Designers must fashion the urge to splurge: buyers

Thu Sep 17, 2009 8:29am EDT
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By Catherine Bosley and Basmah Fahim

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Designers must innovate to attract recession-hit shoppers and create the kinds of upbeat and colorful collections that will lure spenders, retail buyers said as they head into London Fashion Week.

London, famous for producing some of the world's most avant garde designers and termed the "capital of quirk" by one buyer, is holding its 25th anniversary fashion week from September 18-22.

The European luxury market has declined by nearly 6 percent to about 81 billion euros ($119.5 billion) this year compared with 2008, and first-quarter sales were particularly devastated by the recession, Verdict Research said.

But representatives of luxury London department stores Liberty and Harrods said shoppers were still willing to open their wallets, provided the items seemed worth the expense.

"Buyers are being far more selective. They're making sure that if they buy an item of clothing, it's got a 'wow' factor," said Marigay McKee, who heads a team of 22 buyers at Harrods.

"What is really driving our sales is this desirability factor for exclusives. If something is exclusive, they want it, however expensive."

Ed Burstell, chief buyer at Liberty, a black-and-white half-timbered building off London's bustling Oxford Circus retail corridor, offered a similar view.

"If you do everything the same way as you've done before then you really shouldn't be surprised why business isn't happening," he said. "If you recognize that it's a different time and you innovate (you can) actually make business happen."   Continued...