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Thinning The Fashion Herd

Sigrid at New York Models is the New Lasting  Model IdealSigrid at New York Models is the New Lasting Model Ideal

Paris is concluded, the smoke is starting to clear and as TI sits shell-shocked by the economic news in America these days, the superficial mind turns to what all that means for the fashion world. Will it mean plunging rates, limited access to credit and the return of the safe and sell-able "commercial" beauty? Well yes.
One Hiss Squader whispered to TI today that some money clients are already slashing those already slashed rates to the agencies. One huge department store just cancelled shooting its Christmas catalog. The talk is churning that those modeling agencies without deep pocketed backers or those lucrative long-term contracts which have now come to mean everything in the trade, are bracing themselves for a brutal downturn in the volume of bookings. If consumers stops buying (and the suspicion is the first thing they're going to stop buying is the idea of blatant and idle "luxury" ) and those quarterly reports keep dipping, then the bread and butter clients are going to have to re-think not only those rates but the kind of girls they gamble on to move product.
Last season saw the much vaunted "Return Of the Supermodel" for brands ranging from YSL (Naomi) to Chanel (Claudia), Prada (Linda), Ferragamo (Claudia again), and Vuitton (Eva) . Will SS 09 see those icons in a return engagement, or will they be simply too expensive for the budget? Will those blue chip brands switch lanes and jump to those fresh new faces who may lack recognizability but boast affordability ? As the SS 09 season concluded, I noticed that as much as 25 very promising new faces had flowed from hundreds of mother agencies onto the runways of Milan and Paris. Of that crowd, who will prove to be more than neutral clothes hangers floating up and down an over-lit catwalk?
Or perhaps the production budget is better spent on that celebrity (and those might be more of a bargain than we suspect) who is guaranteed to bring a certain degree of media heat to the brand. One of the strangest things I experienced in Paris was the steady chorus of agency owners testifying to their new-found love of their freshly launched celebrity division. Celebrities ? In the sanctum sanctorium of the highest degree of fashion. That struck me as the story of the week. That, and something a manager at IMG Paris said . On the subject of who their hottest new faces were I was told "The problem is not getting a buzz on the girl. There's a lot of places you can do that at now. The thing is to keep the girl going season, after season". She's right. As clients we've all benefited from a model market clogged with too many girls. Is this month's Vogue Paris cover girl not available? Well 4 girls of equal value are a phone call away.
What I wouldn't give to sit in on one of those production meetings for the SS 09 campaigns . Fashion's creative class has a big decision to make. That is namely, how to make disposable products desirable in an age when people are worried about the roof over their heads and the future of that money in the bank. The brands can't suspend their programming for the season, in the same way the clothes on the runway this season paid no heed to those tremors of troubled times that have been sounding since the summer. And I cannot imagine a season of advertising with a more blatant placement of bags that what we weathered for Fall/Winter 2008. Go leaf through your favorite magazine right now. Notice how the model has been reduced to sleek bag juggler in those spots for Dior , Miu-Miu, Valentino, Longchamp, YSL, Prada, Gucci, Vuitton and best of all Mulberry. It has become the trait of a great model that you don't quite notice that she is slapping you in the face with her luxury bag. With the bad models, all you notice is her awkward way with ...the bag.
And maybe that's the thing. Perhaps what will NOT sell, right this minute is the proposition of disposable. Maybe its time to stop throwing away last season's shoes, bags, girls and "hot-young-designers". Perhaps the only way to survive as both consumer and producer is the marketing of products that have a long term value. Expect "Classic" "Timeless" "Long term" "Stable" to be the words that resonate to a traumatized consumer right now.
One thing is certain and that is the glut that the fashion industry has been suffering - that glut of designers, magazines, models, stylists- that over spill of fashion shows and fashion parties and after-parties will get the brutal, brutal edit it needs. There's been a lot of everything in recent years and all the illusions and delusions that spew in their wake. Tough times will thin the herd. May the fittest survive.

Taste is a dictatorship.


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