Fashion Weeks

Trimming the fat is hardly a mantra that needs to be followed at fashion weeks, of all places, even in these straitened times. But with the recessionista having replaced the fashionista as the global chill hit haute couture, it was just a matter of time before “show-sentation” (a cross between a show and presentation) made its debut in the fashion lexicon.

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That, in essence means cutting out the show-off quotient of ramps, sets, top models and apres-show parties and getting down to the basics of wooing columnist comments and buyers’ approvals instead in smaller gatherings. In fact a company that provides backstage support such as ironing, hemming and dressing models in New York’s fashion week catwalk shows has admitted to a 25% drop in business this season.

To add to the woes of record low temperatures and snowy weather, January retail sales figures showed a 1.8% fall for the top 50 retailers in the Thomson Reuters index. And even bellwether luxury conglomerate LVMH reported a year-end slowdown in sales while recording a narrow increase in its 2008 earnings of e2 billion ($2.5 billion) over last year.

No wonder international couturiers are tightening their Gucci belts and contemplating ‘intimate’ showings, off-site venues and lower priced models. The latest is shared catwalk space, so that three designers can parade their wares in the same time slot — at a third of the price each, naturally.

There are always the mavericks, of course. Some contrarian western designers have gone back to the Excessive Eighties’ power dressing idiom for their Fall-Winter ’09 collections instead of the expected spare lines and sombre tones, and India incomprehensibly has announced yet another fashion jamboree — in Kolkata — to add to the biannual bulge of the fractious Delhi and Mumbai events.

This at a time when many of India’s top names in fashion are following the international trend forecasts and opting for just stalls instead of committing to full fledged ramp displays. Did anyone in the Naughty Noughties ever think that cutprice couture would become a byword, not an oxymoron?