Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fashion Week 2.0: The Brighter Side of an Economic Downturn

The most obvious sign that the New York fashion industry was stumbling appeared long before fashion week had even begun. Looking at the many empty storefronts in prime retail areas along Madison and Fifth Avenues, it was already clear that designers were quite literally packing up shop. Next came the bad news that notable fashion favorites like Betsey Johnson, Vera Wang and Monique L'huillier would not be showing at the tents, and for those that could still afford to, the invite lists would be noticeably shorter. It was against this gloomy backdrop that New York Fashion Week Fall 2009 began, and after several seasons of uninspiring collections, the choice for designers was clear: evolve or die.

"For Rent" signs, like this one at 753 Madison Ave. in New York, are becoming a
familiar sight along the avenue's "Gold Coast." (Andrea Mohin/The New York Times)

The recession could very well be New York fashion's salvation; pushing designers to be as creative with their business models as they are with their collections. In Imran Amed's article about creative entrepreneurship for The Business of Fashion, he reminds us that economically challenging times are also ones of great innovation. One sign of hope is the fashion houses' that have been branching out and using the internet for more than ecommerce and blogging. Halston produced an online seasonal presentation in lieu of a runway show as a cost-cutting measure, and the resulting music video-esque sequence of a model running down a street of women wearing Halston is visually interesting and probably conveys more about the feel of the collection than a traditional runway show ever could. Also taking advantage of electronic media was Michael Kors, who simultaneously broadcast his show at the tents live on his website. Maybe not as innovative an idea as Halston's, but it certainly provides hope for the future of fashion: that designers might confront the challenges of an economic downturn and use the opportunity to redefine the fashion industry.

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