U.S. retailers begin their seasonal dash through Europe this weekend, scouting styles for fall, 1987. But even before the first houselights dim in Milan Saturday, changes will be apparent.
The ranks of the usual U.S. buying audience will be thinner, due to cost cutbacks, corporate mergers and consolidations at many of the nation's top department stores.
This is not good news for European designers, who are fighting their own cost-cutting battles. Despite valiant attempts to keep garment prices down, inflation and the weakening U.S. dollar will reportedly result in prices to U.S. retailers as much as 20% higher than last year.
Things are rosier, but no less chaotic, on fashion's creative front. Reports from the underground have designers agonizing over hemlines, uncertain whether to emphasize short skirts or long ones. Milan's Giorgio Armani recently told a reporter that just when he thought he'd never have to worry about skirt lengths again, he is starting to worry.