CFDA Town Hall Meeting—A September Issue

Jul 29, 2009People We Lerve
The King and Queen of Fashion.

The King and Queen of Fashion.

Yesterday there was a riveting meeting of the CFDA members, a town hall held at F.I.T., the topic: THE SHOWS — Are They Relevant As We Know Them Today? There was a great turnout of designers, some editorial girls (I saw lots of Vogue staffers, including the maestro himself, Andre Leon Tally and Her Royal Highness, star of The September Issue), a handful of retailers and me. It was an extremely interesting, honest forum that allowed for everyone to speak their mind, share ideas, complain about what’s not working, identify opportunities for change…kind of how our government is structured, however, I am far more hopeful for change in the fashion industry than in health care. Bridget Foley quite adamantly said that things need to change, and “not little by little”, contradicting Diane von Furstenberg, moderator extraordinaire. But an editor doesn’t know the inner workings and challenges of the shmateh business, nor appreciate how gradually the changes that were discussed could happen from a logistical production standpoint. It didn’t take long to realize that the shows are not the biggest issue as to why the market is in such a crisis, rather “a tsunami” as per DvF.

The mantra of this meeting was “the consumer is confused”. They talked about shipping dates, sale dates, celebrities, the internet, you name it. However, missing from this conversation, and a point I wanted to raise, was where are the glossy fashion magazines, Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, W, Elle, in all this? What is their role going forward? The better glossies play a huge part in why the consumer is confused and is why so many smaller designers are struggling to survive. It must be the role of editors to expand those pages, broaden the offering in terms of which designers are featured on the backs of models. Those product pages seem like an after thought. The problem is, magazines are set up ONLY to sell ads. If you haven’t bought ads, placed up front, chances are you will go unnoticed by consumers. It’s just not fair to the industry…especially beyond the 6 or 7 designers are constantly featured in every editorial, in every magazine, every month. Hey, I am a huge Anna fan, but telling people to go shopping on September 10 (Fashions Night Out) is one gesture…now we need to see more, we need to see a shift in editorial offerings inside the book. Anna Wintour must set the new tone for editorial, to include added pages, not just in the back of book and a wider offering of designers featured.

If everyone is to do their part: retailers to come together to tighten dates when sales begin, designers to limit the offering, ship closer to the selling season, IMG fashion to consider not only doing shows for the trade but to add a separate tier, marketed towards consumers, then everyone has to do their fair share. Editors and publishers are equally responsible for why the consumers are not in stores and are confused as to what to buy. If all you see is Chanel this or Oscar that and Dolce & Gabbana whatever…then sure…the millions of women looking at magazines will not be motivated to go to the stores to buy something they cannot afford…or which “became” inappropriate to buy. ‘Cause while I’m at it, the press made people feel ashamed to carry designer shopping bags. What the hell was that about anyway? Point being, the press needs to be reeled in here as well. There is much ado about plenty, and with the vibe in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre at F.I.T. yesterday, I am confident that we will all see subtle changes, even this year.

8 Responses to “CFDA Town Hall Meeting—A September Issue”

  1. Bravo!! Bravo!! bravo on this post. I too am tired of seeing the same five designers on every page in every magazine (And you know it's only because they buy ad pages). It's like listening to music on the radio, a new dj comes on every hour or so but all you hear are the same songs over and over. CAn we get off this loop? There are great brands – unknown, little known, etc that have just as good or sometimes even better products.

  2. Benita says:

    Disclaimer: I know nothing about the shmatte industry's inner workings, except what Mick Jagger sings about in "Shattered". That said, as a consumer, I ain't confused; I'm deeply pissed off.

    For example, you can't find winter wear in stores in February/March, but you can find capri pants. Who is this mythical shopper that gets ready for the summer by buying capris in winter? Conversely, what man lives in such a rarified stratum that his Lollobrigida-orange manzie shorts won't incite laughter and pointing? Those two things alone seem to reflect a basic disconnect from the marketplace by both designers and retailers.

  3. JC says:

    Great post Abe,
    i agree, i covered

  4. JC says:

    Great post Abe!
    i agree, i covered fashion week since college in the mid 90s, and loved how copanies like Absolut used to showcase other less-known designers. I think we should go back to this, b/c this city thrives on creativity and discovery…


  5. Bonnie Bing says:

    AMEN on every single point made.
    Something's gotta give.

  6. ToTaLLy CoOL ® says:

    well now the whip comes down. there is much to say on the issue at hand – but no one really wants to hear it. actually they shot all themselves in the foot and now it has come to bite back. New York used to be and was growing to be even bigger – The Fashion Capital of the World. but that changed. New York used to be the last of the Global shows to show. in effect – because of that they also recieved a long lasting distance of press coverage. reason why is: let's say, as an example you have 200 hundred people on a line … you don't remember who was the 9th and 10th person on the line but you will remember the last one – because it was the last one you dealt with and freshest in your mind. so when we were last out of the gate … there was no one else to talk about and we were talked about for the next 4 and 6 months months (across the board press wise). but now being showing when we do – london, paris, and milan then come along – so who remembers new york after that ! also to have Winter clothes in the store windows in May or beginning of June no one is buying that because they are still trying to reach and enoy the thought of Summer. they think about buying a winter coat in september and october, maybe august for the school kids or going away to college. surely not may or june. there is a lot to do to make all this better. but long term vision or thinking has found itself in the realm of shortfalls. it is all about profit. and it is the greed that has bitten America back. when there is caring there is prosperity. when that is lost – all else is too. if a press outlet or blogger is targeting the trade industry members that's fine – there is the rush to get the shots out. but if the comsumer is going to be given guidance or inspiration to buy … then press outlets should show them the seasonal stuff that is for sale for that season. not like i said before – push winter goods for sale when summer hasn't even started. maybe someone will get my drift. it comes with experience. Wishing everyone the best — richard

  7. ToTaLLy CoOL ® says:

    ps: also a one night shopping media blitz will do nothing except for giving a little more press noise and make the hard time have a little more fun to it. a good thing of course. and i would be the first to stand with Anna on that. but and then it will be gone. so where is the long term thinking ??? i have been taught something very well lately (by some dear friends) — bad economy or not … women love to buy !!!! women love to shop. and none should blame them. actually they get the men interested to shop too. but when costs of food, transportation, real estate taxes, and every other tax is ballooned to no end this depresses everything — maybe the politians should stop raping the hard working people and own up to their own errors, shortfalls and miscalculations. and then focus on inspiration !!! instead of robbery. ok, that was said very raw – but sorry … such is the truth.

  8. Let's not forget how Saks and other department stores completely betrayed the retail industry by putting in-season items at 70% off before it even got cool enough for sweaters last Fall. No, the consumers are not confused. They are functioning rationally based on the information we convey to them. And when they smell blood, like vultures they flutter around the carcass ready to pick us apart. That, combined with the media leading the drum-roll on the death of retail. We're all covered in the stench of desperation.

    We will survive this. Hopefully with our dignities intact. There is a much needed culling going on, and all I can say is 'good riddance' to most of those schmucks! It is imperative that designers and retailers alike start acting with some measure of integrity. I can write books on this topic, but let me sum it up with this one example – don't dump your inseason (or last season's for that matter) merchandise at discounters 5 blocks from your accounts. The consumers cannot tell the difference, it just makes the label suspect. Why would they buy at full price when they think they can find it for half the price tags? You are shooting yourself in your &^%$#@^(! It is a circle which does not have to be vicious. Consumers, Retailers, Vendors, Designers (and the entire cast of characters in-between).

    Nice reporting Abe. Keep up the good works.


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