Major Changes Reshaping the Fashion Industry

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The $300-billion fashion business is in the midst of an epic shake-up that is changing the way clothes are designed, marketed and purchased. The Internet — the same force that has splintered the media and music industries — is challenging the taste-making role of the fashion elite, a shift that is being accelerated by the rise of cheap chic and a recession that has blunted more-is-more spending.
In turn, many retail businesses, confronted by changing spending patterns, are becoming less brand-centric and more consumer-centric. And the logic of the runway shows — now underway in New York and scheduled next month in Milan and Paris — is being questioned by some of the top names in the business, who understand that shoppers don’t want to wait six months between seeing designer clothes on the runway and being able to buy them in stores.
“It’s the first time I can remember this kind of shift in the fashion paradigm,” said David Wolfe, creative director of the Doneger Group, a New York trend forecasting firm. “The flashy addictive fashion [is] becoming less and less relevant to people’s lives.”
What’s more relevant, it seems, are shopkeepers who keep the customer in mind and instant access to style and fashion advice provided by the Internet.
Not only does the Internet allow the convenience of shopping any time, anywhere, it’s also a platform for a new generation of style arbiters who can dictate trends from their living rooms.
Aggregator websites let shoppers sift through styles and compare prices from dozens of online stores at once. Shopstyle, for example, offers cross-shopping by brand or search term at www.shopstyle.com and sends personalized e-mails with sale alerts. Covet ( www.covet.com) edits styles shown to individuals based on a questionnaire about preferences for color and silhouette. MyShape lets users input their measurements (www.myshape.com) and shop only for the items that fit their size and style profile.
And for those who can’t be bothered to sit in front of a computer, mobile technology is making it possible to shop from the palm of your hand, which is why fashion designers are rushing to launch their own iPhone applications.
The result of all this interactivity is that there is more information than ever about fashion.
Runway looks, traditionally shown to buyers and the media six to eight months before they land in stores, can be seen online minutes after a designer shows them, worn by celebrities days later, and knocked off soon after that. Which means that sharp-shoulder silhouette that came down the Balmain runway in Paris in March was available at the mall long before the designer original arrived, and at a fraction of the price.
As trends seem to travel at warp speed, fashion magazines such as Vogue and Elle, which have traditionally been looked to for guidance on style, are struggling. The September issues, typically the biggest of the year, are nearly a third slimmer than last year’s. Ad pages in Vogue decreased 36%, to 429.
Some of that money is moving to the Internet. Louis Vuitton North America more than doubled its digital ad spending in 2008, to $286,000, from $107,000 in 2007, according to TNS Media, a New York-based firm that monitors advertising spending in media.
And why not? The Internet makes it possible not only to read about fashion but to participate in it. The use of sites that enable users to create their own fashion spreads, share photos of themselves in different outfits and elicit wardrobe advice from their peers is skyrocketing.
“Between new technology and the economy, the fashion industry will never be the same,” New York designer Norma Kamali said. “It makes you stand back and say, ‘If I continue doing what I’m doing, I may not stay in business.’ It’s time to rethink and look at what’s working and what’s not.”
One tradition that’s being rethought is the semiannual New York runway show, which typically costs a designer $200,000 to $300,000 to mount. In July, the Council of Fashion Designers of America held a meeting in New York City where the relevance of fashion shows was discussed, along with their exclusivity (they are not open to the public).
It was a spirited debate that drew big names, including designers Diane von Furstenberg (who also serves as the council’s president), Donna Karan, Betsey Johnson, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler, and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
“We spend so much money on shows, but what is it getting us?” Karan said at the meeting.
“Maybe there can be a fashion week that says ‘trade’ and another one that says ‘shop.’ ” Von Furstenberg suggested.
Some designers are testing alternatives.
For the first time, on Thursday, Kamali will be showing clothes during New York Fashion Week that are available to purchase not six months from now, but on the spot.
“The fashion shows used to be such an elite situation, only for editors and very special buyers,” Kamali said.
“Then it opened up and became more of a celebrity-type event. Now there is no elite anymore. You don’t have to be in the same country to see a runway show. Everybody can see it as soon as it’s over on the Internet.” Kamali also plans to launch an iPhone application that will allow customers to buy from her signature line, a second line for EBay priced under $200 and her mass market Wal-Mart line.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles’ Jared Gold is bypassing the fashion week format altogether and taking his runway collection directly to the consumer with a whistle-stop tour sponsored by Amtrak, among others. The clothes will be available for sale at his events, which begin in November.
By combining the runway and retail, Gold is creating a unique shopping experience, something that is all too rare today, experts say. Retail sales at stores have declined 7% in the last year, and industry observers say that they must reinvent the shopping experience, and enhance it with entertainment and technology, or risk going under.
The global strategy of branding and merchandising that has dominated the luxury sector for the last decade is falling away in favor of more authentic, localized experiences. Luxury brands are borrowing ideas from the fast-fashion world — opening pop-up shops, launching limited-edition collections, even mixing it up with the mass market.
Shoppers are “accustomed to having new styles in the stores all the time, and this is forcing luxury brands to be more similar to Zara and H&M in the way they emphasize newness, entertainment and the in-store experience,” said Claudia D’Arpizio, a business consultant for market research firm Bain & Co.
“The retail industry has gotten lackadaisical,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm NPD Group. “It went through eight years of uninterrupted growth, where you could just stick it on the floor and it would sell because the customer wasn’t thinking about what they were spending money on. But the rules have changed, and you have to earn your stripes again. And price isn’t the only answer.
“Now retail is going through experiential growth mode,” Cohen continued. “You are going to hear about wine and cheese parties, football Sundays, women’s Tupperware parties for panties. It will be about creating a social atmosphere and an educational experience” in stores, he said.
Which is why menswear designer John Varvatos, who turned the famous punk rock club CBGB into a retail store in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood last year, is duplicating the experience in Las Vegas. He recently opened a version of the Bowery boutique in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, complete with a stage for rock performances, vintage vinyl records and audio equipment for sale alongside $2,000 suits.
Shoppers are looking to TV and movies for style guidance as well, and Hollywood is trying to cash in. Fashion has gone from being esoteric high art (couture) to pop culture, the subject of TV shows, movies and websites. It’s no wonder the Bravo TV channel is getting into the handbag business, with styles created exclusively for its “NYC Prep” series that viewers can purchase online. Talent agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment recently signed designing duo Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, with an eye toward developing publishing projects and product collaborations for them.
Even “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller is getting in on the action, by investing in designers such as Roland Mouret and launching Fashionair, a hybrid fashion entertainment and e-commerce website (www.fashionair.com) featuring video programming taped around the world and edited at Fuller’s 19 Entertainment Ltd. studios in London. Like “American Idol,” and unlike most fashion magazines, the site aims to be inclusive, giving users a voice.
“In any jungle it’s survival of the fittest,” says Wolfe, the trend analyst.
“Some people will be left behind. But in the long run this will be healthy for the fashion business.”
Via LA Times

The $300-billion fashion business is in the midst of an epic shake-up that is changing the way clothes are designed, marketed and purchased. The Internet — the same force that has splintered the media and music industries — is challenging the taste-making role of the fashion elite, a shift that is being accelerated by the rise of cheap chic and a recession that has blunted more-is-more spending.  (Pics)

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Alarming Trends in Childhood Obesity

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Two recent University of Rochester Medical Center studies don’t look good

Two recent studies point out alarming trends in childhood obesity – not only is the group of severely obese children getting larger, but parents don’t even see it. Between 1976 and 2004, the rate of severely obese children – those with BMIs at or above the 99th percentile – has tripled to a total of 2.7 million. A separate, smaller study shows that almost a third of parents underestimate their child’s weight.
The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) researchers, along with colleagues at Wake Forest University and Baylor College of Medicine, used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new definition of severe obesity and found that about 4 percent of children in the U.S. are morbidly obese. The most recent estimate of the rate of obesity among children is 17 percent of the population.
“We knew the rate of severely obese children was increasing, but we were surprised at how quickly the number is rising,” said Stephen Cook, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Pediatrics at URMC’s Golisano Children’s Hospital and one of the authors of the study to be published this month in Academic Pediatrics. “These children have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, even before they reach adulthood. We’re very concerned about the future as well as immediate health of these children.”
The study examined nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1976 to 2004 and found that the rate increased from 0.8 percent in the 1976-1980 survey to 3.8 percent in the 1999-2004 survey. Researchers also found that the greatest increases were seen among blacks, Mexican Americans and those living in poverty.
One third of the teens with severe obesity were classified as meeting the adult criteria for the metabolic syndrome, a clustering of risk factors that put them on the path toward heart disease and diabetes in adulthood, and ultimately, could lead to an early death. Nearly 4 percent, or 2.7 million children, have a BMI at or above the 99th percentile, the point at which bariatric surgery is first considered.
“Until a child reaches the point where bariatric surgery is an option, there are few treatment options for families. Insurance doesn’t typically cover the cost, and without that, most families cannot afford to pay,” Cook said. “Without coverage for non-surgical options, the treatment services lose money and have to close.”
Researchers said that their findings point to the environment (where they live, socio-economic level, etc.) as an important factor in whether a child develops obesity and something over which children have no control.
Another URMC study shows that parents often underestimate their children’s weight status and the health effects of the extra pounds. The study, to be published in Clinical Pediatrics, shows 31 percent of interviewed parents underestimated their children’s weight, including both children who are overweight and normal weight. And parents who believed their children to be underweight were more concerned about their health than parents who did not realize that their children were overweight. Considering parents, especially of young children, make most decisions about what children eat, how they spend their time and where they live, researchers are concerned parents aren’t taking the problem of childhood obesity seriously enough.
“Parents play an important role in lowering their child’s risk of obesity – they have the ability to encourage physical exercise and teach their children about a healthy diet beginning in early childhood,” said Jillian M. Tschamler, an author of the paper who was a student at the University of Rochester at the time it was written and is currently a graduate student in nursing at the University of Virginia. “Healthy habits that children learn at a young age will decrease their risk of becoming overweight in the future, and prevention is a crucial step in lowering the overall rate of obesity in children.”
Researchers interviewed parents of 193 children between 18 months and 9 years old at the outpatient clinic at URMC’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. More than 30 percent of the children were overweight (BMI greater than 85th percentile). Almost half of the parents of children who were overweight said they thought their children’s weight was “about right,” and 24 percent of parents of normal-weight children said they thought their children were a little or very underweight. Parents were less likely to underestimate the weight of their girls.
Provided by University of Rochester

Two recent studies point out alarming trends in childhood obesity – not only is the group of severely obese children getting larger, but parents don’t even see it. Between 1976 and 2004, the rate of severely obese children – those with BMIs at or above the 99th percentile – has tripled to a total of 2.7 million. A separate, smaller study shows that almost a third of parents underestimate their child’s weight. (w/video)

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Please Don’t Trample the Jellyfish!

Jellyfish shaped crop circle @ Yahoo! Video

A 250m-long (825 ft) crop circle of a jellyfish has appeared on farmland. The owners of the land in Oxfordshire have urged visitors to stay away from the circle, which is also 60m (197ft) wide, to avoid further crop damage.

Sally Ann Spence and husband Bill, who own Berry Croft Farm near Ashbury, said hundreds of visitors have been trampling over their field…

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Smartfish Pro Self-Adjusting Ergonomic Keyboard

Smartfish Pro Self-Adjusting Ergonomic Keyboard 

 Smartfish Pro

Typing on the computer all day can lead to some problems. And I’m not talking lack of sleep and a steady diet of Hot Pockets. I’m talking carpal tunnel syndrome. Between comments on Facebook, twitter, gaming and commenting, we are all just one keystroke away from carpal tunnel at any given time. The Smartfish Pro is designed to help prevent it rather then causing it.

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Social Networking Surge on Mobile Phones

 Social Networking Surge on Mobile Phones

MySpace and Facebook aren’t the only players

Although the base of mobile social network users in the US is currently small, it is growing quickly. The percentage of mobile phone users who said they accessed social networks from their handset jumped 182% from September 2007 to October 2008, according to a study conducted by The Kelsey Group and ConStat. 

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Teens Signal Shift in Internet Usage

 Teens Signal Shift in Internet Usage

Contrary to some studies, teens show a wide range of online interests

Most Internet users worldwide use the Web primarily for e-mail and search, according to a global survey conducted by Gartner during the fourth quarter of 2007.

Online banking is the third most popular use of the Internet (except in emerging markets), while sharing photos, videos and files is the fourth. However…

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