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Cashmere

Lucia van der Post
From the Print Edition:
Groucho Marx, Spring 93

(continued from page 2)

All that has changed. The simple classics, the slipovers and cardigans, the round- and V-necked sweaters are still there, but they have been gently updated with easier shapes, looser, dropped shoulders, and more deeply cut armholes. And alongside these has come truly exciting high fashion from some of the world's leading designers.

There is hardly a high-profile designer, whether it be Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent or the house of Hermés, that does not have some cashmere in its collection. As the teams of designers arrived at the Scottish mills, bringing with them new and even avant-garde ideas, the homegrown designers began to realize that there was much, much more to cashmere than simple classics.

Ballantyne, for example, went on doing its bread and butter lines, but it also brought in Alastair Blair and Oscar de la Renta to zip up its collection. Leggings and over-sized tunics, frock coats and slinky dresses joined the sweaters on the shelves--all the components of the contemporary fashionable silhouette reworked in cashmere.

Jean Muir started using cashmere to produce strong kimono-shaped jackets with great slabs of color that at £800 (about $1,224) to £I,000 (about $1,530) sold out almost as fast as they hit stores.

Belinda Robertson, a Scottish designer whose Edinburgh showroom at 22 Palmerston Place is well worth a visit, fairly rocked the cashmere world by bringing out some sassy sarong skirts. Cashmere, as it soon emerged, was not just for the twin set and pearls brigade; cashmere was for everybody.

 

Designers at McGeorge, possibly Dawson International's most luxurious label, started doing exciting things for men--things like sumptuous smoking jackets with shawl collars and big, heavy-ribbed cardigans. Their cashmere and silk shirts are some of the most luxurious garments a man could own while the heathery sweaters say Highland castles and moors.

In the United States, designers embraced cashmere with New World exuberance. They led the way in showing that simply because a fiber is rare and expensive does not mean it has to be treated with undue solemnity.

Ralph Lauren, that master of casual chic, and never one to be awed by any material, no matter how exclusive, showed how to use it in the most relaxed of all ways--from vests to socks, from dressing gowns to leggings and jogging pants, no garment in the male or female wardrobe was too humble to be done-over in luxury style.

Last winter he redid the big hit of 1991, the Polo bear sweater, in cashmere and a cashmere baseball cap, which must have appealed to the Elton Johns and Telly Savalases of the world.


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