New York Fashion week recession
Louis Lanzano/AP
Designer Vera Wang acknowledges the
applause following the showing of her
Spring 2009 collection.

Recession Hits New York Fashion Week Runways

February 03, 2009 07:28 AM
by Anne Szustek
The current economic crisis has brought fashion mainstays such as Betsey Johnson and Vera Wang to opt out of having full shows during this February’s New York Fashion Week.

Recession Casts Pallor on New York Fall 2009 Fashion Week

After the costs of logistics, models, make-up artists and publicity are considered, a fashion show can cost as much as $750,000 to produce.

During a normal year, fashion houses would just factor this in 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 are not having full fashion shows during New York Fall 2009 Fashion Week, held later this month.

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

Cash is running tight in the high-end apparel industry as consumers turn toward designer affinity lines for recession-chic stores such as H&M and Target. Sales in the U.S. luxury fashion segment were down 27.6 percent year-on-year from December 2007 to 2008, according to statistics supplied in a MasterCard report. New York designer Marc Bouwer, who told U.K. paper The Daily Telegraph he has seen a 60 percent decrease in orders for his spring collection, now hosts only Web-based shows.

Other designers have stepped in to fill some New York Fashion Week slots, such as William Rast, a label co-owned by singer Justin Timberlake. And IMG Fashion, the organizer of New York Fashion Week, is working to have a lower-cost venue set up near Bryant Park.

The Wall Street Journal’s “Heard on the Runway” blog writes, “Paul Wilmot, head of Paul Wilmot Communications, which represents designers including Oscar de la Renta and Monique Lhuillier, said having a venue for staging presentations that were ‘cheap and cheerful’ would greatly help designers in this economy.”

Background: New York Fashion Week

Under the name “Press Week,” New York’s first-ever Fashion Week was held in 1943. American fashion public relations expert Eleanor Lambert wanted to capitalize upon the possibility for New York fashion to leverage its standing on the global stage. Prior to World War II, French fashion was considered the sartorial standard to which all designers aspired.

But while France was in the throes of war, Lambert worked to have American designers show their collections to influential fashion editors and writers at a series of shows held at Manhattan’s Plaza and Pierre Hotels. Reporters from such high-profile publications as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar grew enamored with the clean lines and structure presented by U.S.-based couturiers, and they began to garner the same status that was once only accorded to their European counterparts.

Subsequent Press Weeks, which were held through the late 1950s, featured collections of designers who have since become arguably iconic, such as Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta.

Related Topic: Recession signals turn toward classic fashion style

Cardigan sweaters, squarish black purses and plaid-flecked apparel—items whose identification as part of the American style canon quite arguably elevate them above the whims of trends—have come back into the fashion forefront. As trepidation over the economy takes hold of personal budgets and weighs on the minds of consumers, the timeless ethos of preppy has taken hold of the retail apparel sector, as evidenced by strong numbers recently posted by clothing brands traditionally associated with classic style.

Reference: Guides to Fashion, shopping in New York


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