Recession creates new trend in fashion shopping

Thu Sep 9, 2010 5:23pm EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. recession has changed how people shop for fashion, with an eye for special pieces rather than trusty wardrobe basics, and top retail buyers say this trend is likely to last beyond an economic recovery.

As Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week begins in New York on Thursday, fashion directors from such high-end stores as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus say they will be on the lookout for eye-catching collections to wow customers.

After a dismal 2009, retail sales have improved every month for the past year, but consumer confidence has been slow to recover and is only half as strong as at the start of 2008. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity and is considered critical to the recovery.

"We have seen a change in the way that customers shop as a result of the economic climate that we have been in, and I see that trend continuing," said Colleen Sherin, fashion market director for Saks.

"Women are not necessarily looking for basics ... they're looking for wow pieces, something that inspires more of an emotional reaction," she said. "They are looking for value. They're looking for quality at a price."

Even classic, basic pieces such as a white shirt are being reinterpreted to appeal to customers, with perhaps a dramatic new collar or interesting cuff details, Sherin said.

More than 90 designers will show at New York Fashion Week's new headquarters on Manhattan's Upper West Side, up about 50 percent from the last two seasons in February and September. Countless more show in other venues around the city. The New York shows are followed by shows in London, Milan and Paris.

"SHE WANTS FASHION"   Continued...

<p>A woman applies lipstick as she arrives at the Lincoln Center to attend the New York Fashion Week, September 9, 2010. REUTERS/Kena Betancur</p>