Fashion's Fast Track: Season of Change

Designer fashion is going through some major shifts, which could define how observers look back on the fashion decade.

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Bertrand Stalla-Bourdillon

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Pat Malone

Photo By Steve Eichner

Bloomingdale's "The New View" floor.

Photo By Kyle Ericksen

NEW YORK — Note to designers: The second half of the year could be as action-packed as the latest summer blockbuster.

Designer fashion is going through some major shifts, which could define how observers look back on the fashion decade. The mood of change is permeating all levels of the industry, from trends to executive shifts. They include the emergence of former Phillips-Van Heusen chief executive officer Mark Weber as the leading candidate to replace Jeffry Aronsson, who is said to be leaving his post as president and ceo of Donna Karan International at the end of the month. The closure of French fashion house Rochas, and what that means to designer Olivier Theyskens, may also affect the coming season.

Flush with cash, private equity funds are looking to invest in fashion and retail companies — and, if one of fashion's favorite adages is true, every house is for sale if the price is right. In addition, the recent flurry of resort fashion shows and showroom presentations is causing many designers to reevaluate their production cycles, putting more emphasis on pre-collections, since that is where retailers are increasingly spending the lion's share of their seasonal open-to-buy.

Fall will perhaps be best remembered as the season of new leaders, both business and creative. Helmut Lang is being resurrected with former Habitual designers Michael and Nicole Colovos at the design helm; Francisco Costa received a stamp of approval when the Council of Fashion Designers of America crowned him the women's wear designer of the year; major European and American design houses such as Christian Dior and Giorgio Armani have brought in senior-level talent to run their U.S. divisions, while others are still struggling to secure the best executive fit for their brands, and retail chains are hoping for instant fashion cachet by tapping young emerging designers for more limited collections.

It will also be a season in which recent fashion departures will be felt: Patricia Lansing has parted ways (corporately speaking) with her mother, Carolina Herrera; Rag & Bone co-founder Nathan Bogle just left his stomping ground to start his own line, and Trovata co-founder Josia Lamberto-Egan is moving to Seattle, leaving responsibilities to the three other founders.

The new president of the CFDA, Diane von Furstenberg, will clearly come in at a busy time for fashion. Here, a look at some of the things to watch in this coming third and fourth quarter.

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