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Pinching Pennies: Designer Runways Take Budget Route

It’s chic to be fashionably frugal. While fashion spectacles still can run over $500,000, the days of extravagant spending are more or less on the wane.

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A bigger concern for Stordahl this season is the strong euro, which makes European goods more expensive at a time when consumers are increasing price conscious. "We’re really challenging people [designers] to try and hold prices, particularly on like items," Stordahl said.

Julie Gilhart, vice president of fashion merchandise at Barneys, said some of her store’s buyers shortened their trips to Europe, but more out of concern for the current world situation than out of cost considerations. "Our motto has always been that you’re to come in, do your stuff and go home," said Gilhart. "Maybe our cost cuts ame beforehand."

As for the brands, their attention is turning to the little things. Even if cost is rarely cited as the reason, the fact is more companies are bypassing the runways this time round. In Paris, Christian Lacroix, Gilles Rosier, Kenzo and AF Vandevorst are skipping the season, while in Milan, Samsonite and Genny were among those holding presentations instead of shows. A Prada spokesman said the Genny move "had nothing to do with cutting costs. We are repositioning the brand and thought it was more effective to hold a presentation."

Filip Arickx, who designs AF Vandevorst his wife, An Vandevorst, and Samsonite also both denied the decision to skip a runway show was related to money.

"We felt it was time to do something different," he explained. "We wanted to invite editors to see the film individually to get to know them. Doing another fashion show seemed a little impersonal for us now. We wanted to establish human contact. And in the end, the film will cost just about the same money as a show."

As for Samsonite, "The decision to do a presentation has nothing to do with cutting costs — actually the presentation at the Diana Majestic Hotel [in Milan] was very complex and cost even more than a show," said Beppi Fremder, president of Samsonite SpA. "We realized that we need time to explain our products — at least three minutes per item — and that a 20-minute runway show is just not enough. Also, it’s harder to show our whole product range, which obviously includes luggage and travel accessories, on the runway."
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