Duckie Brown designersSteven Cox and Daniel Silver.
New York Fashion Week has become a bastion for young designers who become overnight sensations. But this year, the economy is throwing young designers out in the cold ocean with barely a buoy to keep them afloat in the harsh reality of These Times. Even so, at least 100 of the 200 labels showing at Fashion Week originated in just the last ten years. With retailers shrinking orders by as much as 20 percent, lesser-known labels are the first to get the boot. Financing is increasingly hard to come by, but those who have it aren't safe, either. Investors are parting with young labels, as was the case with Peter Som and Obedient Sons and Daughters. This season, a whole legion of young labels is trying to weather the sinking economic ship like Kate Winslet on a scrap of driftwood, rather than sinking like Leonardo DiCaprio.
These designers are looking for ways to cut costs, like sharing showrooms or pattern-makers. Menswear label Duckie Brown is using fabric left over from three or four years ago. Tim Hamilton will show retailers basics that cost about $100 less than his normal stuff. Vena Cava just won $50,000 as part of their CFDA/Vogue fashion fund prize. However, they're not blowing it all on grand attempts to actually grow their business. That would be foolish. Instead, they're focusing on small brand-building efforts, like trunk shows, and starting a blog (welcome to the 'sphere, ladies!).
Some labels are lucky enough to have sponsors cover the costs of their shows. Expect the unexpected this season: generic breath mints, Evian water, York peppermint patties, and Chambord are de rigueur in the tents, but this season, McDonald's is getting in on the action, sponsoring Duckie Brown's show in exchange for the brand's promoting McCafe coffee products backstage. Steven Cox, one half of the Duckie Brown design duo, worked at McDonald's when he was a teenager and his experience will appear as a "McStory" in the show program. This season is not about egos — it's about sacrifices. You might be on the driftwood instead of the raft, but at least you'll survive.
The Make or Break Season [NYT]
Read more posts by Amy Odell