Friday, September 17, 2010

Fashion Week in New York – A Few Quick Thoughts

September 17th, the day after the last of New York Fashion Week festivities, and I am sifting through materials about what was seen and heard and what the fashionistas think it all means. The ultimate arbiter of that meaning, of course, will be the consumer. By spring Fall Fashion Week hits and their variations will have passed from runway to store rack to the hanger in your closet. That’s my definition of a hit. The misses will either be forgotten or consigned to the backs of desperate fashion wannabees.

While the fashion industry traditionally wrinkles its collective nose when the discussion turns to the dreaded “w” word (“wearable”), more and more of them are getting the message. And the message is that most women lead complicated lives and want uncomplicated clothes with longevity, which means classic, versatile, high quality at a reasonable price. In short..........wearable! Is that too much to ask? Apparently, Donna Karan didn’t think so. DKNY was her response to this need in 1989 when she sent her DKNY line down the runway for the first time. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the fashion world took note.

In increasing numbers, high-end designers are developing secondary lines of wearable, affordable clothing and their visibility on the runway continues to grow. Last week in New York was no exception.

Known for his dramatic evening gowns, Zac Posen made the decision to showcase his secondary line, Z Spoke, last week on the runway in place of his main collection.

The Z Spoke line is a less expensive, casual line that features uncomplicated, easy-to-wear jersey knits and fun fabrics. T-shirts start at $80. Accessories will be added to the line shortly.

Mr. Posen will be showing his main collection in Paris where he can give full rein to his theatricality, no doubt before a more appreciative audience. You don’t go to a Paris show for a New York dose of reality; you go for that intoxicating whiff of Gallic drama.

Badgley Mischka decided to send both its couture collection and secondary line, Mark + James, down the runway together last week.

Co-designer Mark Badgley is quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “It’s opened up a whole new world of customers.” Badgley Mischka’s traditional customer is “not just buying couture. She’s buying one couture piece and then four or five pieces from the lower-priced contemporary collection.”

From a business and marketing standpoint, it made perfect sense to combine the two lines in one show.

Although designers run the risk of cheapening their high-end lines in order to market their secondary lines, you will be seeing more of them willing to run that risk. If managed carefully, it will be a win-win situation for both designer and consumer. The former gets to increase his loyal following, while the latter gets to add something wearable to her wardrobe. Will the dreaded “w” word one day lose its stigma in the fashion world? What do you think?

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