The fashion industry is being forced to change direction in search of revenue sources to make up for the millions in Wall Street bonuses that have gone up in smoke.
With Western economies mired in a financial crisis, all eyes are turning to Brazil, Russia, India and China – the BRIC economies, with a growing middle class that is developing an appetite for luxury. To capture these markets, brands must first spend thousands of dollars on high-profile catwalk shows that will generate acres of press coverage.
“Companies are hedging their bets by making certain that their sales are going up in the new markets,” fashion editor of London’s Daily Telegraph Hilary Alexander said. “The Russian clients, the Indian clients, the Middle Eastern clients – they want glamour, they want pizzazz.”
Fashion Group International creative director Marylou Luther predicted the economic uncertainty would actually lead to a fashion boom. “After every upheaval fashion flourishes,” she said. “Fashion is fearless here and will not cower under the pressure of economic doom-sayers.”
Vice-president for America’s massive Macy’s department store chain Nicole Fischelis said designers are being compelled to be different. “It has been proven that these are the fashion pieces that sell first,” she said. “During hard economic times, designers must appeal to women on an emotional level. If they feel they already own something they won’t be encouraged to buy.”
French luxury brand Hermes yesterday drew on the selling power of the original supermodels by using from ’90s stars Naomi Campbell and Stephanie Seymour to headline their Far West themed show.
Wearing a black gypsy dress, Campbell closed the show by tossing her straw hat into the audience.
Front row guests included British actress Jane Birkin, who famously designed the Birkin bag, which has become a global byword for luxury. Hermes donates a portion of its profits to charity on her behalf. “They give a certain amount of money per year to the things I care about most, and that’s really precious,” Birkin said. Later on, John Galliano’s models paraded in Marie Antoinette wigs – the pendulum swinging back to slick commercialism.