By  on March 21, 2007

Only weeks since designers showed their fall collections, runway trends are turning up in better collections even faster than usual.

The better customer is catching up to the designer and contemporary customer in the race to trends. The reasons are simple: fashion from the shows is broadcast in real time on the Internet and is getting more and more attention from mainstream television, in addition to weekly celebrity-driven magazines as well as general interest newspapers. And, of course, there are the stores that specialize in fast-fashion.

"Forget the 'trickle down' time from runway to the store," said consultant Robin Lewis. "It's Niagara Falls."

All of it adds up to increased awareness and knowledge.

"You have the fashionista, who is ready instantly, and then you have the mainstream fashion person, for whom it depends on how quickly the trend is promoted," said consultant Emanuel Weintraub. "In the last eight or nine years, there has been a lot more placement of fashion in magazines and on fashion TV so that the mainstream customer is becoming more knowledgeable."

Catherine Sadler, president of New York marketing firm Catherine Sadler Group, said the better customer demands fashion far faster than many years ago when Sadler worked at Ann Taylor.

"There would be a full-year lag between when something showed on the runway and when it was on our customer, but I think that has significantly changed with celebrity watching," Sadler said. "All consumers today seem to watch what is going on the runway in a more alert way than ever before. The consumer in general is more savvy, which has escalated the trickle-down effect in general, and has caused brands to have to respond in a much faster way."

The new breed of fast-fashion specialty stores are "forcing our hands to be much faster and speedier," said Ellen Dawson, executive vice president of the better knit vendor August Silk.

"The lag time to better is getting shorter and shorter," Dawson said. "Even a year and a half ago, I would say better is a season off, but now it's not about season to season, it's about delivery to delivery. The better missy customer is getting just as savvy as the younger customer."

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