Not Longer Just for Elites, Designer Fashion Aims for Broader Appeal

New York Fashion Week is arguably the Super Bowl of U.S. fashion. In fact, according to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and the Joint Economic Committee, this biannual event actually generated more revenue for New York City than the Super Bowl did in 2014. The Fall 2015 program kicked off Sept. 10, hosting more than 500 shows and events across the city and showcasing the talents of the industry's top designers, models and makeup artists. Fashion Week is a particularly important event to the fashion designers industry, which generates $1.4 billion in revenue, and a host of retail markets, including the department stores industry, valued at $164 billion.

Traditionally, trends from fashion week have been almost exclusively available to the elite and wealthy. However, in recent years, the emergence of fast-fashion stores such as Forever 21 and H&M has bridged the gap between the catwalk and the neighborhood mall. Over the past five years, the growing popularity of these stores has boosted employment for U.S. fashion designers by an annualized rate of 3.9 percent, with an estimated 19,843 designers working in the industry. These designers are responsible for quickly designing inexpensive pieces that mirror the latest runway trends. Similarly, department stores, which generate, about 23.5 percent of revenue from women's clothing and footwear, have shifted towards more fashion-forward product offerings. Target, the industry's largest company, has launched limited-time capsule collections with Philip Lim, Jason Wu, Rodarte and other top-tier designers headlining New York Fashion Week. These collaboration lines provide everyday consumers with the hottest trends at a fraction of the price. Overall, fast-fashion stores and department store designer labels have enabled high-fashion pieces to be much more accessible and affordable to the average consumer.

While New York Fashion Week is still largely an occasion for celebrities and high-profile fashionistas, the event has been less elite than in years past. For the first time ever, Givenchy released 1,200 tickets for its Sept. 11 show to the general public, 280 of which were allocated specifically to fashion students and faculty. The emphasis on inclusiveness in this September's event along with the growing accessibility of designer labels in retail locations shows that high fashion is trending towards broader appeal. The trend of designer collaborations with low-cost, mass-market outlets has revolutionized the industry and is expected to continue with greater intensity over the next five years. During this time, revenue for the fashion design industry is projected to increase at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent to $1.7 billion. Trends on the runway will continue to influence the fast-fashion phenomena; as runway trends become increasingly visible through the internet and social media platforms, consumers will expect to see similar, less-expensive items in stores such as Zara, H&M and Forever 21.
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