Weekly Shop Report
Designers meet for group therapy session aimed at helping the confused consumer.1
The Council of Fashion Designers for America (CFDA), a not-for-profit trade association comprised of 300 of America’s top designers, had a forum-style candid conversation on the poor – excuse the pun – confused consumer last Tuesday. Designers, retailers and fashion journalists alike originally intended to meet on the relevance of fashion shows, the conversation quickly changed to a hyper talk on the vexatious course of the industry at large.
“We design for the consumer, and right now I believe the consumer is completely confused,” said Donna Karen who went on to explain the disconnect between the industry and the consumer. Today’s recession-conscious consumer has been trained to purchase items on sale, so he or she waits until late in the season to purchase but by that the time the next season is out and shoppers are hesitant to buy items not in season. Consequently, retailers mark down items early. Clothes in season are not the clothes getting to the hands of consumers severing the connection between the runway and the shoppers’ purchases. It’s further complicated by early deliveries, over-shipping of merchandise, and rampant mark downs.
Suggested solutions centered on connecting with the consumer and opening lines of communication between retailers, the press and designers. The CDFA plans to form smaller committees to dissect the system. Anna Wintour proposed one such committee to create a start date that retailers could begin marking down merchandise. Diane von Furstenberg, CFDA’s president, encouraged analyzing trade demands and considering the wants and needs of the consumer when making business decisions. Others suggested designers shipping smaller shipments more frequently to better accommodate consumers. Betsy Johnson concurred, suggesting playing up the consumer angle during fashion week.
For the consumer, this means designers are considering their needs and publicly recognizing their role in the industry more than ever. The media landscape has changed so much in the past five years. Access to information has made for a more savvy consumer, but also overwhelms the consumer who has trouble sifting though the massive amounts of competing information.The troubled industry has forced the CDFA and industry leaders to look at this, proving once again that bad times, however bad, can serve as a catalyst to progress.
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