UK designers say mass retail complements business

Sun Sep 20, 2009 12:57pm EDT
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By Harriet Morris and Catherine Bosley

LONDON (Reuters) - London fashion designers say mass retailers do not necessarily undermine their business and can actually be of help, but acknowledge that they have awakened a desire among shoppers for frequent refreshing of stock.

In the past, luxury labels came up with designs that months later retailers interpreted for the general public.

But with photos available online within minutes of a fashion show ending, stores such as H&M and Topshop, have cut the time span between catwalk and store.

"It's not competitive, it's complementary," said David Cohen, managing director for the label Betty Jackson, which produces a line for department store Debenhams.

"If we were only a (high fashion) label we would be dying because we have not got the backers, we have not got the big support financially," he said, though he acknowledged that he was sometimes frustrated by chains whom he suspected of pilfering Jackson's ideas.

Traditionally, designers created two collections a year and shipped new wares for spring and fall. But mass retailers broke with this practice, attracting shoppers by varying their stock, analysts said.

This in turn put pressure on designers to come up with more collections to satisfy orders from department stores, they said.

NEED FOR NEWNESS   Continued...

<p>Models present creations from Matthew Williamson 2010 Spring/Summer collection during London Fashion Week, September 20, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>