New York's High Fashion Reflects Economic Woes
SCOTT SIMON, host:
It's fashion week in New York's Bryant Park. The Fall 2008 design is being showcased on the runways, but there's signs that the economy downturn is affecting the fashion world, even the most high-end designers, whose luxury goods are supposed to be more or less immune to economic shifts. Robert Burke is a fashion consultant in New York. He's been attending events in Bryant Park. By the way, our New York Bureau overlooks the park and that's where Mr. Burke joins us. Thanks very much for being with us.
Mr. ROBERT BURKE (Fashion Consultant, New York, New York): Sure, happy to be with you.
SIMON: So are the parties less posh? Are the runway shows less glitzy?
Mr. BURKE: So much is around the psychological state of the shopper. As a result, the runway shows are a little more sober, not nearly as dramatic. People are wondering whether they should really strive to do something incredibly new or be safe.
SIMON: I read an extraordinary quote from Michael Kors in the New York Times this week. He said, quote, "These days it is a badge of honor to wear an outfit more than once."
Mr. BURKE: Well, Michael's good for his soundbites and that's a good one. Yeah, I think that the consumer's going to be a lot more discriminating and really think twice before they make a major purchase. And if they do, they're going to use it several times.
SIMON: Now with that in mind, does that necessarily mean that they conceive of the design differently or use different materials, you know, corduroy or something?
Mr. BURKE: Well, I think what it does is it pushes the designers to be better. You know, it's going to be more competitive this season, there's absolutely no doubt. And so I think in the end, the consumer's going to win out. You're going to see better designs, more competitive prices, and for the designs that are being made in the U.S., there's a huge advantage because of the weak dollar.
SIMON: Do you foresee more high end designers setting up shop and doing business with major retailers, as we've seen with Wal-Mart, Target, other chains like that?
Mr. BURKE: Well, you know, designer collaborations at all levels today are more popular, and in a sense design at the high end has become more democratic, so it's not an either or anymore. It's not about you can only be in the high-end or you can only be in the low-end. Today, the consumer's just as likely to mix something they bought at Target with something that they bought at Saks Fifth Avenue.
SIMON: Is there even a reverse chic that might develop? I mean are there people that say at society functions in New York who will probably say, oh this? I got it at Target?
Mr. BURKE: I think that we have really sensed that in the last six months or a year that people are really necessarily enjoying bragging rights on how much money they spent, but in essence, how little they spent and what a smart shopper they really are.
SIMON: Anything you've seen that particularly impresses you this year, Mr. Burke?
Mr. BURKE: There's a real play on color and sometimes people say, you know, when the economy is not good, you should be a little more safe, and I think that really playing up on color is a very positive thing. So we're seeing colored shoes, even for fall, colored handbags, and I think that is a very positive thing. A sea of black clothes right now is not going to lift anyone's spirits.
SIMON: Robert Burke, fashion consultant in New York, thanks very much.
Mr. BURKE: Thank you.
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