South by Southwest

Thursday, April 9, 2009

When inspiration runs dry, creative types often look to regional sources to spur innovation: van Gogh had the French countryside, Robert Frost had the forests of New England. And the same practice applies to the ready-to-wear world, as the fashion flock collectively turns in the direction of the American Southwest for spring.

"The Southwest trend tends to be something that has always been around when consumers need comfort," says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm. "Something about the warm colors, the simple design -- designers do this stuff on purpose, to try to find something that fits that psychological need."

In some instances, the influence is colorful and chic, as in Tibi's party-ready strapless frock. Designer Amy Smilovic incorporated Native American-inspired flourishes in her spring collection, adorning classic dress silhouettes with printed feathers and zigzag patterns. For night, try Moyna's densely beaded, vibrant clutch, which adds just the right amount of Mesoamerican glam to a classic LBD.

Willing to push the envelope? Opt for Forever 21's baby-blue choker or Lovely People's suede ankle-strap sandals, which balance earthy fringe with metallic studs. Or cozy up to Club Monaco's ultra-soft scarf or Monrow's cotton cardigan, emblazoned with a graphic print that Leonda Levchuk, public affairs specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian and a member of the Navajo Nation, likened to a traditional Navajo rug design.

Just the thing to add a little spice to your warm-weather wardrobe.

-- Holly E. Thomas

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