November 1, 2012

Design forecasts more than fashion

Posted in Between Us column, Politics, Women at 5:44 pm by dinaheng

How we look says a lot about us. It can give clues to our personality, our economic status, and how we want to be seen. When it comes to political statements, most candidates dress conservatively and speak liberally about opinions they think will please the voters.

As we near the end of this year’s Presidential campaigning, it’s interesting to see the impact that opinions about First Lady Michelle Obama and the GOP nominee’s wife, Ann Romney, have on their husbands’ candidacies.

The First Lady was a working mother of two girls, accomplished in her own career. Romney was a stay-at-home mom of five boys, who’s fought successful battles against multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. Both have qualities that the public admires. When it comes to their taste in fashion, there are clear differences.

“They’re both classic women,” says Vince Camuto, founder of the Nine West brand, who  now runs a line under his own name in 28 categories ranging from shoes and handbags to dresses and jewelry. “Michelle Obama is tall, elegant, and secure within herself. She’s got great style. One day, she can wear J. Crew, and the next, up and coming American designers like Jason Wu.

“Ann Romney is beautiful, and she wears a lot of classic clothing. I don’t see much in the way of designers on her, but she has a beautiful face, and red is a great color for her. Both women have a passion inside that American women can look up to.”

In today’s uncertain economy, Camuto says women are looking for great style at affordable prices.

“Women are smarter than ever before,” Camuto says. “They’re more educated, more informed, and you can’t fool them.”

When it comes to footwear, the designer says 50 percent of female buyers will pay full price for fashion footwear, but want great prices. Twenty percent look for shoes at the first markdown, and the remaining 30 percent will shop only for deep sales prices.

Vince Camuto

“The cheapest fix for a woman is to buy a pair of shoes,” Camuto says. “She can make her outfit look fresh, and it’s instant gratification. If the economy isn’t great, buying a metallic evening sandal can be fun. Today, it’s amazing how very expensive things sell, but the customer wants high-low dressing. Maybe she has a Chanel bag from three years ago, so she buys a new pair of shoes to go with it.”

Emerging from a recession has made consumers wary of what they spend their money on. Maybe that’s reflected in today’s trend toward more medium-heel shoes, flats, and single sole shoes, rather than those with platform heels.

“Bright blues are the hot color of the moment,” Camuto says. “Houndstooth is refined and lady-like. Metallics and glitter, classic pumps are in. Women love the long skirt, which is a trend, and they love a shorter skirt, so it’s a mixed bag.”

What will the trends for spring include?

“We like salmon, muted pastels, black and white, and a touch of red,” Camuto says. “We’re in a difficult period now with a lot of people still unemployed, but a down economy also represents opportunity. You better be on your game.”

Given the partisan tenor of the times, whichever candidate is elected to the White House next week will have to bring his A-game to the Oval Office in order to move the country — and the economy — forward.

Hopefully, the style of the First Lady who partners with him will inspire us all to be more open to new perspectives as we look toward the future. That, after all, is the definition of truly being fashion forward.

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