OLD Media Moves

The business of fashion

September 17, 2012

Posted by KBlessing

While skimming through my go-to financial news websites this past week, I couldn’t help but notice the number of articles dedicated to New York Fashion Week, which officially ended Thursday night.

This struck me as a bit odd at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Fashion Week is just another part of the consumer industry, just a bit more glammed up and high-profile than usual.

Since business journalists closely cover the back-to-school shopping season, monthly retail reports and holiday sales, it only makes sense that they cover New York Fashion Week, a time when designers market their lines in creative ways to attract potential buyers to their collections.

In fact, Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) started Fashion’s Night Out in 2009 specifically to encourage consumers to shop and support the fashion industry coming out of the recession.

“Don’t be fooled by the air kisses, the man in orange leather shorts or the reality stars in the front row. This thing the call Fashion Week is just a glammed-up trade show,” said the Wall Street Journal in an article. “Every one here is hustling for something. It’s probably for the money, might be for the fame, and only for the very lucky few, the art.”

Despite flaunting outfits that could only be worn on a runway, New York Fashion Week comes down to money. And business journalists follow the money. The council estimated that the week would generate $865 million for the city of New York.

Bloomberg has a business journalist who solely reports on specialty retail, and the Wall Street Journal had a special section of its website dedicated to fashion week (the link will take you to WSJ’s section of London Fashion Week now since that began Friday).

It seems that stories about high fashion have become more popular for financial news outlets, perhaps partly because many fashion companies have gone public in recent years. Michael Kors stock has risen 122 percent since its initial public offering in December 2011. The S&P Luxury Index has bounced back by 291 percent since the depths of the recession in 2009, according to Bloomberg.

And for those independent designers who aren’t become publicly traded, many collaborate with publicly traded companies such as Target Corp. to bring high fashion to the masses. Jason Wu, the 26-year-old designer who made Michelle Obama’s inauguration-ball gown, launched a line with Target earlier this year and will debut a line for Nordstrom this January.  Italian fashion designer Missoni has collaborated with Target as well.

Investors may view Fashion Week as another indicator of how successful consumer spending is going into the holiday season, and which trends will and won’t be successful – pointing to which companies will come out on top and which ones will not.

Steven Sadove, the chief executive officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, told Bloomberg that fashion retailers similarly watched the stock market to determine whether or not the fall season would be successful.

But beyond the close connection to finance and the stock market, New York Fashion Week markets luxury goods. News outlets such as Bloomberg, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal reach the readership that can afford – and enjoy—these luxuries.

While maybe a “typical guy” wouldn’t be attracted to the $4000+ suits shown on the runway, the top businessmen that read the WSJ or Bloomberg terminal each day is more inclined to be.

Last week, I was having drinks with a few of my friends who now work in finance. I, admittedly, know nothing about men’s fashion, but my two male friends were talking about the nuances in the pleats and cuffs in suit pants, and whether button-down shirts were allowed to have pockets. To an extent, this sector of the population cares about fashion – or at least about appearance.

These articles focusing on the business of luxury make sense for the targeted readership, and help boost web traffic.  Bloomberg has a magazine entitled Bloomberg Pursuits, which specifically targets luxury lifestyle. The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ. magazine has a similar focus. New York Fashion Week intends to sell clothing, while news outlets aim to “sell” articles that will increase readership.

“At the end of the day, we are businesspeople,” Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing told The Journal.

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