Fordham Law


Runway to the Rack: Retailers Reveal Key Fashion Trends

Susan Scafidi on CNBC, February 25, 2011

Media Source

Expect to see billowy silhouettes, ethnic prints, '40s and '70s looks, longer hemlines and utilitarian-style outerwear when you shop for clothes this fall.  

That was the word from merchants ranging from mid-range department store Macy’s to tony Saks Fifth Avenue and online marketplace eBay, summing up the key themes that emerged during Fashion Week earlier this month.

Trends from the runway shows are trickling down faster than ever to a mass audience, as Web sites like Style.com and bloggers insinuate themselves into the once-exclusive world of high fashion, bringing the trends to middle America instantly, says Susan Scafidi, professor and academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School.

“The forerunner in that area was Style.com, which started putting up a catalog with every look from the runway from every show,” Scafidi says.

Previously, fashion editors and fashion critics were the “intermediaries,” showing off runway looks six months after a show. And while magazines like Vogue and Elle “still show us how to wear clothes and comment on the trends, they no longer have the exclusive access to fashion.”

True fashionistas watch Fashion Week's runway shows on their computers as more and more designers stream the action live, or they can catch up on the buzz of fashion bloggers on Twitter, Tumblr or the bloggers' own sites.

This is ratcheting up the pressure on national retailers, who have to keep pace by delivering those looks to an increasingly fashion-savvy customer.

Mass consumers are getting fashion unfiltered, and retailers have to respond. Quickly.

That’s why select Fashion Week trends, such as the use of red and black, a wide spectrum of greens and lace accents will start to sprinkle into retailers’ assortments as early as this Spring, Scafidi says.

She predicts that Jason Wu’s grey sweatshirt with black lace running from shoulder to wrist, for one, will be “the single most copied look for fall.”

Here’s what a cross-section of merchants had to say about Fashion Week and what looks you might see on their racks this fall:

Macy’s, Nicole Fischelis, group vice president, fashion director  

The spirit “of individualism” evidenced by the shows is something Macy’s will build on for the fall season, Fischelis says.

“It was a very interesting season with a lot of contrasts—a fusion of opposites,” she says, highlighting the combination of outerwear, such as a parka from Altuzarra with a feminine dress.

The new silhouettes are “much softer, much looser—there was something very nonchalant about the sensuous draping, volume and layering” of the clothing, she says.

Some highlights included lots of lace, ethnic prints, Dooo.Ri’s print knitwear, and a heavy mix of “beautiful neutrals” in grey, camel and beige, while “the whole idea of shine and metallics continues,” she says.

Banana Republic, Simon Kneen, creative director

Gap's Banana Republic unit will work to interpret the trends coming out of Fashion Week and “make them something that feels a little long term that [the customer] can keep for more than one season,” Kneen says.

“We’re very good at making sure we put the right trends in the right parts of the market.”

Kneen cited more polished, tailored looks in column dresses, wide-leg, high-waist pants and more architectural prints—as opposed to florals—as some of the key themes on the runway that Banana Republic can draw from for its fall assortments.

Overall, the season reflected “a '70s moment,” with runway looks reminiscent of designers such as Yves Saint Laurent that felt very fresh, he says.

As for color, Kneen says there is "the strong camel story, and (the retailer is) making sure we have enough camel in the store.”

But, Kneen also notes “warm reds and shocking, pinky reds” were also prevalent on the runway.

Saks Fifth Avenue, Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director

Sporty chic looks with hoods, the use of fur and exaggerated collars—in which “high impact outwear was the pivotal piece of the look”—was one of the big stories during Fashion Week, Sherin says.

“I also really liked the new take on tuxedo dressing in general, with bib fronts and tuxedo jackets. That will be coming to the stores in August and September.”

Also notable was longer skirts and dresses, chunky knitwear and crimson red, she says.

To keep in step with the faster pace of fashion trends, Saks will hold trunk shows in the next few months for the fall collections—earlier than it usually does, which is in April and May, she says.

Ebay, Miriam Lahage, general manager at eBay Fashion

EBay had a dual role this season at Fashion Week. The online marketplace not only tracked the show to pick up on trends for its business, but was also a participant, showcasing an affordable collection from Derek Lam.

The designer unveiled its exclusive eBay line of 16 dresses during a presentation at Fashion Week.   

The site, which aims to be a platform for designers and brands, invited its 10 million fashion shoppers to vote for their favorite dress from the crowd-sourced capsule collection.

On March 1, eBay will announce the winning items, which will be available for sale by spring and summer.

At press time, a black tie tress for $275, a floral print halter dress for $295 and a denim dress for $195 were emerging as some of the clear winners. (Lam’s dresses typically cost between  $1,200 and $2,200.)

Unlike other retailers that have partnered with high-end designers on an affordable collection—where the merchant plays a large role in shaping the line—“we were totally hands off on that,” Lahage says.

The result is a pure reflection of Lam’s “sophisticated, effortlessly wearable aesthetic,” she says.

The partnership is the latest expression of the democratization of fashion, Scafidi says.

“Asking the [eBay] audience to play the role of the department store buyer is very creative.”

The effort also helps eBay get instant feedback from its shoppers.

“The trends that come out of Fashion Week are often reflected in what we see people buy on the site” in an instant, Lahage says.

She noted red-carpet looks from designers such as Alexander Wang, the pairing of “gentle lady-like” pieces with “hard-edged trims and hard-edged shoes” that mix glamorous looks with “a downtown feel” as two of the seminal themes that emerged from the shows.