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June 13, 2008 3:53 AM

Business, Fashion

Fashion's Obsession with 'Early'

Cliche loves early. The early bird gets the worm; early to bed ensures health, riches and keen intellect. This entire industry has bought into the grail of early with remarkable and uncharacteristic unison, save for the occasional and constant dissenter,...

Cliche loves early. The early bird gets the worm; early to bed ensures health, riches and keen intellect. This entire industry has bought into the grail of early with remarkable and uncharacteristic unison, save for the occasional and constant dissenter, namely Donna Karan. We talked about this -- again -- during a recent resort appointment.

Donna Karan
photo by Talaya Centeno

These days, Donna takes primary issue with pre-fall. Certainly it's now heresy to question the obsession with resort: "Do you know it's the longest selling season and best sell-through of all?" goes the communal refrain. Yeah, I think we've all got it. I also think I have a reasonable handle on much of what goes on in this industry. But some matters are utterly over my head. Top of the list: If early is such a utopia at retail, why, before Memorial Day, was most of the domestic shopping world as we know it up to 40 percent off, soon to be 70? While this year the economy has exacerbated things, in fact, this markdown schedule has gone on for years.

Before the last round of collections, W market director Treena Lombardo and I were discussing whether we would buy anything new for the season. "Let's face it," Treena said, "if you don't have it for the shows" - in the cold of February and March - "why not wait for the sales?" She's not alone in that thought. And if women like the two of us who love clothes and work in fashion feel this way, how many civilian consumers do, as well?

Fashion had a horrible Christmas, and again, the economy was only partly to blame. Once upon a time, a cozy sweater was the perfect Christmas gift, a wear-now treat and size-wise, a low-anxiety gift purchase. Can the same be said for a resort bikini?

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