CFDA Weighs In on Industry Issues at First Town Hall Meeting

July 29, 2009 • Fashion

CFDA Diane Von Furstenberg speaks at the meeting at the Fashion Institute of Technology yesterday

Yesterday was the first official town hall meeting held by members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The topic for discussion was intended to be New York's upcoming fashion week and with that, the relevance of the impending runway shows and whether they should be targeted primarily at consumers or the industry. But that topic quickly got overshadowed by the designers in attendance filing their grievances about the current state of the fashion and retail system. Everything from heavy discounting to early deliveries to the disconnect between runway looks and store inventory was approached, all touching on the underlying theme that the industry may be starting to unravel. But CFDA president Diane Von Furstenberg maintained an optimistic view of the future despite the rough economic times and encouraged the meeting's attendants to do so as well. “There is no way when you are in the middle of a tsunami that you
can change absolutely everything. But one thing that we can do and that I would like to do is
make New York Fashion Week the most dynamic fashion week in the world.

It was Von Furstenberg's idea to hold the meeting in the first place, having brainstormed extensively with retailers, designers, and editors on how best to sort out the industry's current concerns. She realized it was time to address the issues directly, in an environment where every one could voice their own ideas on how to find a solution for when the economy rebounds after the recession. Von Furstenberg herself brought up the point that the fashion industry had become greedy, wanting more merchandise and more increases and had lost their focus on the actual consumer. Getting back to the roots of customer service was vital, she said, in saving a label's livelihood. Her point was echoed by Roopal Patel, women’s fashion accessory senior market editor at Neiman Marcus, who suggested, "Get to know your client. Get into the dressing room with them. Any
little thing you do to help support that sale won’t go unnoticed and it
will definitely come back to help your final business.”

CFDA member Donna Karan speaks at the CFDA meeting yesterday

Other breakthroughs came from designers like Donna Karan, who admitted flat out, “We are in a crisis, there’s no question about it.” Karan, a longtime believer in showing and selling clothes in season, suggested that the timeliness of runway shows and inventory be considered in relation to the clientele. “We design for the consumer, and right now, I believe the consumer is
completely confused
,” Karan said, making the point that shoppers don’t know whether
they were looking at a pre-season, a fall season, or something else entirely. Calvin Klein Inc. president and chief executive officer Tom Murry suggested moving up delivery dates works in favor of the retailer or designer because it prevents oversupply, a common problem in the U.S. market. Murray noted that taking cues from the European methods of delivering would be helpful, which are closer to an as-needed basis and “that’s why they’re still making money and we aren’t." And designer Elie Tahari noted that for the past two months, his company has shipped
wear-now products instead of pre-fall and as a result, his sell-throughs
have doubled and tripled. “Business is actually great for us. We have
changed things, so it’s about shipping clothes that you can buy and
wear right away,” he said.

Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour

Through the multitude of ideas that were offered, similar themes resurfaced on the importance of reconnecting with consumers, an philosophy that has already been used in planning New York's pre-fashion week festival, "Fashion's Night Out."
Anna Wintour, Vogue's editor-in-chief, suggested
forming a committee that could potentially create ground rules on
setting a start date for stores to discount merchandise. When an
audience member noted that may not be legal, the Vogue editor
said, “Well, is that something we can change? We have friends in the
White House now.
” Despite some of the weaker suggestions, the overall outcome of the meeting was beneficial in that it got various industry influences putting their heads together to try and find a solution for this common cause.

Article Source: WWD

Photo Source: WWD, newyorkmag

-Alia Rajput

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One Response to CFDA Weighs In on Industry Issues at First Town Hall Meeting

  1. Mandi says:

    Love the green dress that the editor is wearing!

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