Thursday, September 03, 2009

The September Issue

I’ve just seen the new film featuring Anna Wintour and the process of making the September 2007 issue of the US Vogue. While many discussions have been focused on Anna Wintour the editor, the movie, along with all the concerted efforts to promote fashion in recent months, has exposed fashion’s fragile status in the new deleveraging world.

Vogue has been extremely influential in the fashion world, and the movie showed us the behind the scene story. In one of the retailer breakfast events, Anna commented that they have talked to Mrs. Prada about making a lighter weight jacket so that it’s more wearable. I was a little surprised by the degree in which Vogue is involved in the commercial process and I was actually very impressed by Anna’s influence. In situations like this, Anna is a spokes person creating a win-win situation for both the consumer and designer.

Have you wondered about the release time of this film? This movie is about the making of the September 2007 issue. Why did they wait for two years to release the film? It’s clearly a carefully chosen time as the world experienced a financial earthquake late last year. We’ve all heard of the stories, the 75% off sale at Saks, the series of department stores getting liquidated, delinquent shopping malls and the drained home equity lines as financial resources. What Vogue is trying to do now is to push the market again, but in a stronger force and from a wider angle. This campaign is not about a jacket or fur, instead, it’s about sending people back to the stores again.

Indeed, Vogue is hosting a “Fashion’s Night Out” event on September 10th and even the mayor is participating. (Anna stalkers, she will appear in a Macy’s event in Queens with mayor Bloomberg.) In addition to the release of the film, the September 2009 issue has just hit the magazine stands. As you might have noticed, this issue includes a lot more affordable pieces to make the magazine more relevant. Anna also appeared on the David Letterman show to promote fashion. (No, I don’t think that Anna accepted the invitation to promote herself.)

It’s nice to see all the events leading to the fall fashion scene. At the same time, I feel that Anna is worried and the fashion industry is worried. After laughing at Andre Leon Talley’s tennis moves and the camera man’s belly, I smelled desperation and little irony in the film. (Did I say I strongly recommend it?) After all, it is the consumers who feed the entire fashion industry including Vogue and Anna. Where is the money when people don’t shop?

No matter how hard they try, it’s going to be another tough season for the retailers before it gets better the next spring. I’m one of the pessimists who are convinced that the consumers are still deleveraging. With the rising saving rate, disposable income dedicated to fashion will continue to decrease. That means designers will have to edit further and produce less.

The fashion industry is lucky that there are magazines like Vogue actively involved in the commercial process. I’ve been spending the past year decorating our condo, and it’s my feeling that the same push by the magazine editors doesn’t exist in the home “fashion” industry. I thought that Domino would possibly become the “Vogue” of home magazines, but unfortunately it was closed. So who is going to take the role in the interior industry, possibly a bigger business?

I’m convinced that Anna is God in the fashion industry, like it or not.

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