Retailers came to New York Fashion Week sheepishly, knowing their budgets were down and expecting the mood to be somber. Many have slashed their open-to-buy by 20 percent or more after last season’s double-digit sales declines.
But most concluded the week in a reflective, positive mood, despite repeated days of depressing economic news that raised further concerns over whether consumers would even be shopping for clothes come fall, and hopeful about what they saw — spirited collections, a crop of new talent with promise that put the stamp of individuality on the clothes, and some sense of commercial reality.
That bad rap that designers can often be outrageously priced with impractical styles didn’t seem to apply for fall.
“New York designers are not out of touch,” contended Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president and director of designer merchandising for Nordstrom Inc. “I was impressed overall with what they turned out.…These are tough times, no question about that, and that business is challenging. For me, it just means being a razor-sharp editor and finding the best New York has to offer.”
This season, Kalinsky said, designers showed “a lot of product that looks really good and prices that reflect the intrinsic value that the customer is going to be looking for. I haven’t seen all the prices everywhere, but a good designer knows what’s going on in the world and needs to use creativity to get consumers shopping and buyers buying.”
“Ultimately…there was great balance between inspired clothes and realistic clothes,” said Nicole Fischelis, vice president and fashion director at Macy’s Inc. “It’s a lot about fusion — the rough and refined, feminine and rock ’n’ roll, layering and unmatching, tailored with feminine, a bohemian attitude, taking plaids to a new level, winter floral mixes and lots of animal prints.”
“I arrived expecting a depressing atmosphere [but] the shows were very positive and optimistic. Everyone kept the same energy,” said Sarah Lerfel, buyer for Colette in Paris. “I keep adding new names. It’s important to support creativity. I don’t work with budgets and I’ll continue to work the same way.”
“Challenging times seem to bring out the best in Americans and many of us are actually energized despite the prevailing news,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation for Bergdorf Goodman. “We’re inspired enough to build new tiers into our business. We found many of the designers delivered some of their most focused collections to date. We particularly applaud the younger guard for both their courage as well as their ability to combine value with desirable design.”
She said Bergdorf’s was keen on one of the season’s prevailing messages. “It’s the new strong woman — broad-shouldered, fierce, confident and looking like she can handle anything.”
“The new guard stepped it up by honing in on their own personal aesthetic and presenting collections that had a strong voice and were very focused. Jason Wu, Brian Reyes, Phi, Thakoon and Peter Som all exemplified this,” said Ann Watson, vice president and fashion director at Henri Bendel. “It is clear these designers have gotten to really know their customers better and are giving her what she loves.”
Though the consensus was the season rated an eight or eight-and-a-half on a scale of 10, a few saw too much darkness on the runways. “Is all black going to help the economy?” Marc Jacobs was quoted as saying.
Watson agreed there were too many dark clothes. “The customer needs and wants color now more than ever,” she said.
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