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Fiber Optics : Visions of Textured Fabrics Make an Impression on Fall Accessories

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When President Clinton met with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat Sept. 13 for their historic handshake, he scored a fashion coup. Clinton’s tie, a blue and gold Gucci number festooned with trumpets, was deemed a perfect match for a day of celebration. Newspapers ran front-page stories making note of the tie and quoting Clinton saying that, if he couldn’t control the weather that day, he could at least control something--his choice of neckwear. Like Clinton, many men have discovered the importance of accessories. They’re choosier about their furnishings-the ties, scarves, shoes, belts and hats that complete their look. Many are no longer settling for the standard striped tie, dark solid-colored socks and plain leather belt. Now they want such accessories as a Gucci tie that trumpets their personality and mood.

This fall’s furnishings allow men to make a statement through eye-catching textures rather than bright colors or loud, splashy prints. Everything has texture, including the woven silk ties, the braided belts, the nubby knit scarves and woven leather shoes.

The textured accessories go hand-in-hand with menswear’s new emphasis on woven fabrics such as patterned gabardine that have more surface interest, according to Harlan Whitley, sales manager for the Johnston & Murphy shoe company in Nashville, Tenn.

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“The (accessory) materials have taken over to match the bolder fabrics being used,” Whitley says.

Nubbier fabrics inspired Johnston & Murphy to design footwear with woven leather details and hand-stitching in classic silhouettes such as the kiltie tassel slip-on. The textured shoes, part of the company’s new J. Murphy collection, are available for $90 to $130 at Nordstrom in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, Brea Mall and MainPlace/Santa Ana and At-Ease in Fashion Island Newport Beach.

“The next step in textures will be exotic materials such as alligator and crocodile,” Whitley says. “We’re already seeing them in the trims for spring.”

Neckwear has also abandoned its smooth surfaces.

“The move is toward woven silk ties with a lot of texture and definition in the pattern,” says Tom Julian, director of the Men’s Fashion Assn. in New York City.

Emporio Armani in South Coast Plaza has ties with intricate, three-dimensional weaves. One style features tiny berry-colored paisleys on a textured taupe background ($65), while another has a fine green and tan plaid ($70).

“There are different choices of ties available in various sizes and patterns that are worn to be evident,” says Giorgio Armani from Milan.

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For the adventurous dresser who wants to add novelty to a 9-to-5 suit, Armani introduced a plaid scarf tie that hangs below the belt line and measures four inches across its fringed bottom. The extra-wide tie comes in a tiny green and tan houndstooth pattern ($130). Another alternative to the traditional tie: a scarf with a popcorn weave in a black and brown wool and Lycra blend ($120). It can be wrapped around the neck and tucked into a vest or jacket.

Sophisticated woven neckwear is replacing the garish, oversized floral and geometric print ties of seasons past that are destined to wind up as thrift store oddities.

“Ties are going to be very quiet. They’re going back to smaller, conservative prints,” says Chad Youssefi, owner of Papillon, a men’s neckwear and accessory store in Mission Viejo Mall.

Many prints are inspired by the ‘40s and ‘50s, especially the small geometrics, foulards and tiny paisleys, but they come in ‘90s colors such as purples, yellows, blues and greens. Papillon has ties with hand-painted swirls in gold or berry hues ($75) and lush embroidered ties in abstract, floral and medallion patterns embellished with 14-karat gold ($59).

“Every man wears a black, gray or fashion color suit day in and day out,” Youssefi says. “It’s the accessory that makes it. A tie reflects your mood.”

Gucci, which is still tooting its horn over the trumpet tie, has assorted ties with fun prints, but they’re more subtle than in past seasons. One has to stare at the prints longer to get the joke. One tie has what at first looks like an abstract geometric print that, on closer inspection, turns out to be a pile of paper clips. Other ties have tiny tea cups, cue balls, tennis rackets and horse bits ($90).

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“The loudest we got was a fish tie, but it’s not just one big fish head,” said Lisa Schiek, spokeswoman for Gucci in New York City. It’s a school of small fish swimming against a navy background--perfectly suitable for the boardroom.

For those who appreciate the arts, Tie Rack in Main Place/Santa Ana carries a line of ties printed with the abstract art work of Miles Davis ($26). “The Art of Ties” collection also includes Van Gogh’s self-portrait.

“We even have Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel on a tie,” says Ziva Adams, Tie Rack manager.

Ties aren’t the only way a man can express himself. In its fall lineup, Armani emphasized non-traditional accessories that left the standard tie far behind.

Not for the timid is the Armani plaid wool blanket that daring men drape over their shoulders like a scarf ($235). They were shown on the runways with everything from business suits to sweaters with suspenders.

Suspenders are a fixture on Wall Street, but it’s the risky broker who will venture out in Emporio Armani’s military-style braces in Army green canvas with reinforced leather back ($140). For those who want to make a statement, the braces are worn over--not under--vests and jackets.

“Braces go beyond function where they were not quite seen but are more blatantly obvious,” Armani says.

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Belts have grown bolder, too, thanks to woven textures, whip-stitching and distressed leathers. Emporio Armani’s black leather braided belt ($170) is just one variation. It looks great with a relaxed olive suit and black hooded knit top. Perhaps the boldest of all is Emporio Armani’s eagle belt, a two-inch-wide strap of distressed leather bearing a hefty brass eagle buckle ($155).

Another way to pump up an outfit is to top it with a hat. At Emporio Armani, they come in all shapes, from a black flannel fedora ($180) to a Russian shearling made of lambskin ($215). The black and brown knit skull cap ($50) is a takeoff on the kind worn by street kids; it’s only for the fashion fearless.

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