And so it was that sometime this past September, while driving around for a work-related survey, I stepped into a new local store, and decided to ask a young customer if there was anything in fashion that was trendy right now. She showed me a pair of bead necklaces, with a kind of Indian or hippy-ish look to them, in the accessories section. These are trendy, she said. The necklaces reminded me of the flower-child look of the sixties, and I left it at that. Fashion snippets from past decades resurface now and then, and I can't decide whether to call it a trend or a lack of originality. So I sent bead necklaces to the same ambivalent file where I put cork-platform shoes.
But the young, friendly woman at the Miami store, with a strand of bright green hair and a feather weaved in, sure was pointing me to another trend.
Yesterday, while on my annual post-Christmas trip to Manhattan with my daughter, 12 going on 15, we naturally had to step into the five-level Forever 21 store in Times Square. Forever 21, in case you don't know, is this proliferating chain of clothing stores that is taking the retail market by storm for its endless production of cheap and cute clothing that passes for fashionable and wearable for the young set, and anybody else who can get away with it. It's kind of like the Ikea of clothing. And what item dominated the front-and-center accessories rack? Feathers, feathers, feathers. Feather earrings, feather necklaces, feather headbands, feather clips. All color feathers, all size feathers. And not in boas -- that's so twenties, no. Earrings, necklaces and hair. That's where the feathers are going.
Understated feathers is not how fashion designers would have had it. For at least the past couple years, designers such as Robert Cavalli and Salvatore Ferragamo have been using feathers, lots of them, in the creation of dresses and skirts, so that fully-feathered models have been walking the runway for a while. And there's the famous Ferragamo pheasant handbag worn by Carry Bradshaw in one of the Sex and the City movies. But from there to mass market? Unless I've missed something, feathered dresses and skirts haven't made the leap.
Feather hair extensions have caught on more, to the point that they have jacked up the price of feathers, according to this article: http://fashionista.com/2011/06/the-feather-hair-extension-trend-faces-a-tragic-feather-shortage-plus-a-gallery-of-starlets-using-them-up/, and the anger of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, according to this article: http://www.peta.org/living/fashion/feather-hair-extensions-a-trend-worth-killing-for.aspx. Neither one of those bode well for any mass market trend.
Which is why I think Forever 21, the ultimate mass marketer, is pointing us to where the feathers will ultimately land, synthetic ones of course. It'll be one here, a couple there, and maybe feather prints in clothing.
It's about an earthy touch in the look, without becoming some other species.