NEW YORK — The cold winds of recession were blowing through Manhattan on the opening day of New York Fashion Week. At the Bryant Park tents, instead of Starbucks or Lavazza, it was McDonald's pouring the free coffee. Designer Yigal Azrouel's show was sponsored by EBay, which will host a charity sale of his looks at below-retail prices. QVC was preparing for a live runway show on Saturday, with budget-priced clothes available for immediate purchase on TV.
The Pantone Fashion Color Report fall color trend forecast, released Friday, predicted tough tones for tough times. "Iron" is the new black, it said, describing the shade as neither gray nor brown, and reporting that it was used by 16.5% of designers showing their collections this week.
Halston, the revived label backed in part by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, replaced its runway show with a music video e-mailed to editors. And everyone was finding their schedules freed up, at least at night, because of the dearth of high-profile parties.
At a downtown showroom Friday morning, addressing a group of new and emerging designers who had just received $25,000 grants from the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation, designer Zac Posen likened the current economic climate to that of post-9/11, back when he launched his line.
"Don't follow any rules, and express who you are," he advised the designers. There's not going to be much buying going on, Posen said. (Some reports have said that stores are decreasing their orders by up to 40%.) "So you might as well create some excitement."
For Cushnie et Ochs, a fledgling women's line that showed last season, the Ecco Domani grant meant being able to secure a spot to show at the New York Public Library this time around. "There's no way we would have been able to do that," said designer Carly Cushnie.
For Jerrod Cornish and Keith Richardson, the duo behind Los Angeles-based Corpus, which was the award winner in the men's category, the money meant being able to present the collection at all.
"That's a thousand percent what the grant money went to," Richardson said. "And then some." The 5-year-old line will be presented Monday night, marking its New York Fashion Week debut. Richardson says the biggest effect the worsening economy has had on Corpus is to delay plans for a Corpus store. "We think it would be good for brand identity, and we started planning it and things just started to . . . " Richardson made a downward spiral with his hand.
For now, he said, the plan is to use the revenue from the company's successful collaboration with Urban Outfitters to help grow the business. "There's a lot of value to collaborations," he said. "It legitimizes and gives value to both brands."
Which echoes Posen's other piece of advice to the award winners: "In this trying time, work with any opportunity."