NY designers get creative to battle recession

Wed Feb 11, 2009 5:53pm EST
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By Jan Paschal

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With recession ripping a hole in the U.S. retail industry, designers are struggling to come up with clothes women feel they can't do without as they unveil their collections at New York's fashion shows this week.

Designers at the semi-annual Fashion Week face the dual challenges of trimming their own spending on the shows while enticing penny-pinching buyers and consumers to boost their spending.

"We're counting on the industry to step up with something new," said Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising for the upscale Nordstrom Inc department stores.

Some 70 designers are showing their collections in giant tents in Manhattan for Fashion Week, which kicks off Friday. Other designers are showing collections throughout the city.

They face sinking U.S. retail sales and a devastating credit crunch, while U.S. job losses last month were the worst in 34 years. On the buying front, the International Council of Shopping Centers estimated 148,000 retail stores closed last year and another 73,000 would shut in the first half of 2009.

"Right now, it's like you're in the middle of a tsunami," said designer Diane von Furstenberg, who heads up the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

A solution, she said, is to make clothes highly appealing.

"You need to show clothes that are real friends to women, so that 'friend' will make you feel good when you open your closet," said von Furstenberg, whose flattering wrap dresses put her firmly on the fashion map in the 1970s.   Continued...