Designers at NY fashion week show hesitation

NEW YORK, Paola Messana - Lacoste presented a collection in white and blue -- only to eventually opt for yellow, while Alexander Wang couldn't decide between sexy culottes and leather shorts: the mood at New York's Fashion Week for spring-summer 2010 was nothing if not tentative.
High-end designers have found themselves under pressure from distributors beset by plunging sales figures and mass marketers like H&M and Zara, who immediately copy the latest designs to offer them at unbeatable low prices.

Designers at NY fashion week show hesitation
And they appeared to have trouble imposing their expensive or cheap choices on buyers who now are more reluctant than ever to open their wallets.
This is even more true given the fact that everybody knows by now that all of these clothes, regardless of the price tag, are manufactured by the same factories in China.
"I'm waiting until it reaches Zara. I don't have a credit card, only debit," confesses Alexandra, 22, a shopper who declined to give her last name.
Indeed, what is the difference between a pair of Jimmy Choo sandals retailed through exclusive boutiques at 800 or 1,000 dollars and a similar pair by the same star designer soon to go on sale at H&M for 120 dollars, if one can believe the advertising?
"These prices are crazy, you cannot sell a few strips of leather for 1,000 dollars," says a shoe salesman at Saks Fifth Avenue, an upscale department store at the heart of Manhattan, who preferred to remain anonymous.
"Before the recession, I had Russian, Japanese buyers, they would pay thousands of dollars for a few pairs of ballet slippers by Chanel, or Louboutin, without blinking" he recalls wistfully. "That's over."
"Everybody is after the good deal, only stupid people pay the price on the tag," confesses another salesperson at an exclusive Manhattan boutique, who also chose not to reveal his name. "You have sales, special sales, private sales, you can always pay 60-70 percent less. One hundred is the new 1,000."
Department stores like Barney's and Macy's report sales plummeting to the tune of 15-20 percent.
In an interview with The New York Times, Vera Wang admitted to have dropped the price of her vacation collection by 40 percent -- only to hear later that selling dresses for 600 to 800 dollars apiece was not appropriate for a top designer.
In this situation, fashion shows that continue here non-stop and are attended by the same traditional throng of fashion writers appear to be in a bubble.
Cathy Horyn, a fashion writer for The New York Times, pointed out that the decision to name Hollywood actress and paparazzi favorite Lindsay Lohan to be the official muse for the Ungaro fashion house was indicative.
The house of Ungaro announced Lohan's appointment as artistic advisor to new chief designer Estrella Archs, who replaces Esteban Cortazar, in a statement in New York on Wednesday.
Lohan, 23, was once regarded as one of Hollywood's brightest young talents, but her career hit the skids in 2007 after she was convicted for drunk driving and taking cocaine.
Since then she has appeared in a series of commercial flops and become famous mostly for partying.
Mounir Moufarrige, president of Ungaro, said Lohan's expertise in the luxury fashion market made her the ideal advisor.
"Twenty first century muses are extroverts whose personal style and experience gives them a strong creative and artistic focus. Thus was our vision of combining the eye of a fashion creator with the eye of the ultimate luxury consumer, a celebrity," he said.

Monday, September 14th 2009
Paola Messana

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