Friday, October 24, 2008

what goes up must come down.

Something is happening and it's not a good thing.

Very quickly and slowly but steadily, some once very solid and powerful companies in fashion are starting to crumble. You can hear the sound of bits and pieces of things falling apart and shattering on the pavement. None of this is front page news, and hopefully will stay out of the papers for their sake, but there is a rumbling in the jungle and it's the sound of disbanding tribes.

Rumor is just that. The only problem with rumors are that they're too often based on undocumented fact or not so well kept secrets. The mill is grinding and some of whats spilling out is a bit surprising and in some cases shocking. The economy is in a downward spiral; one that will be gathering speed before leveling and starting a halting ascent. This is a fact that none of us really wants to accept. The unfortunate truth of this is telecast and written about daily in the press. One day the stock market is up up. The next several days it's down down, and down some more. The downs are outdistancing the ups. Do the math.

In former times, this sort of thing scorched those of us unlucky enough to be solidly stuck in the middle and others less fortunate. This time around everyone in some way is getting singed or fried. People I know at the top of the heap have lost large chunks of their fortunes, others don't feel a thing. Most people I know are suffering in ways they never have. From a lost sense of control, to a lost job, home, and worst of all, hope. When you add these factors into the volatile daily markets and then look at the place that the luxury market inhabits you start to see that there will be inevitable fissures that must form.

Today Oscar de la Renta opened a new boutique in Madrid. Smart move. The Euro still has buying power. Thank god the dollar is starting to crawl back and narrow the exchange rate gap between the two. Nevertheless, there are whispers that he will downsize his operation here. Namely, the design studio will be trimmed with several positions terminated. Oscar is one of the most successful houses on 7th Avenue. That isn't a good thing. Granted, it's probably prudent when you have more than you actually need, but this is a company with the means to carry some fat.

Bill Blass is all but a memory. It's not even news anymore. I saw Michael Groveman on the street the other day and said hello. I wished him well and he gave me a brave smile, but his eyes spoke volumes. The same could be said of several people exiting 550 7th on any given day. That used to have an aura of Mecca. These days people don't look quite as sure. The smokers smoke with a sense of urgency and unease. Expressions which were once blithe are more grim. One doesn't even see the phalanx of town cars and drivers double parked in front like 6 months ago. It's more ghost town than hot spot.

J.Mendel has layed off almost it's entire design studio. When you consider the beauty and exquisite collections of evening clothes they have developed over the last 5 years and consider that they have basically shut off the power , that's not a good thing. They have been one of the most visible and luxe collections on the scene and giving the old guard a run for it's money. So now what? Back to fur ,only? That's even more expensive and less accessible than their ever more expensive gowns and cocktail dresses. The spring collection was notably spare and looked cobbled together in retrospect........

There are persistent rumors that Ralph Rucci has been on the brink for months. No more couture presentations in Paris for 2 seasons now. Suppliers suggesting that bills are not being paid. Still these are some of the most expensive and extraordinary clothes to be found anywhere.

Most unsettling is the prospect of a powerhouse like Dolce and Gabbana pulling back the reins.I hear that they have not rehired the CEO who was let go. The NYC showroom is being seriously downsized and is moving to much smaller digs downtown . There is talk that the company is headed for a serious restructuring. Not good news.

What could be considered good news in all of this is that a reality check is finally in the air. Everyone is starting to rethink how life and work should function. Up Up Up is the Icarus theory. Fly too close to the sun and SPF2000 isn't going to protect you. The wake up call is ringing and Snooze control no longer functions. We all better rethink and regroup and re prioritize while we have the luxury of very little time to do it. I for one want to weather this storm. I would imagine most people would. Responsible decisions and actions were never more important as they are this very moment.

One would do well not to heed the siren's call and step away from the cliff's edge.

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