Saturday, February 7, 2009

God doesn't have a favorite Design House

I keep reading that a savior or the Messiah needs to sit in the front row of the collections which debut next week. Many consider that person to be Michelle Obama. Again and again, one reads that if she were to grace the front row it would send a message to the world that she will wave a magic wand and turn around this ailing industry. If only it were so simple. The truth is that it isn't her job, obligation or responsibility to do this. More so, it's not going to make any sort of difference. And most importantly, Mrs. Obama has more integrity and sense of purpose . The job of turning this situation around rests on all of OUR shoulders.

WWD wrote this week regarding the Credit Rating downgrades of several major department stores.This was not a surprise but still shocking. When that list included Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue,Macy's and Nordstrom's, that pretty much killed the concept of their majority. These retailers have been the backbone of the American retail landscape as we've known it. There is a fundamental paradigm shift in the minds of the modern consumer..... they no longer consume.

When you consider this bitterly cold , hard fact you have to question the point of NY Fashion week. What does it hope to accomplish? How will it change and alter the prevailing mood? The solutions to this stalemate are a mystery ,but also very simple. You/we/all of us who can, must make a concerted effort to try to do something.Fashion is just one small facet of this struggling economy. There are many more grave situations that make this seem petty and frivolous. Nevertheless, it is an industry that many of us work in, have given our lives to and have been sustained by. The effort needs to come from us. Those of us who can in some small or larger way must take that step.

Like sit-ins in the 60's , we should stage SHOP-INS. They can be anywhere at any time. Get some friends together, it's more fun and effective in numbers, and go to a store and buy something. Hit the sale racks and get something useful. It could be as small as a lipstick or as big as a great gown that has been marked down to the ground. If we did this in stores of all levels once or twice a month or more and kept it up for a solid year, we might see a shift. That means 25 to 50 purchases over the next year for each of us. If some of those purchases are at full price for the fortunate ones who can afford it, then even better.

Perhaps Michelle Obama's wisest gesture is to make a point of purchasing the clothes she wears whether privately or publicly. THAT would be an example for all ....yes, that includes you too, CELEBRITIES.


Christa Weil said...

Your message to celebs is timely, and genius. Yes, the freebies should stop. I don't think it's a stretch to say that it's a patriotic duty for those who can afford to pay to actually do so.

And the department stores would be very wise to reconsider their roles in favor of educating consumers, much as the great universities do. I'm not a natural retail shopper but I would go into these stores if I thought I'd learn something. The designers can play a role as well--speaking about their lines and the inspiration behind them. Go retail!!

Anonymous said...

What I expect of Michelle Obama is that she be a visible advocate of those causes she thinks are important. So far, she has not disappointed in that we know more about her projects after two weeks--military families, education, equal pay for all--than we know about Laura Bush after 8 years (other than her perpetual role as apologist for her husband). Obviously, the more visible Mrs. Obama chooses to be, the more her wardrobe will be studied, emulated, etc. And so far she has paid for everything!

One aspect of this election that has given so many people hope is that just 5 years ago the Obamas were middle class people sharing the same concerns about jobs, health care, education. Michelle earned the main salary in the family. Neither Obama was handed a silver spoon.

As for shopping, I think the scale and efficiency of manufacturing will be its own undoing (ever watched "How It's Made" on Discovery? Ten thousand Pucci rain boots churned out every day.). We can lay this at the door of public companies' relentless pursuit of profit, all other considerations be damned.

So I am buying, but I am buying with an eye to quality construction, materials and place of origin. For instance, last fall I sought out all of the Harris Tweed pieces I could find because that small industry is on the brink of disappearing forever, and no one makes tweed fabric as rich and beautiful. If Harris tweed survives, it will be because the state stepped in to support it, not because of shoppers.

Low prices and too-abundant choices make it easy to neglect quality materials and workmanship. Some brands (are you listening, Prada leather goods) have dumped the quality while still maintaining the high prices.

Finally, your last line made me laugh out loud. One can hope!

Anonymous said...

Anjo dropping in again- poor Michelle, who appointed her the Savoir of fashion ? I'm afraid an appearance by her would do more harm than could, you can imagine how her husband's opponents would spin it.

There is no silver bullet. Many have gone out of business already and more are going to. I'm frightened for the people who are going to lose their jobs but these are the cold hard facts of an implosion. I hope your business will make it through.

On a cheerier note, any chance of you making it to Paris in the next month for the fabric shows or whatnot ?

Anonymous said...

Though perhaps this is just me feeling panicky after having heard what Geithner had to say. I hate to be the one shrieking from the peanut gallery, my poor little brain is much too small to understand these vastly complicated economic problems. Unfortunately it seems his may be as well.

Fluff Chance said...

Dear Kind Anjo,
I will pass on Paris this season. I want very much to meet. I will keep you posted. Thanks for the hello, and you are horrifically right. So many are on the edge. Stay in touch. I will. fluff