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garment districtSo just how important is Fashion Week to the business of Fashion?    According to the numbers that the NYC Tourism Bureau released – very important.   New York Fashion Week contributes more revenue to the city than any other annual event in the NY Metro area. New York is much more than the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, baseball and football games, the theatre and concerts. Restaurants, taxi cabs, hotels and even street vendors experience a major lift in their businesses when Fashion Week is in full swing. The short-term objective for Fashion Week – to drive sales for the local businesses and it is always a resounding success.

What about the national retail community? Do the “looks” that march down the runway actually make it in-store and influence the consumer buy the new product? The answer is yes all around. As it is observed, the annual evolution in how the brands and designers utilize Fashion Week as a platform, we find the runway is becoming more accessible to the consumer. They have more access to the shows via the media and internet allowing them to view the shows first-hand. This component, part of the larger strategy for the more cutting-edge designers and brands to connect with their consumer rather than the couture fashion crowd, is working.

The use of unwearable fashion is not unknown or obsolete, but the smartest brands and designers today find a way to get the right balance to be able to sell10419934_10202328813157373_1943406745_n the brand to the retailer as well as to the consumer. Fashion is relevant again. Men have already shown signs that image matters by their desire to invest in their wardrobes to look good. Women were missing in action the past few years but in the past four months they have started to update their tired wardrobes to show a renewed fashion sense. This year, Fashion Week has elevated retailers and brands in the eye of the consumers and as a result, got them back in the game,

You might think that none of the goings on in New York’s Fashion Week would have any importance or impact on anyone or anything. The premise is most definitely wrong given the current economy.   This semi-annual event, properly called the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, is held twice a year in February and September. There also are several other fashion weeks to consider at this time of year, those are located in Paris, London and Milan. (I was fortunate to be in Milan not that long ago and had the opportunity to take in some fashion week events.)

What I find surprising is something that is seen on the catwalks at Fashion Week will ultimately be seen in drugstores within a week or over the following months. An example of this would definitely be the rise of the purchase of nail polish and manicures and/or pedicures.

06zCELEBS1_SPAN-articleLargeWhat I find surprising is something that is seen on the catwalks at Fashion Week will ultimately be seen in in the drug store aisles within weeks or months.   The styles of such manicures and pedicures will be seen in salons within a matter of days, if not hours, after Fashion Week. The designers supply nail polish manufacturers with new colors, plenty of publicity in addition to catchy product names that are sure to get a response from not only single ladies, but   Suzie Home Maker in Anytown, USA.

The manufacturers of items such as make-up, nail polish, and the many other accruements of the fashion industry are major supporters of the runway shows simply because of the marketing value of the show.   Bloggers\, photographers and beauty editors are routinely backstage documenting the use of the company’s products.   It’s a genuine endorsement and not placement of the product along with unimaginable press coverage in any other venues to the benefit(s) in all of the industry.

Per the New York Times, the companies that cater to Hometown, USA are watching Fashion Week with keen interest.   Those buyers that are responsible for beauty products in many of the drugstore chains (i.e., CVS Caremark Corporation and Walgreen’s) firmly believe in the importance of their companies to do this.     The trends brought to light at such events more than likely will influence the stores aisles in the near future. CVS alone has said that they have seen a double digit percent gain in nail polish alone because of the trends that arise from Fashion Week. CVS now places its nail polish displays in strategic places around the store in an effort to catch the eye of impulse shoppers.

In many areas that are associated with the market, Fashion Week sets trends that will benefit the small, mid-size and large businesses not only in the United States but around the world as well.

During the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, New York City and the upscale areas surrounding Lincoln Center are taken over by designers, fashionistas and210 celebrities. The parties, the runway shows and the atmosphere of the events embody the glamorous style of America’s fashion industry.  While award-winning DJs spin an eclectic mix of techno tunes and old-time favorites, the crowd waits for new seasonal looks to be unveiled. The colors, the prints, the textures and the graceful lines dictate the seasonal style. Fashion Week is where styles are born and the fate of trends is decided.

 Since its inception in the 1940s, New York Fashion Week was a way for domestic fashion houses and ateliers to compete against established brands in Milan, Paris and London. Today, the theaters, studios and stages of Lincoln Center and venues across the city are filled with the noises of camera flashes, electronic music and excited chatter as the public waits for the grand unveiling.

 This eight-day event covers the entire fashion spectrum and takes place in a wide variety of venues across the city. Stalwarts of the industry show their collections alongside up-and-comers who are prepared to make their mark.

Increasingly, the fashion industry is coming under steady pressure to widen the spectrum of beauty ideals.   Many Ad campaigns have called a great deal of the beauty standards unrealistic, and many of the major department stores have begun adding plus size models. New York’s recent child model laws are designed to protect all models under 18 from exploitation.

05fashion-13But there’s still plenty of room for more inclusion.   People with disabilities are an untapped consumer market in terms of fashion, they read the magazines, shop in stores, but nothing is ever pitched to them. And I find this very wrong.

On the first day of the recent New York Fashion Week, one designer in particular seemed to understand by deciding decided to shake things up and feature the first person to “walk” the runway in a wheelchair. The designer, made the decision to cast ‘role models not runway models. It is so important that women have positive body image and are empowered in work and their life. People with disabilities need to see it. It’s a confidence booster. It’s like, ‘if she’s doing it, I can do it. Who cares about my wheelchair?'”   The model was thrilled to be on the runway and felt natural and confident.

Other designers are also starting to reach out to people who love shopping and fashion, but feel excluded.   In February 2014 DKNY also used “real people” on the runway alongside professional models.   Also in January 2014, Diesel, the Italian ready-to-wear design company, rocked the industry with its “We are Connected” campaign, featuring 26-year-old Jillian Mercado in one ad. “Just because we have a disability doesn’t mean we have to stay home and hide away from the world,” said Mercado, executive editorial director of We The Urban Magazine, a fashion magazine based in New York.

Mercado, who was diagnosed with spastic muscular dystrophy at age 12, has also loved fashion since a young age. “I wanted to be in the fashion industry before even knowing what the fashion industry was.”   Mercado, who uses a wheelchair, attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, earning a degree in fashion merchandising management. “It kind of blows my mind that when I first started [in the industry] I didn’t have anyone to look up to and model after.”

Mercado said her time in the spotlight of the Diesel ad was a “blessing in disguise.”   At first she was scared and “prepared for the worst” from people who “sit behind computers” and troll the Internet spraying abusive comments. However, after the ad ran she found an inspiring outpouring of support. “Now that I have this opportunity, that the spotlight is on me, I have the obligation to tell the world there are people like me.”

The push to diversify role models is showing up in a variety of media.

For the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the advocacy group Pro Infirmis teamed up with Bahnhofstrasse (the upscale shopping street in Zurich, Switzerland) to display mannequins who were modeled on real-life people with disabilities. An emotional video of each person seeing him/herself as a mannequin in an actual store window quickly went viral..

This is progress; it is past time to include people of all ethnicities, sizes, and shapes.   It’s past time to include people with disabilities.   And this is just the beginning.

Kathy Kiefer

Sure-com America launched the hashtag #BEFOUNDED



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