As N.Y. Fashion Week Nears, Designer Anxiety Rises

For many American designers, the collections they will present at New York Fashion Week will determine whether they will be around for fall.

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Posen said it’s still a challenging and scary time for designers, but noted there has been some activity at retail in the past few weeks which gives him hope. “We are seeing movement, and so, from being at a time when there has not been movement, movement looks very exciting and tasty,” Posen said.

Kate Mulleavy, who designs the Rodarte label with her sister, Laura, agreed that while the economy is hard to get around, it is no reason to retreat and resort to overall misery. “You can’t disassociate yourself from the economic or social climate of the time,” she said. “That is part of the vernacular that you are working with. I always said that it’s the reason why Laura and I wanted to design clothes. We are independent designers so it’s always a struggle. But because you are compelled to make things, you just move forward. This season is no different.”

Designers said they are working hard to edit their collections.

“I think retailers will come in, and they don’t want to see a lot of ‘stuff,’ so it’s our job as designers to edit really well,” said Jason Wu. “I’d rather have five racks of really great clothes versus 10 racks of things that haven’t been edited.

“People are buying, but they are still careful and cautious, and they are not buying things they already have,” he added. “If I am doing a jacket, I have to say, ‘How do I make a new jacket in a new silhouette? I am not making another black coat.’”

The pressure to offer lower price points is also making itself felt in showrooms. Many said they have broadened their price points to give retailers more options. Others, meanwhile, have launched secondary lines. Richard Chai, for instance, is launching the Richard Chai – Love collection for spring, offering pieces at a contemporary price point. Doo-Ri’s secondary Under.Ligne line and Bryan Bradley’s eponymous contemporary line have been introduced at retail this fall.

“Price is an issue for a lot of retailers, and [commercialism] is an issue, but I have to contain that in a way,” said Thakoon Panichgul of Thakoon. “[Prices] have to be really sharp when European brands can offer better prices now. You have to pay attention to that as a small designer. We look at fabrics more. We will show novelty special fabrics, but have to pay attention to more basic, all-climate kind of fabrics as well, which helps the commerciality of the line.”

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