Recession trims Fashion Week expectations

Susan Scafidi in Crain's New York, February 13, 2009

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As the curtain rises on New York Fashion Week—which officially starts Friday and runs until Feb. 20—many wonder how much the recession will alter the eight-day production of shows, parties and events produced by IMG Fashion.

February’s runway shows and events are still expected to generate an estimated $233 million in direct visitor spending for the city and attract 116,000 attendees, according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.

But the likelihood of fewer attendees this year than last and the decline of conspicuous consumption means that the projection could be generous.

Designers such as Carmen Marc Valvo noticed a decrease in buyers and media at September’s show and he expects even more of a decline now. Marc Jacobs has chopped his guest list from 2,000 to 700.

“There will be a little bit of a withdrawal from the entertainment and circus aspect of Fashion Week—they’ll refocus on the need to sell clothes,” said Susan Scafidi, intellectual property and fashion law professor at Fordham University School of Law. She expects designers to show more colorful clothes, to avoid dourness, and feature more reasonable price points.

Despite the downturn, some designers are still expecting full houses. Bud Konheim, chief executive of Nicole Miller, said attendance at his Friday evening show will be high and that more serious fashion attendants are coming than previous years.

“We’ve had to cut out our friends,” said Mr. Konheim. “I used to invite my wife, but now I tell her to stay home, we don’t have the room.”

Some 62 collections are slated to debut under the Bryant Park tents this season, compared with 67 shows on-site last February. The first designer up at Bryant Park Friday was Yigal Azrouel, who returned to show at the tents for the first time in five years in order to make a splash. Mr. Azrouel’s show followed the annual nonprofit Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection, in which celebrities such as Katie Couric, Susan Lucci and Tori Spelling wore crimson to raise awareness of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.