Silver liningBrrrrr. The frosty economic climate is...

Silver lining

Brrrrr. The frosty economic climate is nipping at the toes of hundreds of local businesses, occasionally even freezing the life out of the unprotected. Certain retailers, though, find the harsh conditions bracingly refreshing: Gage Menswear, for one. The discount store is surviving and thriving, and growing beyond its Baltimore borders to a new location at Valley Centre, 9616 Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills.


"1990 was a very tough year for most, but we experienced a double-digit increase in volume," says buyer Bill Glazer. "It was the best year we ever had."

The new location will be a clone of the downtown store, offering the same 30 percent to 50 percent discount from retail of such labels as Perry Ellis, Pierre Cardin, and Nino Cerruti. The March 23 ribbon-cutting ceremony will be officiated by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a 20-year Gage customer, according to Mr. Glazer. Calvin Klein put his nose to the wind recently, and decided the new fragrance of the moment should be called Escape, due in July.


With both Obsession and Eternity still moving in stores, he is one of the few designers with two "master brands" for men and women selling at once. So why another?

For the '90s, Mr. Klein has decided that the mood is "an extension of Eternity, which was about family, commitment, children and romance," he said. "Eternity is like an image of a couple on the beach with children. Escape goes beyond that."

So it's three years later and time for a divorce?

"No, no," Mr. Klein said, laughing. "You realize the marriage is great. But everybody likes to run away, to Sun Valley, the Caribbean, a house in the country. Escape is about the sportier side of life." Details do make the difference. One look and you can tell whether a jacket is this season's or a leftover that is perfectly nice but not as snappy.

The updating is in the trimmings like buttons, pipings, pockets, collars and lapels. The point is to mix strong colors. If it's this spring's stock, the banding down the front closing, on the jacket hem and cuffs or around the buttonholes will definitely be a contrasting color. The collar, pockets or cuffs probably will be, too.

The buttons themselves will seem to pop. First they'll be bigger than any you've seen before. Many of them look like giant earrings studded with fake gemstones while others, usually made of brilliant-tone plastic, are shaped like flowers. When a jacket with such telling details is teamed with a short skirt of yet another vibrant color, the suit is very right now.

Stick to flesh-toned hose, though, if you're going to indulge in a color riot. Bloomingdale's is blossoming for spring with a fresh array of in-store boutiques, special trend-setting shops that reflect and forecast fashion direction throughout the country.

One of the most popular boutiques right now, called "Driving Miss Daisy," showcases brightly colored daisy and other flower-print shoes, bags, hats and jewelry.


Another, recently launched in the New York City store, spotlights the popular '60s Parisian designer, Courreges, with simple A-line dresses, tunics in crisp fabrics, and classic square-cut coats done in pastels and bright colors for the new season.

Bloomingdale's is also predicting the return of '40s fashions and has come up with the name "Swing Shift" for some of their junior boutiques. "We have a lot of '40s-inspired swing dresses, platform shoes, and white ankle socks," says Shawnee Burns, fashion director of Bloomingdale's branch stores.

Andrea Marsh