‘Spring’ Ahead

Yesterday, I attended Fashion Group International’s (www.fgi.org) comprehensive Spring/Summer 2009 Collections overview. Held at the Time & Life Building, it was sponsored by Cotton, Inc. and MAC Cosmetics. There were 5 scheduled showings, but the midday hour was (and always is) my preferred time slot, as it features a lively and informative panel discussion which follows the audio visual presentation (spearheaded as always, by Marylou Luther, FGI’s fabulous Creative Director).

The “best eyes in the business” (the words used by FGI President Margaret Hayes, in her welcoming address) who not only edited the trend report along with Ms. Luther, but served as committee members and panelists this time around, were Linda Dresner, President, Linda Dresner, Inc.; Sally Singer, Fashion News & Features Director, Vogue; Stephanie Solomon, Vice President & Fashion Director, Bloomingdale’s; Amy Synnott, Beauty Director, InStyle; and Sandra Wilson, Accessories Fashion Director, Neiman Marcus. Special Guest Moderator was the always entertaining and irreverent Simon Doonan, Creative Director, Barneys (whom Ms. Hayes referred to as our “most joyous host”).

It was hardly surprising that the focus this season, was not only on the “really beautiful clothes”, ‘must have’ accessories, and hard to resist beauty offerings, that graced recent international runways, but the way in which the economy and the financial crises has changed everything. Indeed, it’s been impossible to discuss fashion (from any vantage point) and not allude to the difficult times we are all facing….a fact of life that is hitting the retail sector harder perhaps, than any other (though the magazine world is certainly feeling the pinch as well).

The extensive and comprehensive audio visual presentation, narrated by Marylou Luther (who has an amazing way the words and never fails to inject a bit of humor into her prose), began with the rhetorical question: “So how do you dress for the global economic convulsions that seem certain to continue into 2009? Do you want to look standard and poor? Or fortunate 500?”

At the end, she didn’t just itemize the committee’s selections of “those items most likely to sell” (an ongoing feature at this event) but added 4 words “in these cautionary times”: ‘Short’ (from above the knee to mini); ‘Mergers and Acquisitions’ (designers’ unexpected couplings); ‘Foreign Currencies’ (ethnic touches); ‘Hidden Assets’ (re-evaluation of the bra); Net Earnings (transparency); ‘Liquidity’ (shine through sequins, crystals, golden lames, metallics); ‘Leading Indicators’ (geometry is the new fashion math); ‘Futures’ (designers, such as Pierre Cardin, are registering fashion’s future tense); ‘Material Things’ (rumpled, crumpled, wrinkled, crinkled fabrics make news this season); ‘The Manipulators’ (the designer as sculptor); ‘In the Black – and White’ (because graphics look so good, black and white follows); ‘Glamour Stocks’ (some of the most beautiful evening clothes are ‘fringe benefited’); ‘Keep your Pants On’ (jumpsuits and the new cropped pants pegged to the ankles look new this season); ‘Change of A-Dress’ (the sport dress, the shirtdress, the polo dress, and ‘twofers’ abounded this time around); ‘Jackets and Coats’ (oversized boyfriend jackets, sleeveless jackets, trenches, and colored coats are good investments now and forever); ‘Added Values’ (platforms are big shoe news, python is the skin of the season, colored shoes look especially great with no color clothes, and shapely heels make a statement; if you have assets, put your cash in hobos and totes…if you’re strapped for cash get a shoulder strap…in the clutch…get a clutch); ‘Face Value’ (choice is the beauty secret of the season).

At the end of the audio visual presentation, Simon Doonan and the panelists took their place on the stage and Simon wasted no time playfully ‘grilling’ the experts. Simon immediately asked Stephanie Solomon if “price would trump trend”, and her response was unequivocal: “Nothing will ever trump trends at Bloomingdales. Our customers won’t shy away from trends but they will shop competitively”. He then commented that whenever he hears someone saying “I’m shopping in my closet”, it is “horrifying to me…it’s a deranged, grotesque idea”. (While that is THE smart way to go at the moment, as far as I’m concerned, I can certainly understand why this is a ‘horrifying’ notion to any retailer worth his/her salt).

Mr. Doonan then asked Linda Dresner what she can do, as a retailer, to make this practice obsolete.
LD: “It’s important to offer ‘eye candy’, hard to resist items, but our selections must also be functional; wearability is important.”

He then addressed Sandra Wilson, offering that accessories have indeed become a ‘major’ category, especially within these last few years. He asked her which items she thought were the most important this season.
SW: “Aggressive looking shoes with straps”, which are taking over from the “shoe bootie for fall”.

SD: “What about ‘porno’ heels?”
SW: “I think women like a high heel. They make you feel beautiful and sexy”. As for jewelry, “it’s all about bold jewelry, ‘mixed media’, but no one specific trend.”
“I used to say, “If you see it 2 blocks away, it’s fine”. Now I say, “If you see if 4 blocks away, it’s better.”

SD: “What about beauty trends?”
AS: “Lipstick sales have skyrocketed up 40% this past year, especially sales of red lipstick. It’s all about putting on a happy face. Michael Kors used red lips on his spring runway, for the first time in 20 years.”

SD: “How are fashion magazines dealing with the financial crunch?”
SS: “We have been increasingly focused on price even before the market crash. We were in Paris when the stock market collapsed. Our philosophy at Vogue is “Don’t buy less- buy better!” We want designers to bear in mind price but we want them to keep value high. As editors, we have to offer all prices.”

SD: “What in your estimation is a really great trend, and what is horrible and useless?”
SS: “Harem pants are awful, not cool, but I love a sharp shouldered jacket. I bought one in Paris and it changed my attitude..it’s empowering and confident”.

LD: “I love jackets as well, plus sleeveless and ¾ coats. I also love ethnic again (but just a touch), and I love black, and black and white. I hate very aggressive, over decorated shoes”.

SW: “I hate tribal headware but I love large scaled jewelry (necklaces, earrings, an armload of bangles the way Marc Jacobs did it a Louis Vuitton).

AS: “I hate two extremes: no makeup as it was shown at Marni, which I refer to as the ‘depression face’, and I hate overdone makeup, which was shown at Louis Vuitton. I like a happy medium the way Diane Von Furstenberg did it with a smoky eye and pale pink lips.

SS: “I don’t like droopy pants or jumpsuits but I do like a new shoe in nude or clear which extends the leg. I also love the idea of intuitive dressing (a la Marc Jacobs for his eponymous New York label and for Louis Vuitton in Paris). It’s predicated on something that is personal, a ‘joyous jumble’ that is all about confidentially mixing it all up, rather than a specific reference point. Why play it safe now? This is a good time to have fun.”

All I can say is: touché!

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

  1. Hi Marilyn, thanks for this post.
    The feeling now, when the economy is in a bad state, is that it effects everything, including fashion. So now we are less talking about “must have” accessories.

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