by Liz Hester
On a recent trip to New York, I was sitting out a two-hour plane delay watching the U.S. Open and drinking a beer.
Half of the screens in the bar were tuned into the NFL’s opening game. What follows is my best reconstruction of the conversation between two guys standing behind me:
Guy 1: Move it, move it, move it….they’ve got to get the ball down the field!
Guy 2: Run! Run!
Guy 1: Did you see (insert important designer name) and the new collection?
Guy 2: No, but it’s hard with football and fashion….
Guy 1: I know! They really should delay Fashion Week until after the NFL season starts.
Guy 2: Actually, they should just delay the NFL start until after Fashion Week.
Guy 1: So true.
My first thought was, “Seriously?” My second was, “I don’t know any man who would beg to delay the start of football for clothes.”
And then it hit me: fashion is now a huge spectator sport, which makes it big business, and big for business journalism.
The Wall Street Journal has an entire Fashion section – at least online. Its WSJ. magazine is very fashion-centric. The paper’s PR staff even sent out a release Thursday detailing its plans for Fashion Week coverage, which ranges from video packages to blogs to Twitter feeds and, oh yeah, a dedicated URL — http://wsj.com/fashionweek.
The New York Times devotes two sections a week to Style and typically covers the shows in Paris, London, Milan and New York.
Just take a look at the numbers for New York’s version of Fashion Week compiled by The Guardian. That’s $20 million funneling into the local economy. It’s estimated that women’s fashion will be a $620 billion industry in 2014.
There’s even a global series of events to promote the culture of spending called Fashion’s Night Out. Held across the globe, the event started in 2009 by Vogue’s Anna Wintour, showcases designers and draws thousands to stores. As the Associated Press reported:
On Twitter, Fashion’s Night Out’s hashtag, (hash)FNO, was one of the top trending keywords. Laura Ashley tweeted about goodie bags while designer shoe label Christian Louboutin shared a special Fashion’s Night Out Spotify playlist.
Kelly Talamas, director of Vogue Mexico & Latin America, said that last year’s Fashion’s Night Out boosted local sales. For its second year, Fashion’s Night Out Mexico more than doubled the number of participating stores, to 250 from 100 in 2011. FNO Mexico will also expand to the Mexican city of Guadalajara, where activities will be held Sept. 13.
But it’s not just the mega stores and brands that are now getting in on the action. Recently, the Journal wrote a story about the increasing pace of young fashion designers putting out collections:
The voracious appetite for newness from retailers, fashion magazines and the fashion blogosphere is also pushing younger designer labels to grow up much faster than labels that launched in the 1980s and ’90s. Unlike other industries, it isn’t production breakthroughs spurring the pace of product launches. Instead, the change is more about the style sector’s lightning-speed buzz factor: Today’s wannabe is tomorrow’s in-demand designer who is increasingly striking with new lines while the iron is hot.
Decreasing the cycle and putting out more items spurs consumers to purchase more in order to stay on top of the trends. And none of that really includes knock-offs and the huge market for cheaply made goods emulating top designers’ looks.
But it seems, the only way to make money in fashion is to mass-produce it. Adam Davidson’s piece in the Times magazine about what goes into a $4,000 bespoke suit points out that makes of custom, labor-intensive items aren’t getting rich off their work. But Marc Jacobs is worth about $100 million.
And fashion houses will do a lot to protect their income, brands and images. Covering the recent court case between Christian Louboutin SA and Yves Saint Laurent over the use of red soles, WSJ’s Chad Bray writes:
The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday found that Louboutin had the right to trademark protection for its red soles, as long as they contrasted with the rest of the shoe. However, the ruling, while in its favor, fell short of Louboutin’s goal of keeping YSL’s red-soled, monochrome shoe off the market.
Given the number of women buying shoes as status symbols, it could cost Louboutin thousands of dollars in sales if YSL takes some of their business. Or it could be that women will decide they want shoes with blue soles.
It’s hard to say, but what’s sure is that people will continue to buy, and that’s good for business.