The Democratization of Fashion Week

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Home | Columnists + Experts | Ceslie Armstrong | The Democratization of Fashion Week
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ASHLEIGH VERRIER's Blue Velvet. Grown-up looks from new designers for fall '08

Long-time friend and Getty Images photographer Stephen Lovekin pulled me aside on the first day of Fashion Week while we were backstage and reminded me that this begins our 24th season covering the shows in New York. Of course that just seems completely unimaginable to me. 12 years of shows? Really?!? Stephen and I had a few laughs reminiscing about "having seen it all at this point," and trust me—some things are better left unsaid in this column.

Obviously, other than my age, so much has changed throughout the years but more than anything is the “democratization” of how fashion is being covered by the media; reported about by journalists; and consumed by you—the viewer. Many "fashionista insiders" aren’t thrilled with the new openness of the fashion industry but as a long-time editor, I AM thrilled to see the industry change and embrace how the world now chooses to consume media and entertainment. Technology is really the best friend of the consumer who wants and deserves to stay up to date and informed in order to make better buy decisions and ultimately look and feel better. And, technology is truly the best friend of the retail industry who is counting on the consumer to grace their doors and on-line storefronts to purchase.

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Ashleigh Verrier Ashleigh Verrier

ASHLEIGH VERRIER FALL 2008

There is a continuous struggle within the print magazine and retail industry regarding timing of shows, shooting editorials, and delivery of each season’s collections. These are issues that affect you, the consumer, but the behind-the-scenes posturing and negotiating is strictly insider business. The magazines need 3-4 months to produce a story and deliver it to the newsstand and they want exclusives for their readers. In the meantime, the digital media are photographing and shooting video of fashion shows in real time and reporting them digitally wherever the viewer chooses to watch (mobile phones, PDA’s, lap-tops, or "terrestrial" TV) so she is informed about the upcoming trends for the next season at the same time the industry gets their first look. This is the "democratization" I’m talking about.

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Abaete Abaete

LAURA PORETZKY FOR ABAETE FALL 2008

As a glossy magazine editor for many years, I was used to what we in the media call "long lead-time" to produce a fashion story. The process is labor and time intensive and usually takes a minimum of 90 days lead-time before the magazine hits the newsstand or your mailbox with the story. These stories, (when expertly produced with a talented team), are gorgeous and aspirational and certainly promote the creative vision of the editor-lead team and the designer. I still look forward to seeing this gorgeous work in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, InStyle and others. What has changed for me is the reality of how you (women who shop for themselves and their families on a regular basis) want and need your information. Sure, it’s great fun living vicariously via the pages of the glossy mags turning the pages of the fantasy driven editorial. But, are you the shopper whose wardrobe is a mixture of affordable trend pieces from mass retailers, department store designer ready-to-wear, and the boutique or vintage pieces that are found treasures realistically going to ignore all the digital media coverage available right now and wait for a magazine to hit stands before you go shopping?

The biggest challenge for the retailers and designers is to get the clothing on the floor of the store when you want to buy. I am constantly asked by my audience why the seasonal deliveries keep appearing in stores earlier and earlier each year. Think about it: I’m writing this column on February 6th in the midst of attending the fall 2008 showing of collections in frigid New York City and the spring 2008 collections are hitting the stores now (and some have already aggressively hit right after the holiday’s). In the "olden days" pre-real time democratized global reporting, you the shopper wouldn’t see the clothes until the magazines hit stands. Now, you have the opportunity to preview the upcoming season way in advance. Some in the affected industries think the early pre-season reporting causes shoppers to experience "fashion fatigue" and that it diminishes the excitement of buying seasonally-relevant items. I think you, the shopper, are really smarter than that and you are going to buy when you want to (on a shopping whim); when you need to (upcoming special occasion or kid’s school year wardrobe); and also when your budget allows.

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YigalAzrouel YigalAzrouel

YIGAL AZROUEL FALL 2008

What I am excited about right now in the midst of Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week Fall 2008 is the new talent whose collections are ageless, timeless, wearable, and still sexy like Ashleigh Verrier, Erin Featherston, Abaete by Laura Poretzky, Mara Hoffman, Rubin Singer, Yigal Azrouel, and the established guard who during my interviews are eager to share their excitement about designing for women over age 40 and all body shapes and sizes. I’m excited that in the audience are editors, celebrities, sponsors (marketing people in suits), bankers, retail buyers, customers and bloggers. And mostly, I’m excited that in our global economy driven by women over age 40 who control the majority of spending in the marketplace, you can access information about the latest and greatest the fashion industry has to offer and rush to the store to buy whenever you wish. That’s real fashion democratization.
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