the Insiders


Jil Sander
When I interviewed Jil Sander last week about her fashion comeback and her consulting gig at Uniqlo, I asked her about how the fashion world had changed since she left the industry in 2004, parting ways with her former company’s then-owner Prada Group and the accompanying run-ins with Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli. One of the things she noted was how fashion has become more globalized over the past few years.

That rang true as I thought about the path that brought the designer to Tokyo.

Everyone loves being in Paris for fashion week, but this season it felt like a party that went on a little too long. That many retailers and editors cut their trips short suggests the show-business aspect of fashion needs a reality check at a time when the industry is girding for even more turmoil as the recession drags on.
Darwin's theory of evolution, which argues that only the fittest survive in a given environment, seems to have newfound currency in today's grisly marketplace.

"It's like judgment day for us. There are just too many stores out there for all of us to survive this," Rick Weinstein of Searle told WWD in December. "The best will survive."

A director at a textile company echoed Darwin's ideas of natural selection in another WWD story that ran in February. "We have to endure," said Kohji Yamanaka, director of the textile department at Mitsubishi Rayon Textile Co. "Such circumstances [force] textile manufacturers to exert themselves to survive. It might be tough, but it will be worth it."

Lilly Pulitzer at her shop in the Seventies.

"It doesn't have to be perfect," Janie Schoenborn, design director for print, pattern, accessories and footwear and creative adviser at Lilly Pulitzer, told a very focused Martha Stewart Wednesday morning as the domestic diva tried her hand at print designing on her eponymous show.
Occasionally, during last week's annual Personal Care Products Council meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., there was some grumbling about the need to change the organization's name -- again. It had been changed 18 months ago from the decades-old Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association in order to make the group seem more consumer friendly.

Well, if any cosmetics executives are serious about finding a more relevant moniker, maybe they could choose Editor & Publisher, judging from the media turnout at the meeting. Even though attendance had withered (from 650 last year to 400) with cosmetics manufacturers threatening to go the way of the Last of the Mohicans, the magazine contingent was there in depth, as usual. Of the 356 attendees listed in the program, 120 of them were from the media, mostly from women's fashion and lifestyle magazines, with assorted trade publications and even electronic media thrown in. (Indeed the organizers of PCPC invited two WWD editors to participate in a panel discussion, including me.)

Regarding the season’s bumper crop of rumors on cutbacks, asset sales and bankruptcies, retailers have stayed steadfast in their “no comment” response to media inquiries. When they feel beneficent, the response is, “We don’t comment on market speculation. You’ll be the first to know if there’s anything to say.”

There’s some rationale for ducking the speculation.
The country is in the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. In the media business, companies like Viacom and Sony have had to institute massive layoffs. But in Hollywood last week, the Oscars felt like business as usual. Sure, there were more cream-colored dresses on the red carpet — cream , of course being the safest color choice for a movie star who’s concerned about being perceived as ostentatious. And yes, Ed Limato and Larry Gagosian canceled their annual parties. But the parties I went to were as glitzy as ever, and there were more of them than there were last year, when the writers’ strike put a damper on things.

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