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Fashion Panel Calls for Creativity and Innovation

HSN Inc.'s Mindy Grossman expects more creativity to emerge out of the economic downturn.

Panelists Josh Button, Mary Alice Stephenson, Les Steiger, Mindy Grossman, Zac Posen and Alex Gonzalez.

NEW YORK — Mindy Grossman expects more creativity to emerge out of the economic downturn.

The HSN Inc. chief executive officer shared her optimistic take on “Redefining the Rules of Fashion in Today’s Economy” with 300 fashion students at the Fashion Scholarship Fund (formerly YMA) Roundtable, along with fellow panelists Zac Posen; Alex Gonzalez, creative director of AR New York, a brand-positioning firm; Les Steiger, senior vice president and general merchandising manager of men’s at Macy’s Central; Mary Alice Stephenson, Harper’s Bazaar contributing fashion editor, and fit model Josh Button. Tim Gunn moderated the discussion at the Directors Guild of America last week.

“We had been in a state of aggregation, but we will move to a state of curation,” said Grossman. “These are the times of the greatest opportunity, because scarcity drives innovation. When you have unlimited funding, you are less likely to be innovative, but creativity comes out when you are more limited, like on [“Project Runway”] where you get one bolt of fabric and three buttons — go!”

Posen agreed. “This is a great time to make pieces that the customer will make room for,” the designer said.

Gunn asked how the designer-retailer relationship will change as retailers reduce orders, speed markdowns and sometimes cancel accounts. Posen’s advice: be more collaborative and increase the continuous flow of merchandise to excite the floor, like with the pre-fall collection he is showing Friday.

“Young designers have become fashion equity for retailers,” Posen said. “You are not a moneymaker for them, so you have to figure out how to make yourself profitable for them….Young designers will have to be a lot more talented to compete today.”

Steiger said Macy’s men’s adds 20 to 40 lines a year. “But it’s very hard to introduce a whole collection when starting out, so it’s better to start with your niche,” he said.

Grossman said one of HSN’s successes came from its delivery of not only commerce but also content and community. For those yearning for a wisp of her optimism, Grossman had this cheeky advice: “There’s never any bad news on HSN, if you’re tired of watching CNN.”