New York Fashion Week, that biannual ritual of luxe and excess, came at an inconvenient time. Luxury has had a subdued presence with feather adornments added to tweeds.
NEW YORK — New York Fashion Week, that biannual ritual of luxury and excess, came at an inconvenient time.
Day after day, dour predictions about the economy have prompted warnings that consumers will be tightening their metaphorical belts. That makes it hard to put a fur coat on the runway this week and try to convince retailers, editors and stylists that the look will be all the rage next season.
Fashion insiders, though, are mixed on how to handle the grim financial news.
Michael Fink, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, said he was focused on finding clothes women don’t already have in their closets.
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“No basics — that’s my mantra. No basics,” Fink said. “The whole industry is looking at things with a fine eye at price points, but, as a luxury-brand store, we’re still interested in luxury products.”
Luxury has had a subdued presence so far on the runway in feather adornments, a little bit of fur, and beading or metallics added to knits and tweeds.
“We believe the downward economic change will affect the already weak businesses but improve the strong ones. We are the latter,” said Max Azria, founder of the Max Azria BCBG Group.
Designer Derek Lam was also unconcerned about any downturn: “Beauty, I think, is recession-proof.”
Still, it’s hard not to think of the economy when looking at all these expensive clothes, said Linda Wells, Allure magazine’s editor in chief. It’s part of her job to find balance in the pages of her magazine between items readers aspire to have and those they can actually afford.
Even wealthy people whose discretionary spending isn’t affected by a dip in the economy are unlikely to be as showy about their wealth in bad times, Wells predicted.
That might be why feathers stole a lot of fur’s thunder, she added — they’re simply not as flashy, if not cheaper. (Feathers are notoriously labor-intensive.)
“It doesn’t look ostentatious. All that ridiculous bling and ‘it’ bags — there will be a shift away from that,” she said.
But if fashion is any indication, concern about the economy hasn’t reached a boiling point.
“When the economy is good, hem lines go up. When the economy is bad hemlines go down,” Cynthia Rowley said.
Her hemlines are longer in the fall collection — but that parted ways with most designers at Fashion Week, who seized on miniskirts.
“I think we’ll — not to use a bad fashion term — but we’ll probably skirt a real recession,” she said. “I have been following all the political coverage really carefully and closely. … I think people are cautiously optimistic, but I still think a little bit nervous.”
Associated Press reporter Megan K. Scott contributed to this story.