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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Women's accessories will be big and bold for fall 2010 with designers at New York Fashion Week showing body armor-like jewelry, gauntlet gloves, militia boots and bags big enough to tote the day's survival gear.
Designers ranging from emerging talents DANNIJO and Prova to runway veterans Ports 1961 and Custo Barcelona and couture favorites Badgley Mischka showed accessories combining megawatt glamour with practical luxury.
"Each season, accessories seem to become more and more important because it's less expensive to buy accessories than to buy new clothes," said Ruth Finley, publisher of The Fashion Calendar since 1941.
While women's accessory sales fell 11 percent to $37.5 billion in 2009 during the worst U.S. recession in decades, market research firm the NPD Group forecasts growth of 2 to 3 percent this year.
"The key is that accessories have become the new primary outfit and the outfit has become the accessory," said NPD's chief retail industry analyst, Marshal Cohen.
"The urban warrior around the world" is the woman DANNIJO had in mind for fall, said Danielle Snyder, who launched the jewelry line with her sister, Jodie Snyder, in March 2008 during the recession. Since then, sales have grown from just one retail account to more than 90 stores worldwide.
DANNIJO's stacks of bangle bracelets in bright blue and black stingray leather and dark gold and silver metals, plus "messy" chain necklaces, appeared on the Luca Luca runway with designer Raul Melgoza's lean fall clothes.
Irini Arakas, a former Vogue fashion writer whose Prova jewelry label won the accessories award this year from the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation, showed hand-crafted necklaces with plump monkeys clinging to multiple strands of beads, as well as long gold and silver earrings with mobiles of stars.
Designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka, whose glitzy gowns and jewelry are red carpet staples, had something edgier in mind for fall, saying their collection drew inspiration from the "Mad Max" action movies starring Mel Gibson.
"We wanted it to be beautiful, but also tough and strong," Badgley told Reuters.
Their more affordable line, Mark & James, featured leather bags "big enough for a girl to carry her whole life with her for the day," said Mischka, adding they noticed the trend with the young women who work in their office.
While sales of handbags, fine jewelry and watches particularly suffered in 2009, belt sales jumped 17 percent, according to the NPD Group.
Karen Giberson, president of industry trade group The Accessories Council said, "We think belts will be big again this year. We have a first lady who likes belts," referring to Michelle Obama's many outfits featuring belts.
Designer Tory Burch, who showed belts at her show on Wednesday, told Reuters she chose the look because "I wear belts. We have a big belt business and it's just starting."
Lincoln Moore, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of top U.S. department store Saks Fifth Avenue, said that "from the middle of the summer, we saw a great turn toward belts and costume jewelry."
Sales of shoes, handbags and accessories picked up "through the end of last year," said Moore, who doesn't oversee shoes. "We see this as one of the priorities for Saks for 2010 because of how it's starting to trend."
Editing by Michelle Nichols and Mohammad Zargham