Oct 7, 2009
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Cautious buyers find what they want on catwalks

Oct 7, 2009

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Fashion designers can breathe a sigh of relief. After a frenzied month of eyeing up catwalk designs in New York, London, Milan and Paris, cautious fashion buyers attending spring/summer 2010 shows say they have got what they wanted -- outfits they say they can sell in these tough economic times.

Balenciaga spring-summer 2010 in Paris - Photo: Pixel Formula

They say designers have kept the financial crisis in mind, preferring the demure over the eccentric, but also presented standout pieces crunched customers are looking for.

"This season has been a very commercial season. Many designers are working at their very best. This is very good for buyers," said Daniil Gorbachenko, creative director of Moscow's prestigious department store Tsum.

He said he was looking for comfortable jackets and sellable dresses. "I am very happy with what I've seen."

Designers in London defied the economic gloom with colorful creations. Hemlines headed up in Milan and New York while Paris had plenty of lacy stockings, bra straps and exposed knickers.

Buyers say they liked this feminity. Pascale Camart, a buyer from France's Galeries Lafayette, said there was less "bling bling," adding: "It's time to turn the clocks back."

The recession has taken its toll on retailers, with the European luxury market declining by nearly 6 percent to about 81 billion euros ($119.1 billion) this year, Verdict Research said.

"Designers are going back to what they do well," Ron Frasch, president and chief merchandising officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, said. "(Buyers) are still cautious. Everyone is continuing to be cautious. (Shoppers) want emotional clothes."

Buyers are optimistic about a recovery, but note it will likely take another six months to recuperate. They say that as customers spend less, they are increasingly looking for one-of-a-kind items to add something special to their wardrobe.

"We are very pleased. There was a lot of newness for customers looking for something specific they do not own," Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing said.

"Everyone is aware of the financial situation in the world and fashion houses have sharpened their pencils. There were very pleasing price points without sacrificing design and quality."

At Alexander McQueen, one of the last shows before the season ends on Thursday 8 October, intricately folded origami skirts and shoulders in dazzling color combinations wowed the audience.

Brian Bolke, of the Forty Five Ten boutique in Dallas, said customers were becoming more interested in less well-known labels such as Dries van Noten.

"They are buying less but better things. Because they're buying less, they want something that's more meaningful," he said.

"Workmanship is important. They want something they think they can have forever. They don't want something that's on the cover of a magazine so everyone knows it's this season's." (Additional reporting by Sophie Hardach and Mathilde Gardin)

(Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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