Jennifer Graylock/AP
Zac Posen Fall 2009 Collection

Roundup of Fashion Week Fall 2009: New York

February 24, 2009
by Anne Szustek
The Fall 2009 edition of New York Fashion Week, held February 13–20, was devoid of much of the glamour and over-the-top merriment that usually accompanies this semi-annual event. But, by displaying the same spirit of ingenuity that gave prominence to American sportswear—and, in effect, secured a place for American fashion itself—amid the postwar economy of the 1950s, Fall 2009 Fashion Week inspired trends both budget-conscious and functional.

Recession Hits NYC Runways

During a normal year, fashion houses would just factor in the costs of running fashion shows—which can cost as much as $750,000—as a necessary cost of doing business in such a publicity-driven industry. But with much of the world mired in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, some established designers, such as Carmen Marc Valvo, Vera Wang and Betsey Johnson, did not have full fashion shows during New York Fall 2009 Fashion Week.

Betsey Johnson and Vera Wang displayed their fall 2009 collections on mannequins rather than live models. Mara Hoffman, Sergio Davila and Nicholas K held a joint show, saving each label 40 percent in show costs.

Simplicity Rules

Classic pieces fit for layering are sure to be as popular with recessionistas as they were on the runway. DKNY, Jonathan Saunders and Shipley & Halmos all flashed bold color dresses over the standby black turtleneck this past week, presenting a bargain-friendly way to make their iridescent silk shifts as appropriate for the office as for dinner. Combined with another item bedecking New York Fall 2009 runways—opaque tights—the dresses targeted for autumn rollout can easily segue from cool weather into warm.

Another runway trend involves cutting down—not fashion budgets, but the fashions themselves. As Refinery 29 points out, the bolero jacket, seen at several shows, including Alexander Wang and Julian Louie, can help the frothy chiffon dresses seen elsewhere remain on the scene when the thermometer drops. Wang, and Karen Walker also introduced a fresh innovation: convertible blazers. Thanks to deft placement of zippers, some of the knee-length coats profiled on the runways can do double duty as cropped shrugs.

Big Shoulders Are Back

Another Fall 2009 trend evokes recession—but not this recession. Many runways offered wide shoulders, the likes of which have not been seen since the Black Monday stock market bust of 1987. Labels associated with 1980s power-dressing, such as Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Karan, as well as newcomers like Zac Posen and Alexander Wang, did their part to resurrect that bit of the 1980s in their designs.

Runway hair also got the power decade touch. Hair blown out straight, considered the provenance of good grooming for at least a decade, was eschewed in favor of teased updos, as seen at Oscar de la Renta’s most recent show.

Some celebrities in attendance have already jumped on the 1980s-style bandwagon; case in point, reality television star Kim Kardashian.

The Year of the Emerging Designer

The current contestants on “Project Runway” graced the Bryant Park tents with their collections and a fair amount of mystery: because of squabbles over the show’s contract rights, the finalists in the as-yet unaired sixth season were forced to present their collections anonymously.

However, other young designers not hampered by reality TV disputes have benefited from the current recession: their relative affordability, as compared with more established designers, has enhanced their appeal. Young designers, from first lady inauguration gown designer Jason Wu to Brooklyn-based label Hayden-Harnett (making its first New York Fashion Week appearance), are clearly a force to be reckoned with this year.

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