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The Pony Trail

The meteoric rise -- and fall? -- of fashion's latest fabric.

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Last fall, every store was awash in the color gray. last spring, party girls and grandes dames alike wrapped themselves exclusively in pashmina. This season, pony skin is having its fifteen minutes of fashion fame. The "it" skin (actually calf hide) has cropped up on everything from shoes and bags to coats and skirts at prices that say "luxury." But does its rapid and relentless mass marketization mean that pony skin will soon, almost immediately after its arrival, be over? "It better not be," says one fashion market editor. "I just bought a $900 skirt -- wholesale." Below, a critical-mass calendar.

Last Spring First ponies trot onto scene when designers like Marni, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, and Michael Kors send models prancing down catwalks in pony-skin A-line skirts, clutching matching bags, for fall 1999. "I've always loved pony skin," gushes Jeffrey Kalinsky, whose self-named superstore has colonized West 14th Street.

End of August Fashion editors and civilian shoppers alike are hooked. "The sell-throughs are 100 percent," says Stefani Greenfield, owner of trendy Scoop boutiques. "The Michael Kors cow prints were special-ordered before they even hit." At Henri Bendel, shipments of pony bags arrive on Friday and disappear by Saturday.

September Suddenly not enough to go around: Jimmy Choo's zebra-print pony stilettos have wait list, despite $950 price tag. At Sergio Rossi, $750 camel-and-white knee-high boots have vanished. St. Vincent's pony jackets in all colors back-ordered continuously.

Early Fall Pony-skin passion hits masses: Nine West rushes out orange slides, Baby Gap windows showcase cow-print jumpers. Club Monaco's cow-print knee-length skirt sells out in two weeks.

Late Fall In Italy, demand causes pony crisis. "One of my tanneries had to cancel orders," says Richard Lambertson of Lambertson Truex handbags.

November Complete pony saturation. "If you wear it next year," decrees one fashion editor, "it'll be like wearing a sweatshirt that says 1999."

Last Week Designers can't stop talking about . . . python. Gucci, Prada, Calvin Klein, and Fendi have all embraced the reptile. But diehards are still in the saddle: "Pony skin is here to stay," insists Kalinsky. So it's not over? "Emphatically no!"


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