Pizzazz, Anyone?

Carole Sloan, September 14, 2008

An interesting "what if?" came to mind after seeing a full page ad that ran in The New York Times on Sept. 5.

That date marked the beginning of the apparel industry's ritual called Fashion Week. And the ad was run by one of the major sponsors of all of the hullabaloo that is associated with this event.

It's a major New York happening. But it also has its siblings in Milan and Paris, and to some extent in London, that turn those cities into fashion on steroids for a week, tying up traffic, bringing in the crème de la crème of retailing and raising the level of consumer awareness of fashion trends to a fever, if not, hysterical pitch.

The ad in question headlined Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and was merely an "Official Spring 2009 Ballot" that asked consumers to vote for some of nearly 100 designers showing during the eight-day event.

On the list were industry stalwarts like Badgley Mischka, Calvin Klein, Diane Von Furstenberg, Donna Karan Collection, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang and the like. But the list also included a whole bunch of newbies.

Consumers were invited to vote for their favorites — based on past viewings and also on the instant coverage of last week's runway shows themselves.

The mind went fast forward to "what if" since the semi-annual home fashions market is set to begin the Monday after Fashion Week has ended.

This week's event, which is supposed to have committed start and finish dates, seems to have lost its way in that regard.

Wal-Mart is scheduled to arrive as market ebbs; their folks will be around for "one on one" programmed sessions with existing and potentially new suppliers.

The folks at Bed Bath & Beyond are paying visits at will, before the opening bell of September 15.

And JCPenney has already landed — and mostly left — as market officially begins.

So that's it for Nos. 1, 2 and 3 among the leading retailers of home textiles merchandise.

Then there's the excitement factor, which in the apparel business is at crescendo level during events like Fashion Week — on an industry basis as well as individually. And keep in mind, there's nothing more brutal than being attacked by a competitive Seventh Avenue tiger.

Granted, the home textiles industry represents a much smaller universe, but excitement and fashion and participation toward common goals are universal challenges. Few companies in our previews have really put the focus on fashion.

It may be time to step back, reflect and move forward on a different path after this market is completed.

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