NEW YORK -- Price. It's one of the key issues in fashion, and debate over how high is too high has become even more intense in the cautious Nineties.

Here, price is examined in a series of questions put to sellers and makers of fashion. Participants included retailers Joseph Cicio, chairman and chief executive officer of I. Magnin; Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks Fifth Avenue, and Susan Falk, president of Henri Bendel; Stuart Kreisler, consultant to Bidermann Industries for its Ralph Lauren Womenswear business; designers Todd Oldham, Isaac Mizrahi and Adrienne Vittadini; and fiber and fabric company executives Jim Casey, president of the fibers division of Wellman Inc.; Gerald Rodelli, vice president of marketing, Stonecutter Mills, and David Caplan, chief executive officer, Metro Fabrics.

WWD: Is price the dominant factor in fashion?

Cicio of Magnin's: "The dominant factor in fashion is design. That's what counts first. After that, it's the quality of the fabric and the construction. Then it's the price. I really think price is the last factor for the better customer. Consumers are tuned into price, but if they spend the money, everything else has to be there."

Bravo of Saks: "First, it's the look and how emotional or how desirable the look is. Then it's the quality that counts, and then it's how does it all relate to the price.

"The price-value relationship is very important. People are asking, 'What can I get for my dollar?' They're sensitive to more elements, such as can I wear this outfit all year-round. Is it a transitional weight or too seasonal? Is it going to last? Is it worth paying any more than I would normally for these components?"

Falk of Bendel's: "Shoppers go for the fashion first. That's really number one. There are cases where the label is important, but that's a different set of issues. Price really comes further on down. It's fashion, quality and then whether there's a fair price. Fashion is number one, first and foremost."

Kreisler of Ralph Lauren: "I think price has become a big issue in the major success of some stores. In low budget stores, they drive that point. What makes big business is buying in programs that make the retailer dominant in those programs, and there's a price point at which that type of merchandise sells. But, if something is fashion-right, as in a designer collection, it sells regardless of price. When you get to the next generation of leveraging a trend, that's where prices become an issue."

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