verbal croquis

some good news

Posted in general by verbalcroquis on May 4, 2009

Here’s the Good News: Designers and Execs See Positive Points

The good news revealed here is as diverse as the companies and people surveyed. Some identified modest gains — reorders, healthy sell-throughs, traffic increases at retail — which once might have been taken for granted. Others spoke on a more universal scale, about shifts in consumer psychology. Though points were often highly brand- or retailer-specific, much of the information fell into categories, a veritable fashion “Jeopardy!” of thoughts positive enough to please a latter-day Dr. Peale. Many noted that while the fourth quarter of ’08 was unquestionably horrific, sales picked up, albeit modestly, in the first quarter of ’09. Numerous executives spoke of continuing to open around the world, as Dries Van Noten put it, by choice and not because the decision “was made before the crisis started.” 

Perhaps the most significant information gleaned from these interviews is that the industry is holding up a great big mirror to itself. Time and time again, in describing the runaway prosperity of the past decade, people used scatological terminology like aberration, gluttony and laxative, the latter noting the process of major cleansing as necessary and inevitable as it was unexpected. Some said success had bred sloth among the established, who came to think that if hyped enough, anything would sell, and arrogance among the aspiring, who wanted success on their terms, on a platter, right now. (“They made [Michelangelo] copy paintings for six years,” offered Bud Konheim.)  

As for the consumer? She had become a witlessly overlabeled glutton, busting out the plastic at the drop of a shoe, careless of sticker or price-value relationship. But no more. People “are getting a more discerning eye,” noted Michael Kors. And both retailers and fashion houses professed new devotion to her worship and to the product that best serves her. To that end, there were numerous shout-outs to the price-value relationship, regardless of price. “Hermès is doing very well,” said Diane von Furstenberg. “Why? I can still use my mother’s bags.”

But the biggest news: Dialogue, sprung from the realization that we’re all in this together. For example, both Sidney Toledano on the fashion-house side and Ron Frasch on the retail side noted the importance of catering to regional markets, knowing full well the compromises involved. Said Frasch, whose insightful comments will run Tuesday, “All the political barriers have fallen away, and all the defensiveness has gone away, because we all know that we’ve got to do something different and better. What could be more exciting than that?”

Read the rest (twelve pages!) here at WWD.