CFDA's Forum Debates the Fashion System

Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan and Anna Wintour weigh in at CFDA's town hall meeting.

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Calvin Klein Inc. president and chief executive officer Tom Murry said moving up delivery dates works against what’s going on in the economic environment. He noted that when he started in the business, sell-throughs were between 10 and 15 percent a week, compared with today’s rate of 1 or 2 percent. Oversupply in the U.S. is a contributing factor. Murry suggested getting deliveries more in line with Europe’s, which are closer to an as-needed basis and “that’s why they’re still making money and we aren’t.”

Elie Tahari said for the past two months, his company has shipped wear-now products instead of pre-fall and as a result, sell-throughs have doubled and tripled. “Business is actually great for us. We have changed things, so it’s about shipping clothes that you can buy and wear right away,” he said. “We are trying to do as much as we can do to stop this virus, as you said Diane, that is going on. Every day, there is a different sale going on in a store.”

Von Furstenberg said perhaps designers should be shipping less product more frequently to better accommodate retailers. She also urged attendees to talk to retailers, and to be honest and open with each other.

On another front, Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, suggested forming a committee that could potentially create ground rules on setting a start date for stores to discount merchandise. When an audience member challenged the legality of that idea, the Vogue editor said, “Well, is that something we can change? We have friends in the White House now.”

Connecting with consumers through a variety of innovative efforts is essential, said von Furstenberg, who singled out Fashion’s Night Out on Sept. 10 as a way to kick off this new mind-set. As reported, Vogue has teamed up with NYC & Company, the City of New York, the CFDA and retailers to stage an array of in-store events to entice shoppers. There will be similar events in cities worldwide.

Betsey Johnson ran with von Furstenberg’s idea of playing up the consumer angle during fashion week. “I would love to show at Madison Square Garden. I wish that fashion week for the public could be like Christmas. We could put green lights up — green and pink [representing money and breast cancer, respectively]. I could completely have my showroom open to the public. I could run around that week. I could celebrate in the stores. I could make it clear in my presentation that, ‘This is now,’ and ‘That’s coming.’”

Von Furstenberg encouraged constantly juggling trade demands and consumer needs when making business decisions. “When you dress celebrities, try not to always give things too early,” she said. “If it’s in the back of the mind, you have that kind of awareness and you will be more careful. What is important today, it’s not just to sell it in, but to sell it through.”

The CFDA has created an e-mail address at to encourage designers, retailers and editors to send in their ideas, and it plans to form smaller committees to work on the ideas.

“I think that the media landscape changed so much in the last five to 10 years with the Internet, and with the international press,” said KCD president Ed Filipowski. “It’s probably a good time...for the industry to come together and look at how we need to adapt to how the landscape has changed.”

Proenza Schouler’s Hernandez noted there is a “disconnect between the press and the buyers,” and that the label’s shows mainly target the press. With the speed of the Internet, and blogs, he noted how runway clothes can often seem dated by the time they reach the consumer. He and McCollough are thinking about ways to avoid this problem.

Roopal Patel, women’s fashion accessory senior market editor at Neiman Marcus, said, “Right now, [with] the state that retail is in, every image that is on the Internet, every editorial credit helps to make a sale, whether it’s three months later or four months later.…If you can get into the stores, do a morning clinic, do a trunk show. Get to know your client. Get into the dressing room with them. Any little thing you do to help support that sale won’t go unnoticed and it will definitely come back to help your final business.”

She also suggested featuring a handful of pre-collection looks on the runway for designers who are putting more time and energy into that part of their business. “The consumer these days is much savvier than she has ever been,” Patel said. “Some are looking for a bargain and some are looking for the dream, and that’s what everyone’s runway show really provides right now…to help support that dream.”


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