For many people, fall is a time to head back to school or the office, go hiking in the autumnal woods before the summer light completely fades or start preparing for the holiday season that’s now just a few months away. But for the fashion crowd, fall is a signal to head back to the stores and stock up on this season’s chunky sweaters, elegant boots and show-stopping outerwear.
Fall is when designers show off their most important looks (many of which were seen on the runways of New York, London, Milan and Paris six months ago) and when retailers try to predict what looks and trends will be most popular with their customers.
To get a jump on the season, we talked with more than a dozen influential retail executives in Southern California to see what they thought would be some of the standout fashion items this fall, and also what they were most personally excited about. Here is what they told us.
Jay Bell, executive vice president, general merchandise manager, women’s, Barneys New York
“One piece we’re most excited to carry for fall is Bottega Veneta’s oxblood laser-cut leather collarless coat, exclusive to us. It’s the ultimate luxury piece for the season, where modern innovation meets the house’s storied artisanship.
“We believe strongly in fall’s shift toward a more understated, smart sense of luxury, led by brands such as Bottega Veneta, the Row, Jil Sander, Co and Loewe. This Loewe shirtdress is surprisingly simple and has charming surprises like jacquard fabric, mixed-media accents and an asymmetric hemline.”
Sarah Stewart, buying director, Maxfield
“Hedi Slimane created a beautiful fall collection for Céline inspired by the French bourgeoisie lifestyle and using the brand’s archives. There was a pair of sequin-embellished culottes that perfectly blended Hedi’s vintage rock aesthetic with the Parisian savoir-faire. Most of our clients need statement pieces in their wardrobe and this piece definitely is that without being over the top.”
Olivia Kim, vice president of creative projects, Nordstrom
“I love the effortless, pretty-tomboy aesthetic of Scandi-styling with easy, relaxed silhouettes in punchy colors, over muted tones like black and browns. I find myself pairing fanciful, voluminous dresses with sneakers — you don’t need a special occasion to wear a fun dress! I’m all about a dressed-down dress. Some of our favorite Scandinavian brands at [Nordstrom’s emerging designer concept shop] SPACE include Cecilie Bahnsen, Ganni and Acne Studios. Plus we’re excited to introduce brands like Stand, a Stockholm-based brand with cozy statement outerwear.”
Marissa Jartcky, buying and merchandising manager, Dover Street Market
“I can’t wait for the Comme des Garçons oversized, single-breasted, three-button jacket coming in later this fall — with its matching dress. Comme makes so many wearable pieces that distill the essence of what’s shown on the runway; they’re both strong and easy to wear. I’m also excited for all the suiting and outerwear coming in from the Row, worn with these chunky masculine boots. The great thing about these items is that there’s no deliberation and no further styling required. They are statement-making and not occasion-specific.”
Bo Carney, women’s buyer, Mohawk General Store
“I’m most excited for these knee-high leather boots from A Détacher. They’re feminine yet tough, functional and versatile. I’d wear them with midi-length skirts and dresses, slim jeans or tucked into trousers. They’re a chic everyday shoe but could also be worn with a skinny pant and oversized blazer for a more polished going-out look.
“This season, we really bought into puff-sleeved shoulders. Personally, I’m not a girly type who wears princess poof shoulders, but this season many of our designers [including Jil Sander and Batsheva] have executed this trend in such a cool way that even I would wear it. It’s a mix of feminine and cool and at the same time quite flattering because it makes your torso look small and slim, and I just love the balance between romantic and modern.”
Jennifer Mankins, owner, Bird
“The piece I’m personally most excited about this fall is Rachel Comey’s Dasha psychedelic floral silk short-sleeve dress. It hits all the right notes and trends: It’s long and flowy but more clean-lined and modernist than ruffled and romantic. It has a high neck — turtlenecks are a must this fall — and is a wild, super-saturated floral print. It’s a perfect combination of ’60s and ’70s but feels very right now.”
Jenny Le, store director, Opening Ceremony Los Angeles
“I’m really excited about the Hydra tank top from LAZOSCHMIDL, a new gender-neutral line we started carrying last year. It would be great as a layering piece with a wildly printed flowy dress or with a button-down shirt underneath and with a suit.”
“I went pretty nuts for the Cici cardigan from Ulla Johnson. I bought it in two different colors — ‘citrine’ for Elyse Walker stores, where my customer is a bit more fashion-forward, and ‘blanc’ for Towne, our more laid-back, everyday concept store. I love finding effortless, wearable interpretations of trends for our clients, and this cardigan covers a few. First, zebra prints were everywhere for fall — it’s the new leopard — and I love Ulla’s play on the neon trend with the citrine color — it’s so fresh and surprisingly approachable.”
Ashley Petrie, vice president of merchandising & brand development, Fred Segal
“Thinking of all the collections I saw for the season, one that really stood out was Jil Sander — the outerwear and suiting is incredible. With Phoebe Philo leaving [Céline], and that aesthetic disappearing a little bit, it’s opened a gap. Jil Sander has obviously been doing it for a long time, but right now I think people are noticing the brand and it’s filling that void. It’s so effortless, it’s so gorgeous, and it really captures the evolution of minimalism and speaks to a wide audience.”
Laura Vinroot Poole, owner and founder of Capitol
“I’m excited to carry these feminine, silk slip dresses and robes from the brand Bernadette — designed by mother-and-daughter duo Bernadette and Charlotte de Geyter. They can be worn as a set or separates, and they transition beautifully from day to night. Our customer appreciates a playful print and a dress that’s easy to throw on and feels glamorous. On the other hand, the neon day dresses we are carrying from Roksanda, Peter Pilotto and Sies Marjan add some levity to our offering. Neon offers the same mix of colors but is a fresh, playful alternative to the floral trend.”
Anna Irving, senior vice president, general merchandise manager of women’s designer ready-to-wear, Saks Fifth Avenue
“For fall, I’m most excited about the nude mirror-embellished jersey shirt dress from Bottega Veneta. I love the ease and simplicity of this look but the mirror embroidery adds the perfect amount of glam — it’s both modern and retro at the same time. You can dress this piece up or down, with jeans underneath during the day or a tank dress underneath at night.
“This season we’re all about ‘the new neutrals’ — effortless yet polished dressing. A neutral palette is super sophisticated and a head-to-toe monochromatic look can be such a strong statement. It feels so fresh for fall. Chloé interpreted it in this shirtdress, and also touched on the utility trend but in a feminine and youthful way. The pleated skirt can be buttoned up to resemble a schoolgirl kilt or worn open to showcase the asymmetrical hem.
“And there’s this beautiful Brunello Cucinelli coat dress that delivers a lot of drama in head-to-toe white, and is accented with a romantic kimono belt; It feels powerful yet soft.”
Lisa Kazor, senior vice president and general merchandising manager, women’s apparel, Neiman Marcus Group
“Personally, I’m so excited about the novelty skirt this season. An amazing example is this Brunello Cucinelli beaded tulle skirt — an exclusive to us — which is perfect for so many occasions and can be styled day into evening. We saw this in so many novelty skirts this season, this unique approach to modern femininity. We have a great variety of options in stores and online, and we think it’s going to be a season favorite for shoppers.”
Audrey Struve, buyer, Just One Eye
“I’ve always loved the idea of the shoe making the outfit. So often women turn to classic stilettos or pumps for that allure, but this fall is all about the statement boot. I always find myself going back to metallic tones, and the gold booties by Francesco Russo are so versatile. The lower heel makes them a great option to go from day to night. Alexandre Vauthier’s ChaCha crytsal-embellished ankle boots are showstoppers. And if you’re really looking to make a statement, look no further than these pink patent knee-high boots by Prada. For a totally mod fall look, style these with a mini-dress under a fabulous coat.”
Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director, Net-a-Porter
“Last season we talked about the ‘barely there’ sandal — we’ve sold close to 11,000 pairs of the naked sandals by the Row. The update for fall is the square toe. Brands like By Far, Gianvito Rossi, Neous and Bottega Veneta all made a version, and I think we’ll see this everywhere this season. You can wear square-toe boots and heels with dresses, pants, jeans. They’re the perfect evolution into fall from summer.”