AWESOME ORANGE; Move over pastels and neutrals -- there's a bright new color on the fashion and home furnishings horizon.; FOCUS ON COLOR


Brace yourself. After a summer of pretty pinks, the newest color in both home furnishings and fashion will rock your socks. This fall the brightest, truest orange since the day-glo '70s can be found in everything from can openers to pashima scarves to iMac computers. "I do think it works right now as a burst of energy, a ray of sunlight," says home furnishings designer Larry Laslo.

"I don't like a lot of it." Laslo's definition of "a lot" may not be the same as yours. At the wholesale furniture market taking place this week in High Point, N.C., his collection for Directional features orange walls that showcase furnishings in charcoal grays.

In fashion you'll find orange in clothing lines as varied as Miuccia Prada and Tommy Hilfiger. But true orange hasn't really hit the volume market yet, says Nancy Chistolini, senior vice president of fashion and public affairs at Hecht's.

"By November," she predicts, "You'll see a lot more of it in the stores."

Bright orange works well with khaki and cream, and dark neutrals like chocolate, charcoal and navy. For even more punch, pair it with purple (as in eggplant and plum) or green (as in loden and olive). Combine orange and black with caution unless you're going for the Halloween costume look.

"The fashionistas are touting it as the color for fall," says Carolyn Moss, fashion director of ready-to-wear for Macy's, East Coast Division, who says she doesn't like it.

"Orange is a hard sell," she adds. "It's just an option, not a must-have color."

But it's an option that appeals to many people after several seasons of black and neutrals. A shell, sweater set, shawl or scarf in a sunny orange can add a jolt of color to last year's wardrobe.

Orange is hot in the youth market because it's peppy, optimistic and bright. But generation Xers and Yers also like its retro appeal -- as strong as bell bottoms or a funky shag carpet.

"The color doesn't necessarily flatter most people," says Dina Puglisi of Catalyst, a color and design trend forecasting service in New York. "But it signifies a youth attitude."

The newest orange is a bold Sunkist orange. If that's not a color you can live with, the alternatives can be found in the earth and spice tones rather than citrus. Persimmon, pumpkin, terra-cotta -- the browned-out shades of orange -- have been gaining ground in both home furnishings and fashion for the last few seasons.

One reason is that ethnic furnishings and fabrics are in demand, and orange is an important color in textiles from the East. Moroccan and Indian elements are combining to create a new trend in home furnishings some have labeled "gypsy chic." Paisleys, hand-embroidered silks, sheers and brocade all have their share of orange in its many variations.

Orange is turning up in the currently popular Scandinavian furnishings as well, which has also contributed to its comeback. "Historically, Americans don't like orange," says Puglisi. But with so much interest in design that isn't American, that's no longer a problem.

Decorating with orange

*Start small and see if you can live with it -- an accent pillow, some fun plastic glasses.

*Orange looks wonderful with the animal prints that are so important now, points out Barbara Mullin of Belinda McClure Interiors in Severna Park. Mix and match them.

*If you have a cream or off-white sofa, drape an orange tweed-type throw over the back or add a matte velvet pillow in orange, Mullin says.

*Place a bowl of oranges or vase of orange Gerbera daisies on an occasional table, suggests designer Larry Laslo.

* In a contemporary setting, combine orange with vibrant pink.

* Place orange tapers in brass candlesticks next to a fall flower arrangement.

*If unadulterated orange is too bold for you, look for the many floral and geometric prints in which orange is an important color.

Wearing orange

* If you're out of your teens, think twice about wearing head-to-toe orange unless you want to look like Ivana Trump, says Carolyn Moss of Macy's.

* Anyone with the right attitude can wear orange, but it's most flattering with dark skin and dark hair.

*Treat it as an accessory, says Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president for fashion and merchandising, Lord & Taylor. It's a way to update your palette. Great knit gloves may be enough orange for you.

*In active sportwear, the more orange the better.

* Some of the new iridescent shantung silks that come in orange are sophisticated enough that older women will want to wear them, says trend forecaster Dina Puglisi.

*It's a "tough color in cosmetics," she adds. Wear brown or neutral lipstick with it.

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