American designers are going green for fall 2008. But it’s got nothing to do with saving the Earth.


In fact, judging from the 200-plus designers showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, it’s clear that reducing, reusing and recycling are nowhere on the agenda.


Never has a fashion week schedule been so packed with activity, from fledgling designers showing on shoestring budgets, to the blowout Madonna hosted with Gucci on Wednesday night to benefit Malawi orphans and UNICEF.


Greenbacks, however, are top of mind for retail executives who are bracing for a rocky road ahead.


And green has sprouted on the runways as a trend for fall, from yellowy chartreuse to deep emerald. Other jewel tones dominate, too, namely amethyst, citrine and ruby.

Meld that with fall classics such as brown and grey and the palette is a dark, brooding one, foreshadowing the expected economic downturn.

Depressing? You bet. So designers are throwing in the occasional punch of orange for relief.

“Designers are playing with sobriety and adding elements of excitement,” explains Barbara Atkin, Holt Renfrew’s vice-president of fashion direction. Atkin was emerging from the Michael Kors show, where glen check pencil skirts played against pansy prints.

While there are dabs of minimalism here and there, zealous colour blocking and fabric mixing are more widespread. Anna Sui’s sweaters had rectangles of Rubik’s cube hues and she combined scarf prints in the same peasanty tunics.

There are juxtapositions in the silhouette, too, with lean shapes that have some sort of added volume. Narciso Rodriguez showed cropped jackets with rounded sleeves. British newcomer Jonathan Saunders’ pencil skirts had airborne pleated panels. And Kors wrapped up his presentation with silk cocktail sheaths that had short trains.