Friday, March 6, 2009

Recession Takes Toll on 2009 NYC Fashion Week

By Diana Curreri

Fashion Week or similar events where designers show their new collection to the public in a runway-style manner have been taking place annually in New York City for approximately fifty years. This year, despite the economic climate, the ritual continued.

In tents or rented out rooms or floors of vacant buildings throughout the city, designers like Calvin Klein, Nicole Miller, Michael Kors, and Carlos Campos presented their fall 2009 collections. Fellow fashion designers, PR representatives, actors, models, and lucky guests were present for these invitation only events that took place Feb. 13-20.

Lining the inside of the tent built in Bryant Park were booths for companies sponsoring the events. Tresemme had sectioned off an area for hairdressers to style hair. MAC, American Express and Havaianas also had booths set up selling products.

“There are perks to being a sponsor,” said Robert Di Mauro, lifestyle commentator and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the High School of Fashion Industries, “Famous people come in and wear their product when on the runway.” He explained that when a celebrity wears a certain brand, it shows the brand’s validity. This in turn develops and strengthens brand loyalty with new and old customers. Since the professionals trust and wear the brand, why shouldn’t everyone else?

The models presented fall 2009 fashions in several different ways. In contrast to years before, not every designer decided to present their collections using the most popular technique, on a runway.

Instead of having models strut down the catwalk, designer Benetti has his models silently stand and pose. Then the models would slowly walk in a clockwise fashion and simultaneously pose after every several steps. This allowed better viewing of the clothing on display. However, seats were set up in an “L” shape. Depending on where you sat, it might have been difficult to see everything, since at least four models would be presented simultaneously for about a minute.

The other type of presentation was a bit odder. Tim Hamilton had his models stand on two levels of platforms for several hours straight while guests stared back at them. However, the models were allowed to converse with one another, did not have strict poses, and drank beer. This created a more relaxed scene, yet because the models were not moving as much, it was impossible to see outfits in their entirety.

Anne Szutek, senior writer for wrote that the fashion industry has clearly been affected by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. “Some established designers, such as Carmen Marc Valvo, Vera Wang and Betsey Johnson, did not have full fashion shows…Betsey Johnson and Vera Wang displayed their fall 2009 collections on mannequins rather than live models.” She also explained that by having two companies share the same stage and make joint shows, designers were able to save 40 percent in show costs.

Designers are always looking for the most eye-catching color, the hottest new accessory item, or a new twist to put on an otherwise simple item. This year, the theme that held true for almost all designers was a return to the 80s - of course with a 2009 twist.

The most frequently asked question after these shows is what color is “in” this season. Orange and brown for fall, or light pastels for spring are the norm. However, no designers showed a recurring theme of one specific color. For many, gray seemed to be most popular, however when outfitted with another color, no two designers picked the exact same shades.

Designer Binetti paired his gray women’s fall/winter 2009 line with mainly purple and deep blue shades. However, Carlos Campos paired grey with brown, white, and metallic shades of black for both his men’s and women’s lines.

Tim Hamilton’s line for men focused on two simple colors; black and white. He paired striped sweaters or black turtlenecks with knee-length capris and trench coats with thin, almost sheer, loose fitting gray leggings.

People have been taking well to the return of the basic black turtleneck. By layering this simple piece under a bright color, it “adds drama and depth to outfits that might otherwise look flighty, out of season, or just too optimistic,” said a trend report from

By creating a fashionable piece that could double as two different items for the price of one, designers found a sure crowd pleaser. Convertible style trench coats could unbutton to become a blazer perfect for the spring. Presented by Phillip Lim and Karen Walker, convertibles were the answer for those trying to get the most out of their money.

Despite the economic crisis causing this year’s Fashion Week to have the lowest budget shows in decades and demanded designers to make clothes more wallet-friendly, the contemporary 80s look of Fashion Week 2009 was a success. Mercedes-Benz hosted this year and last year’s shows in New York.

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