Okay, I admit it, I ducked out of the first 24 hours of fashion week to join a slightly different group of, let’s say, upscale women, at the Fortune 500 Women’s Conference. This illustrious group of CEOs, journalists, the Meg Whitmans of the world, NGO heads, and all-around wise women were told by no less than Warren Buffet that the economy is in sputter mode, and maybe, just maybe, it will snap back in about three years.
For the most part it was a well-dressed, well-heeled crowd. Well, except for the girls from Google, in their Boyfriend Jeans and oversized shirts (call it the new cyber-chic for the young IT crowd). Comfortingly, there were still lots of Louboutins mixed in with Walmart looks. Enter Dottie Mattison, SVP and GM of Walmart Apparel, who runs the store’s multi-billion dollar fashion division. She was looking very smart in very high, very fringe-flapped Christians, mixed with some Walmart accent pieces. The ultimate in high/low.
Dottie reports that Walmart’s fashion biz is better than ever. That’s irony for you.
Onto the red eye, and back to Bryant Park, and that’s when it hit. The sponsors, the crowds, the models, the endless vogue-ing, the fashion parade, the waves of media surrounding these 53 runway shows that account for, maybe, 10 percent of all U.S. fashion sales. And here’s the ironic bit: Walmart hasn’t had a show in the country’s fashion capital in two years, and yet the shop sells more fashion than anyone else in the biz.
I ease back into Fashionista mode at Michael Kors runway show, where I sit next to an editor from Nylon wearing a Philip Lim sequined vest (very nice), over ripped denim tights (uh, what?), and laden down with oxidized metal chains (her own design).
Dani S. is also mixing high/low and is a walking testament to the longevity of designer fashion.
So is Donna Karan with her draping. Tory Burch with her edgy preppiness. And so is Michael Kors who is slicing his double face wool pieces everywhere with windows of open slits creating architectural masterpieces.
The designer labels sold in these tents this season won’t match the sales of Walmart’s but they continue as the laboratory for all things style in this country. Under the fashion tent there is room and future for these designers as well as Walmart’s Sponge Bob Square Pants.