Sep 17, 2009
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Fashionistas ask: Crisis? what crisis?

Sep 17, 2009

NEW YORK, Sept 16, 2009 (AFP) - Stores are empty, clothes sit unsold on mannequins, but at New York's Fashion Week, leading fashionistas are digging in their high heels to declare they have nothing to worry about.

Photo: AFP/Stan Honda

"We have more shows than last year," said a defiant Fern Mallis, senior vice president of IMG Fashion, which produces the annual New York fashion weeks, including the ongoing Spring-Summer 2010 show.

Speaking against the deafening soundtrack of another runway event at Bryant Park in Manhattan, Malis adopted the fashionable shoot-the-messenger tactic, blaming the media, not the recession, for unenthusiastic shoppers.

"It's the media that have discouraged the consumers. As journalists you should tell them to go back and buy. It's about fashion, which transforms your life, which makes people look at you, notice you, that's what fashion is about," she said.

If Fashion Week seems a little diminished this year, that's normal too, she added. "Seeing 40 outfits instead of 50 doesn't change the effect of the shows. Everybody is cutting back a little bit."

Indeed, the show goes on at New York Fashion Week, regardless of the recession's grip on the retail sector.

Late Monday 14 September it was the turn of Marc Jacobs, who transformed the Armory building in Manhattan into a huge white space to parade Pierrots in high-necked lace blouses, flounced Bermuda shorts, and long skirts in bright pastels.

The star US designer showed lingerie with bras over shirts, corsets, and a long, backless pullover displaying tempting undergarments. Like several other designers, Jacobs also went for the adult romper suit, with a variety of shiny materials, brocade, and pearl-covered blue, rose or orange silks.

"It's not just about selling clothes," Jacobs told Women's Wear Daily, "it's about giving people things to dream of and romanticize about."

Then there was Catherine Malandrino, who likes to switch from tight-fitting outfits to corsaire trousers. Following her, came Philip Lim with a series of pleated grey and ivory dresses bearing lurex shirt fronts worn under light leather perfectos.

Suzy Menkes, fashion writer at the International Herald Tribune daily, said the industry was whistling in the dark.

"The shops look very empty. There are lots of discounts. You can see lots of closed shops and closed art galleries," she said. "You can see that there is a crisis hitting, but it's not showing up at all on the runaway."

But Nicole Fischelis, group vice president at Macy's department stores, tried to emphasize the upbeat.

"I am not going to speak about economy. I can only talk about positive things," she said.

"America is a country of doers and we believe that the next season is going to be extraordinary because of all the options. We have a very strong stand in giving our customer not only what she wants but also what she doesn't expect."

Fashion Week closes Thursday 17 September with American power houses Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein top of the line-up.by Paola Messana

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