Fashion trends of the economic recovery

Kai Ryssdal Feb 16, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: This is Fashion Week in New York City. Runway models, big parties, expensive clothes. Not the kinds of things that three or four years of a down economy are naturally conducive to. With signs of economic life, though, do better times in high style come as well?

As always, when I have questions about fashion and the business thereof, I call fashion writer Kate Betts. Hey Kate, how are you?

Kate Betts: I’m great. How are you?

Ryssdal: I’m all right. So what’s the vibe?

Betts: So the vibe is that people are still a little bit nervous about the economy, even though there’s a lot of talk about a recovery. And I think we’re seeing a little bit of the trends on the runway reflecting that because… I have identified two trends. One is the comfort trend. We’re seeing a lot of blanket coats and fur vests.

Ryssdal: Wait, wait, wait. Blanket coats? What? What?

Betts: I know. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? OK, let me back up here.

Ryssdal: I love the way you said, “I know.” It was like sorry.

Betts: Well, what I mean by blanket coats are those sort of plaid, thick, cashmere coats that look almost like they’re sort of thrown over your shoulder. Some of them even have fringe. We saw them at Michael Kors yesterday morning, Rag & Bone.

Ryssdal: Oh, I know Michael Kors. I do my “Project Runway.”

Betts: Yeah, see?

Ryssdal: There you go.

Betts: So that’s a kind of trend that’s sort of comforting and cozy and retreating from this unstable moment in the economy.

Ryssdal: Yeah. You mentioned fur, too?

Betts: Fur. A lot of fur. A lot of people at the tents wearing fur vests and fur coats.

Ryssdal: Really? Aren’t fur vests so 1981?

Betts: Well, no. Actually fur has become kind of like the new accessory. Designers, I think, create a lot of it because they can sell it as an item, like a handbag or a shoe, a fur vest, you know.

Ryssdal: All right, so what’s trend No. 2?

Betts: Trend No. 2 is what I call the optimistic trend. It’s very polished, dressed-up clothes. A lot designers kind of sell what they call investment pieces. They know that people need clothes for work. They need suits, they need jackets, they need coats for the winter. So we’re seeing a lot of that in a very polished, almost dressed-up way at Donna Karan, Michael Kors, again. Even at designers Ralph Lauren this morning, a lot of tweed jackets, very tailored.

Ryssdal: Shocking. Ralph Lauren and tweed, right? I wanted to ask you about this other thing that I’ve seen. It’s called advanced contemporary. What the heck is that?

Betts: Advanced contemporary is the area of the market in fashion that’s probably the most exciting right now because it’s a lower price point and more people can afford it. And there’s more fashion at that price point. It kind of sits between the sort of Zara and H&M and the high-end. It’s brand like Tory Burch, J.Crew, Theory. And all these brands are now showing in Lincoln Center at the tents. So they’re getting a sort of fashion edge to them and those are kind of the shows people are excited about and where people are going to look for trends because those are the clothes that people can afford to buy.

Ryssdal: Also J. Crew, Michelle Obama, right?

Betts: Michelle Obama. People have familiarity with it. I think from J.Crew we’re seeing increase fashion trends. It used to be kind of the preppy brand with a lot of bring, cashmere sweaters, but now it’s much more fashion forward. It’s an interesting thing that the price point of fashion has really lowered in terms of where the trends are.

Ryssdal: Kate Betts. Her book about Michelle Obama, as it turns out, is called “Everyday Icon.” Kate, thanks a lot.

Betts: Thank you, Kai.

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