PARIS — “There is no justice in this business — and no mercy.”That declaration by Karl Lagerfeld sums up the newly difficult market conditions for fashion designers today. After a luxury boom that ushered in a wave of young, independent names and scores of headline-grabbing attempts to revive dusty fashion houses, a harsher reality is dawning.In May, for example, Eric Bergere shuttered his Paris-based fashion house with the chilling declaration: “I don’t know how an independent designer can make it today. Either you sell to a big group or you work for one.”

And Bergere is unlikely to be the last to go. Recruitment experts, consultants and other industry observers predict more fallout in the bloated "young designer" category — and perhaps even the disappearance of historic brands that have failed to spark a rejuvenation miracle. They say there are simply too many ready-to-wear collections with too little identity chasing too few customers. Furthermore, they argue that the now-routine practice of making stars out of inexperienced designers has ultimately done a disservice to the industry, as evidenced by business closures and the "revolving-door" phenomenon at many houses.

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