Fashion Week Kicks Off In New York, Invitees Share The Scoop

Designers and models from across the globe will descend upon New York City Thursday for one of the most prominent weeks in fashion — Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Hundreds of designers will show their fall collections to the long list of special guests. Host Michel Martin talks to two of the invitees — Mari Davis, editor-in-chief of the online fashion magazine Fashion Windows, and veteran fashion writer for the Wall Street Journal, Teri Agins — for a preview.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Im Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, as Valentines Day approaches, we talk about how the pursuit of love and happiness is changing as we live longer. Well hear from Abigail Trafford. She is author of the new book called As Time Goes By: Boomerang Marriages, Serial Spouses, Throwback Couples, and other Romantic Adventures in an Age of Longevity, thats a little later.

But first, we want to talk about fashion. Today, the Big Apple will be flooded with the biggest names in design from Calvin Klein, to Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Vera Wang, and even Christian Siriano. The list of talent is long and so is the guest list. Thousands will attend some of the most prominent fashion shows in the week during this years Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

The event of course is by invitation only. So, to check in on the latest trends in the fashion world, we have called two people who have invitations: Mari Davis. She is the editor-in-chief of the online fashion magazine Fashion Windows, and Teri Agins, who covers the fashion industry for The Wall Street Journal and she also writes for Vogue. Ladies, thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. TERI AGINS (Senior Writer, The Wall Street Journal): And thanks for having us.

Ms. MARIE DAVIS (Editor-in-Chief, Fashion Windows): Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: And for Teri, will Fashion Week come off as scheduled? I mean, you know, were all very concerned about snow right now. We are very snow aware, because

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: down here in Washington, D.C., were very concerned about it, but what about in New York? Will the event just come up as scheduled?

Ms. AGINS: Snow is not a big deal. The first thing is, remember, we have a great subway system. Its no big deal. Weve had snow in Fashion Weeks. I have been doing this for 20 years and this is a tenacious bunch and they are not going to let snow stop them from doing the presentation. So, well be running around in Manhattan with our boots on and, you know, staying warm.

MARTIN: Just dealing with the situation.

Ms. AGINS: Yes, just dealing with it.

MARTIN: But Mari, what about the photographers? Can they still function?

Ms. DAVIS: They can still shoot, but their problem really is this: part of our coverage of Fashion Week is we do fashion on the street, that we actually cover the season, of course, but then we also look at what people are wearing as part of the trend of what we call branding. So, its they - they usually ask people to pose for them and everything, but then they couldnt, thats because their cameras are freezing, theyre not that fast.

MARTIN: Well, well keep that in mind when we look at the pictures.

Ms. DAVIS: Yeah, okay.

MARTIN: Well, okay. So, Mari, is there anything new happening this year?

Ms. DAVIS: Okay, one of the big things that is happening this year is that almost everyone is streaming, from Calvin Klein to Rodarte to Alexander Wang, theyre going to livestream their shows. And yes its not new because way back in early 2000s, I think, 2002, or 2003, somebody had already streamed it, which basically IMG did stream from Bryant Park and also in LA. The difference is this is now really online.

I mean, you can actually watch it on your computer, on your PC or your Mac, or even your iPod. But on the silhouette side, I would say that the designers are being affected by Avatar, by the Web, by pop culture, like the latest in Paris, Jean Paul Gaultier just did an "Avatar" themed show. Same thing with Valentino, and thats on Haute Couture. So, usually Haute Couture is the one who actually sets the tone for everybody. So, I can safely say that we will see a lot of sci-fi right now coming up on the runway, which is actually affected by pop culture.

MARTIN: Interesting. Teri, what do you think about that? I mean, its kind of a two-way street, isnt it? Hasnt it been for sometime fashion and pop culture influencing each other?

Ms. AGINS: Yeah, well, the street wear started in the 90s and it started with the hip hop movement and also with the casual dressing cycle. But I think the one thing that people will be looking out for is, you know, there are no compelling like must-have trends. Were coming off all the slow-spending with the recession and it has affected the stores. You talked to all the retailers, I did a story with Vogue last September, and all the designers were saying then that their spring collections, the prices were going to be down, about 20 percent or so.

And so what youre saying is - you know, more women are shopping in their closets and just adding pieces here and there. So, what designers have to do to get women interested in fashion is give them clothes that have a lot of value that show embellishment. So, were going to be seeing, you know, a lot of ruffles, ruching, lot of shine, accessories like cocktail rings, not any the it bag is not a big deal anymore. But youre going to be seeing a lot of clothes that are going to really show - I mean, youre not going to be seeing a lot of kind of basics. Youre going to be seeing a lot more color.

And obviously what - this is - these shows are for the fall season and fall is where designers can really strut their stuff because theres just a lot more to do with fall clothes. You can add fur, layers and so, were going to be seeing a lot of that, but the clothes are going to probably be a lot jazzier.

MARTIN: Thats interesting and sort of counterintuitive because you think, well, people are being very cautious about spending, but youre saying that in order to attract a buyer at a time like this, they actually have to be a little bit more

Ms. AGINS: Yeah, because

MARTIN: out there.

Ms. AGINS: people need, you know, they need to be seduced and excited about fashion. And, you know, I mean, the celebrities help out, you know, "Avatar," all these other pop culture points definitely do help get people excited, but, you know, you got to get women to part with money. And, you know, with the recession, after the stock market went over 10,000 that was a kind of psychological boost and stores have started to report that their sales were coming back. But, you know, here again they still have got to make people excited about fashion, and youve got to give people something theyve never seen before.

MARTIN: If youre just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Were looking ahead to Fashion Week in New York. Were getting the lowdown on all the hottest trends from Teri Agins, who covers fashion for The Wall Street Journal and Mari Davis, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Fashion Windows.

You know Mari, one of the things I wanted to ask, I actually want to ask each of you about this, but Mari, Ill start with you. One of the things thats attracted some attention is the Vanity Fair cover, the young Hollywood cover. Its all white actresses. Theyre all thin. Theyre all of a certain look. And a lot of people are wondering, you know, whats up with that.

I mean, here we have an African-American family in the White House, the first lady, who is somebody that a lot of people think of as a fashionista, but in an accessible way. And so Mari, I am curious, you know, what is your take on this, I mean

Ms. DAVIS: Im actually Asian. Im of Asian origin, so I am actually really a truly a minority. When I saw the Vanity Fair cover, it did not really struck me as strange. And I guess thats because I know that its very politically incorrect of me to say that, but I see now theres really no majority or minority anymore. As you have seen, the president is African-American, and a lot of things have opened up because President Obama came into power.

Now politics aside, what Im trying to say also is - I am from Texas, and, okay, even if it is politically incorrect, the whites will be a minority. The Hispanics will actually be a majority in Texas. So, I think at some point in time because of that, we had become somewhat colorblind, at least, in Dallas where I live.

MARTIN: But well, if they were so go ahead Teri, but I am just curious, if we're so colorblind, why arent there any people who are not white on that cover? I am just

Ms. AGINS: Well, with this

MARTIN: I dont know, I am just go ahead Teri, whats your take on this?

Ms. AGINS: the industry has always - I mean theyve never tried to be PC and trying to like be representative and even after the whole hubbub a year or so ago about black models on the runway. And, you know, they make excuses here and there, but the fact is, is that, you know, black models are still a minority, or models of color. Youll find someone exotic here and there. Most of the shows have one or two, sometimes not even that. But, you know, thats just the way the fashion industry is. With Vanity Fair, you know, I guess because they wanted to use certain actresses it just shows theres a dearth of actresses of color that are Hollywood and so they - you know, they went that direction but, you know

MARTIN: Im sorry, how Teri, how is this possible when, lets say, Zoe Saldana is in Avatar, thats one of the films that

Ms. AGINS: Exactly.

MARTIN: Mari highlighted as having an influence on kind of fashion trends. Gabourey Sidibe, of course, is a very different kind of

Ms. AGINS: Yeah, plus size.

MARTIN: leading lady. Shes plus size, you know, not the traditional leading lady, but is nominated, has been lauded for her role in one of the hot films of the year, one of the nominated films at the Oscars. So, I guess, the question I have is do you think its Hollywood influencing the fashion industry or the fashion industry influencing Hollywood in terms of the preferred look?

Ms. AGINS: Yeah. Well, the fashion industry has always gone their own direction. I mean, they have never tried to like be necessarily inclusive. They all say that its the designers, you know, will to do something, to do their look and whatever the women that inspired them. And, you know, its still a white standard as far as theyre concerned. But if you would ask any designer they would tell you - no, no, no, its not white or black, its just the way it is. You know, its just like, these are the girls who are the It girls and thats what they use. But Im just predicting that probably in the years to come as we see weve got all these designers, for example, you got (unintelligible), you have Jason Wu, (unintelligible) all of them are minorities. And theyre some of the hot designers who are out there. And I think little by little they will start to bring in some more people of color. But its, you know, it's just the way it is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DAVIS: I mean I agree with Teri on everything that she said. But my thing is Im just going to add that this fashion industry lacks being politically incorrect because its about drama, thats actually what makes us relevant in so many ways.

MARTIN: So Mari, tell us is there a must have item, Teri said she isnt really think that theres one this year but is there something to look out for is there a hot color, just so that we can be in the know?

Ms. DAVIS: Right now, I mean, still, at what I saw actually in Europe its black still in thats what Im seeing. But theres more color because people want to be optimistic. But theres also the colors are really more I would use the word futuristic for lack of a better word, because of the influence of the sci-fi. I mean "Tron" is coming back - I mean, of course, we have "Avatar," Ive said earlier. But thats the thing - its really, its going to be very bright, very more on the neon side if we go for colors.

MARTIN: All right. Teri, what about you know anything?

Ms. AGINS: I would agree that color is a big deal because once again its novelty. And retailers want women to buy things they already have. Now, they're still saying with black because that works. Youre also still seeing a whole lot of animal prints. I mean, everywhere they cannot get enough of those. And so that will be one way to update your wardrobe and then also anything with the ruffles. I mean, ruffles is something - you see among blouses, you see them on sweaters, you see a lot of rouching and embellishment on clothes that you didn't see in the past.

And that has helped out because, you know, theyre able to do this, all this kind of interesting sewing; they're able to do it. These are couture details that they can now do commercially. So youll see some of that. And - but youll just see a lot of basics that are kind of reworked, you know, in new ways, and a lot of shine. I mean the whole idea of wearing metallics and sequins, that used to be an evening thing, and now you see them, you know, on T-shirts, on dresses that you can wear during the day. So these are items that people dont have, novelty, and that inspires women to go shopping.

MARTIN: So Terry, are you going shopping?

Ms. AGINS: Yes, Im always going shopping.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AGINS: I am a die hard fashionista and, you know, I shop the sales. Im also shopping a lot more online because its easy to get a lot of deals, you know, they have got the sample sales on RuLaLa, on Gilt Groupe, which allow us to go shopping. J.Crew has a lot of great things. But you know, Im like most consumers, Im being very, you know, picking and choosing, adding little accent pieces here and there that will make the black pencil skirt that I have look new by putting some kind of interesting top with it, not buying handbags because the hand bags are I have are fine and they'll continue to look well, good. And then also Im wearing lot of bracelets, bangle bracelets, and the new cocktail rings are really cool. I mean, you can get them from Juicy Couture, you can get them, you know, this is costume jewelery that kind of, you know, adds some punch to what you already have.

MARTIN: Okay, well, stay warm out there, tipping around in your stilletos, going from show to show

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: try not to tip over.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AGINS: Okay, for sure.

MARTIN: Teri Agins covers the fashion industry for the Wall Street Journal. Mari Davis is the editor-in-chief of the online fashion magazine Fashion Windows. They were both kind enough to join us from New York. Ladies, thank you.

Ms. AGINS: Thanks for having us.

Ms. DAVIS: Youre welcome.

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