Fashion designers go all out to woo back customers


It used to be that a designer could fill a whole runway with beiges and blacks, the model colors. But this season, fashion took a cue from the recession and decided to give people what makes them happy, a little color. At the recently-concluded New York Fashion Week, Brian Reyes sprinkled his collection with electric blue and scarlet. Michelle Obama fav, Jason Wu showed that you can be classy and prim in colors like Sunshine yellow.

But even more than more color, designers went for the shock-effect, featuring amazing structures or unique cutouts. Almost all of the models at Badgley Mischka sported metallic fabrics. Notoriously conservative designer Michael Kors revealed neon furs in greens and orange, that seemed to belong more to Sesame Street than to Bryant Park. The models sported giant pom-pom electric fur hats that could have actually been cut from muppets.

Christian Siriano, who played up his Egypt-inspired desert palette with flashes of turquoise and gold, told me during Fashion Week, "I think if people are going to shop, they should buy something interesting right now. I don't think they're buying simple, expensive clothing. I don't think they're buying a $2,000 basic black dress. They're buying a $2,000 amazing black coat." Indeed, it's a lot easier to justify shelling out for a piece of fashion art, than for another little black dress.

With falling stocks and bank accounts, most people are giving up luxury items first. February sales for the luxury segment were down 19%, compared to total industry sales, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. "Women want something special, new and interesting at a good price point. They want something they don't have in their wardrobe already," designer Nanette Lepore told Marketwatch. This is nothing new to the design world, but if anyone's shelling out $2K on fashion now, it's going to be for a "WOW" piece. Translating the runway to real life, we're not going to see a whole lot of women spending thousands on a KORS muppet hat, but expect to see a lot more color and innovation out on the streets. In this economy, we're going to need it, both for our spirits, and to keep our designers afloat.