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Fashion's Own Sense of Season

By Genevieve Tax : Wed, Feb 24, 2010 Share [+]

How the fashion industry, which works on a schedule of its own, may be causing some inconveniences for real-world shoppers.

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New York Fashion Show

Fashion ignores safety, comfort, and common sense. A guaranteed attractant for millions of vacuous minds.
-Duane Alan Hahn

T

o a few, fashion is a religion – and Anna Wintour, long-time editor of Vogue, the Pope.

So it only makes sense that when Fashion Week rolls around each February, instead of it – sincerely – being considered a showcase event, which it essentially is, it's exalted as a celebration of sorts, a festival of religious importance.

"Fashion Week brings excitement, glamour, and feelings of happiness to us all," exclaimed Patricia Field, a past Oscar nominated costume designer (Devil Wears Prada) who attended the annual week long event last week.

During what can in some years be a most brutal winter month, designers, photographers, editors, and wealthy socialites of status gather in midtown's Bryant Park to geek and gawk, in an orgy of sorts, at the new designs that are set to be released next fall.

With flashing cameras shooting legions of models by day, and +21 bottles popping throughout exclusive parties by night, fashion, if not the design of it, serves as much of an art and lifestyle as it does a business and industry to those few who dedicate their lives to the practice.

What happens, as a result, is the creation of a unique time-frame, a peculiar seasonal schedule under which the industry works, producing or retracting its goods independent of what would otherwise be the practical demands of real-world economic markets and, more importantly, seasonal weather conditions.

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C

ultivating a completely unique seasonal set of its own, the fashion industry inevitably forces powerless retailers to scrap all remains of the past season's wear, replacing winter clothes with spring wear several months earlier than what would be ideal for the ordinary clothing consumer.

Take Allie Schmider, a sophomore at New York University, for example, who found the industry's distinct schedule to be most inconvenient, if not nonsensical.

Waiting until the last possible moment to score some proper winter gear, like many others, she learned the hard way that it's either fashion's way or, well, the cold way.

"I'm from Orange County," she said. "I guess my procrastination was partly based on wishful thinking." Either that, or she didn't expect retailers to be as "in season", by the fashion world's standards, as they claim to be.

After receiving word of a most daunting forecast – a week of possible snow – Schmider decided to head to Manhattan's garment district, Macy's to be exact, thinking that finding a pair of boots would be the easiest thing in the world.

Macy's, even on a slow day, can be a daunting place for the timid, out-of-the-loop shopper. One can only imagine, therefore, what the iconic Herald Square institution would be like the day before a snowstorm.

After fifteen minutes spent attempting to locate the shoe department while navigating through hoards of people, Schmider was initially relieved at spotting some footwear. She proceeded to weave through the display cases of jeweled flipflops, strappy gladiator sandals, and brightly colored flats cheerful, until she realized that there was not a single pair of boots in sight.

Schmider, ever the optimist, was sure that there must be some snow boots somewhere. She was, after all, in the world's largest department store in the dead of winter.

So she found the first grumpy, apathetic salesperson she could get her hands on.

... consumers had
changed their
purchasing habits
based on the
cycles of the
fashion industry.

"When I asked her where they kept their winter boots, she literally laughed in my face and told me they hadn't had them in stock since mid January," she said. After digging through piles of disorganized clearance footwear, the only semi-appropriate shoes to be found were hot pink, faux fur trimmed and a size six. Much to Schmider's frustration, the cheerless salesperson was right, and not just about boots. Scarves, hats, and gloves had all been in stock since early September and sold long before February had come around.

"It just seemed so weird to me, coming from the west coast," said Schmider. "Do people around here really start thinking about snow boots more than a month before Halloween? And then it's the day before what's supposed to be one of the biggest snow storms in years and there isn't a damn scarf to be found. Only miniskirts and tank tops."

She returned home that Wednesday chilly, dejected, and confused about the whole concept of supply and demand, or in the fashion industry's particular case, the neglecting of it.

After talking to a few friends more experienced with the ins and outs of seasonal shopping, Schmider realized that consumers had changed their purchasing habits based on the cycles of the fashion industry.

Because designers release their fall collections in the spring and their spring collections in the fall, fashion magazines such as Vogue always and only look forward to the upcoming season, promoting parkas come September while issuing reviews on shorts in January.

Savvy shoppers, consequently, have been conditioned to be extremely, perhaps impractically, farsighted with their buying, while those like Schmider, who shop on a need-to-have basis, are unfortunately left with the frost-bitten ears and soaking socks we all try so hard to avoid during winter's worst weather. End.

Photo courtesy: Peter Duhon

* * * *

Genevieve Tax is The New Islander's Fashion and Features editor. She's currently studying fashion and journalism at NYU.

 

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