they buy them, he says, and resort wear typically meets that demand.
Not to mention that resort clothes also spend the longest time on the full-price selling floor, typically until mid-winter when spring merchandise moves in.
The name "resort" is a holdover from the days when brands would offer a few key pieces for their wealthy snowbird customers who'd flee cold climates at Christmastime. The modern definition, however, has evolved to be more of a code word for new, fresh merchandise.
"I'm happy to see designers really paying attention to resort, and to really put into it design and style," Downing says. True fans of fashion know that this transitional period also gives a clue where designers are heading in the future, he adds.
Expect to see less black, more red, navy and neon, and some surf and scuba influences. Here are some highlights from previews held in New York over the past few weeks:
Stella McCartney's mind was elsewhere this season: Hawaii. "It's such a rich, visual place to start," she said.
From there, she grew a collection full of hibiscus and surfer prints, deck-chair stripes, seersucker and neon-tipped accessories, giving off a joyful, relaxed vibe.
McCartney keeps it from going too much over the top, though, with consistent clean shapes.
The sportier silhouettes, including a culotte-style jumpsuit, long garden-party skirts and shorts paired with rounded capes, suited the croquet-playing models in the Greenwich Village garden where the presentation was held. The dressier outfits, including a black tuxedo with an almost tails-length jacket and skinny-at-the-ankle pants, and a white dress embroidered with bows, complemented the flutes of champagne offered at the party-like preview.
McCartney also gave a nod to the mod looks of London in the 1960s, offering a series of houndstooth looks _ sometimes mixing those with menswear-inspired pieces, such as a sunshine-yellow blazer with wide lapel and crisp shirt.
"Tailoring is updated with a new silhouette," she explained in her notes, referring to a jacket with notched lapel. She also showed what she described as a "cropped cigarette French cuff trouser and blouses with three-dimensional bow embroidery in a palette of black with chalk or Tokyo blue with tobacco."
Donna Karan pays homage in each collection _ in each piece, really _ to her hometown of New York, but her resort collection seems particularly urban in its sparse, clean look and statement colors of red, black and white.
"Each piece is an urban object of desire," she explained in her notes, adding: "A woman's curves with modern simplicity, day-into-night, the look is sleek, graphic and racy."
There were trappings of motorcycle racing, scuba diving and what she dubbed "galaxy glamour," which seemed a nod to what Hollywood thought the future would look like before we actually hit the 21st century.
For daytime, she turned out slim knee-length dresses, a parachute-silk trench and jewel-neck tunic top. Evening looks included a draped jersey column gown, a silver sweetheart gown decorated with teeny-tiny beads, and a delicate, white-tulle cocktail dress covered with strips of grosgrain ribbon. The finale gown was a strapless number with a mermaid shape and a lot of "whoop" _ the designer's word _ at the bottom.
Karan said she wanted to give women confidence through their clothes, so there is essentially a bodyshaper built into several of the styles. It works so well that Karan was able to fit into the same black skinny pants and red dress with asymmetrical draping as the models.
"It's the new Spanx!" she said as she narrated the collection during a small presentation in a West Side loft space.
YVES SAINT LAURENT
A red leather trench? Wait, isn't this supposed to be resort wear?
But YSL designer Stefano Pilati points out that fire-engine red leather is an iconic look for Yves Saint Laurent. Anyway, he noted, it's supposed to be worn in November _ a chilly month in many places. So, why not?
"These are pieces you can wear every day, and not just to the Caribbean," Pilati said.
Another trend in YSL's collection: Nautical, as in anchors _ in jewelry, hanging from belts, or incorporated into prints on black shorts or puff-sleeved blouses. Or a bigger anchor, embroidered onto a black jacket that would seem perfect for a casual day at the office _ though maybe not with the bandeau top that peeked out beneath it.
Also in the nautical spirit: Rope prints, on silky blouses or dresses, notably on a strapless dress in bold yellow and black, with rope print AND a huge anchor splashed across the chest. A starfish necklace was one of the jewelry pieces that embraced the seaside motif, always popular with French houses.
Pilati says he doesn't work with a theme, but tries to be "consistent, with a lightness, a freshness." What's new in every collection, he noted, is the cuts, for which he is famous.
Attending the YSL show at a Manhattan art gallery were Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") and "Black Swan" choreographer Benjamin Millepied, partner of Natalie Portman and the new face of YSL's men's fragrance, L'Homme Libre.
Pilati also unveiled a "poppy" theme _ bright, cheery flower prints on dresses, rompers and finally a couple of flowing gowns. One big hit was the final gown, a red and black, strapless confection with ruffles at the waist.
"It's seaside meets countryside," quipped Pilati.
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
Diane von Furstenberg's muse for the season is an "urban surfer, beach networker and snowboarding dreamer" _ all rolled into one multi-green, obi-wrapped, jumpsuit wearer.
"Holiday impulse _ light and impactful. A wrap jumper and featherweight dresses give off a collected and casual vibe," von Furstenberg wrote in her notes. "Sportswear pieces with a twist _ knits adorned with neon zippers, windbreakers reinterpreted as silk vests, a nonchalant ladylike jacket with surf shorts or a sporty top with a gray melange ruffled skirt."
Von Furstenberg spends most of her vacation time on her yacht, and there were influences from the worlds of sailing, especially the colorblocking, and scuba diving with flashes of color against black.
The overall silhouette wasn't clingy, though, save a cute second-skin orange T-shirt dress. Most pieces were long and loose, with oversized blazers and Bermuda shorts.
Von Furstenberg, with creative director Yvan Mispelaere at her side, is one of the few New York-based designers who stage a runway show instead of a smaller presentation for resort. She used the opportunity to make a statement about a youthful, cool attitude; the look was very modern even if there was an underlying `80s-boombox sort of vibe.
Gilles Mendel had very little use for black in the newest collection _ and buyers, stylists and editors probably won't miss it.
Mendel instead emphasized navy, poppy red, palm green, and shades of blush and sand, sometimes mixing the brights with a neutral on fresh colorblocked looks. One of the best was a raglan-sleeve dress with hand-frayed strips.
Mendel can't resist a great fur piece, and a hot-pink fox shrug filled the bill. "It's all you need for travel," he said. "You can wear it over jeans or a gown."
Gowns are Mendel's other specialty, allowing him to show off his attention to the smallest detail. A blush gown with cap sleeves and delicate black embroidery was a style originally made for Taylor Swift.
Surprisingly, though, the strength of resort was the daywear, especially the slouchy trousers that he paired with a boatneck sweater with sheer stripes and a light-tan slim sheath with white leather trim.
"Having so much daywear is a new moment for me," he said.
Incorporating multiple materials and textures was a nod to the landscape of rural Southern Utah, where Mendel recently visited.
"The sparkles are like the water, the hand-frayed edges like the rocks, the colors like the sunsets," he said.
Jason Wu approached resort with a light, relaxed touch _ a T-shirt here, hoodie there _ but the luxurious, sophisticated look that is quickly becoming his signature is still the heart and soul of the collection. That T-shirt, for example, is made of lace and the hoodie of cashmere with latticelike details.
"This is dressed down, but through my eyes and sensibility," Wu said.
Before he started sketching, Wu vacationed in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. He took some of the cheerful vibe, rich history and intricate architecture home with him, he explained. "If I say I'm going to a museum today for inspiration, I won't find one. It has to be an aha moment, and there were so many of those in San Juan."
There's nothing frilly about the clothes, although they're feminine thanks to touches of lace, pops of salmon pink and a few Art Deco-inspired floral prints. He paired short shorts with conservative crewneck sweaters and added leather trim to a tweed dress. "It's the language of modern sportswear: some boyish toughness and feminine details," Wu said.
This season marks Wu's debut into the swimwear market, anchored by a retro corset style, and he also incorporated some scuba-diving details, including bright-colored piping and stretchy black fabrics.
Tory Burch used the palette of Santa Fe, N.M., as the starting point for her resort-season collection, but those colors and patterns of the desert then worked their way through the designer's East Coast point of view. She put those crafty florals into a pretty, long, wrap-style skirt, a flowy, delicately ruffled dress, and as a long-sleeve T-shirt that can be worn under a cream-colored tunic with oversized pockets, tan trim and her signature gold buttons.
There was color at every turn _ Burch basically shuns black, using navy blue, winter white and caramel as her neutrals _ with orange, red, turquoise and yellow used in big, bold strokes. One top had a splashy orange print on the bodice and back, and a blue version of the same art on the arms. The modeling mannequin also wore a vertical-stripe chenille skirt.
She updated the two-in-one trick that she first made famous with her lay-flat Dickie tops, this time combining a cardigan and sweater vest that had little bulk but bold in its graphic patterns.
Burch colored many denim pieces, too, including aqua skinny capris and red boot-leg jeans. However, she wisely left a denim anorak in a soft, broken-in blue.
For dressier occasions, she offered bow blouses and hammered silk separates, but it's the holiday delivery _ which is shipped to stores in October versus November for resort _ that has glitzier metallics, sophisticated tweeds and pops of hot pink.
She covers both collections with a full range of complementary accessories, from rope-heel wedges to iPad cases, but, if you look closely, you'll see she shrunk the logo on the bags and shoes that first made her a fashion force.
Associated Press National Writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.