CHICAGO — The fall 2012 couture and ready-to-wear shows in Milan, New York and Paris offered up a variety of elegant, self-assured looks that were, for once, neither shockingly over-the-top nor snoozingly sedate. If anything, designers refined and reiterated the trends of the prior year, putting a pause on the march of style as if to say that these are the new staples, and all hell can break loose next season.
That’s not to say that the new fall styles are easy-care—they aren’t. Designers opted for some of the most difficult constructions and embellishments for this year’s collections, ensuring that what was once the reserve of the fashion revolutionary will soon be the purview of the mall and the middle class.
Fluorescent furs, mannish, matchy pantsuits, and origami-style outerwear are just a few of the trends that are moving quickly from catwalk to street, meaning that dry cleaners will soon face the specific challenges they pose—if they aren’t facing them already.
What follows is a primer on the fall fashions operators nationwide will see in the days and months ahead, and how to handle them without a faux pas.
Asymmetrical capes, “statement” coats and full-cut, “drop-crotch” pants appeared on runways by the sackful, as if to say that tights and skinny jeans have finally had their day. Fashion will never abandon the form-fitting, of course, but women are embracing the fuller silhouette and Hepburnesque drape of this year’s styles as a more mature option, and putting more material on their padded shoulders.
“A lot of the capes and coats have incredible construction, but they are made with soft fabrics,” says Chris Allsbrooks, director of training operations for ZIPS Dry Cleaners. “Be careful in finishing; don’t press them hard.”
If fabric is cut on a bias to create volume, adds Alan Spielvogel, garment analyst with the National Cleaners Association (NCA), use short cycles and low heat to protect against distortion, since fibers often tend to migrate back to the original weave.
And big retro ’80s shoulder pads can distort, shift or even dissolve in the cycle; operators should pin them in place or, better still, remove them before cleaning.
“The safest approach is to remove and resew the pads—and I don’t mean at the cleaner’s expense,” Joe Hallak Jr., vice president of Hallak Cleaners, says. “Any time you need to take something off the garment to preserve its integrity, you should explain [it] to the customer. They will not only be thrilled that you have the knowledge to recognize this, but will almost always be glad to pay you for it.”