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Get Retro! with back-to-school fashions

August 21, 2000

Get Retro! with back-to-school fashions

By KEVIN CLAPP / staff writer


When it comes to back-to-school fashion, everything old is young again.

Using bright colors and kid-friendly fabrics, designers have shrunk adult trends. That means solid colors, fleece tops and a healthy amount of pleather - a plastic and leather hybrid - infiltrating schools everywhere.

"What's hot with grown-ups is also hot with kids these days," says Mary Ann Crenshaw, spokesman for The Children's Place. "There's nothing that the big guys have that the little guys don't want."

Pirkko Karhunen, senior director of design of women's and children's clothes for Lands' End, says this year's fashions retain elements from previous seasons while adding the slightest twist to freshen them up. Pairing old-fashioned sweater patterns, embroidered clothing, solid colors and screen T-shirts with logos or numbers on them are all stylish options.

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"I think the mixing and matching for kids is nice, and if there's an 'out' thing for kids it's not being specifically matched," Karhunen says. "You used to go to Macys and kids department stores and all you'd see is matched sets. Kids are looking great nowadays, and kids have a sense of style earlier than their parents ever did."

From Lands' End to The Gap and Old Navy, corduroy continues to be a hot trend because it is durable - and comfortable. And for designers tasked with developing shirts and pants for kids, combining those two concepts is key.

"We spend a lot of time selecting fabrics. They have to perform, last, be soft and look good," Karhunen says.

Bright reds and yellows, and loose-fit jeans and khakis take the va- from the voom and still create a stylish appearance. Orange, for instance, is a hot hue this fall after being a fringe shade the past few years.

And fashion is not just about the shirt on your back. Accessories are also key. Earrings, purses, belts and buckles can make or break an outfit. However, the backpack is universal.

This year, the latest craze is a backpack on wheels, like the small suitcases travelers use in airports. It might sound like laziness, but Karhunen says it's a common-sense innovation.

"Kids think it's cool, and I think parents think it's a good thing because kid's backpacks tend to get heavy, especially if kids have to walk to school," she says.

Where kids' clothes differ from their adult counterparts is in their durability. Take pleather, for instance. Few would sing the praises of throwing a leather jacket or skirt in the washing machine, but pleather can be washed.

For practicality, children's fashions are built to last, and withstand the rigors of being worn by an active youth.

"In kids' clothes, you need durability because you know how kids can wear out clothing in a hot hurry," Crenshaw says. "So not only do they have to feel good but they've got to wear like iron."

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