By  on January 22, 2008

As trends are churned out with increasing speed and then exhausted equally quickly, Saks Fifth Avenue's fashion director Michael Fink strives to decipher the relevance to customers.

"The fashion cycle has gotten so fast and the industry keeps pushing it. The bottom line for customers is that it doesn't need to be that fast," he said last week during the Trends luncheon at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

In his talk, titled "Upscale Fashion's Next Wave," Fink touched upon fast fashion's side effects, the booming accessories business, escalating apparel prices and the telltale signs of a designer with longevity.

One upside to the fast-fashion phenomenon is a renewed interest in craftsmanship. "With everything being knocked off so quickly, designers are becoming designers again. We're seeing better and more well-thought-out collections. Hopefully, that will merit their price points, which are at a premium," Fink said.

One trend Fink doesn't see ebbing is the ongoing popularity of accessories, especially shoes. Shoppers are having an easier time justifying buying a pair of $800 shoes that they can wear to walk out the door than buying a $4,500 Chanel jacket. With apparel prices still on the climb, the shoe industry has been savvy enough to "push hard" to make the category exciting, Fink said.

He also mentioned the overall lackluster retail climate. "It's going to be a difficult first quarter. I think we all agree on that. With price points soaring, there have to be special things that she doesn't own in her closet. Our job is to siphon through the collections to come up with clothes that are emotional. I can't say that word — emotional — enough. Of course we want integrity and quality in design, but 'emotional' is what is speaking to her right now. She's thinking, 'I'm out the door. I'm not thinking about it.' That's what is driving the accessories trend now."

Fink's take on the real newness is consistency — designers who have a clear personal vision that does not draw references from others.

"If there are too many references, there is no longevity because it has already been done. I must say schools are not good at teaching that," he said.Not surprisingly, Fink is not eager to usher in the return of minimalism, signs of which can be seen in pre-fall collections and a subject that was broached by the event's host, Gloria Gelfand.

"We haven't even celebrated the feminine clothes in bright beautiful colors that have hit stores for spring yet," Fink said.

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