This is an article I wrote in February about the economy's impact on Edmonton's fashion industry. Enjoy!
Recessions have been known to increase people’s desire to drink, decrease people’s desire for sex, but have not really affected Edmontonian’s desire to shop.
While some high end designers like Chanel, and Lela Rose are cutting back on staff and models, a dip in sales is barely noticed by business owners here in Edmonton.
Edmonton-born Jessica Halabi has been selling her custom designs online for about a year now and has not noticed a huge difference in sales or in the interest for her products. She is pleased with amount of interest people are showing in her work in a city that is not known for its fashion industry.
“In Edmonton we are only known for oil and gas so fashion is not at all popular here,” said Halabi. “It’s important for me to make a statement and to get out there and to have people realize that fashion can be known in Edmonton.”
Halabi earned the title of best Emerging Designer in 2007 during Edmonton Fashion Week, and has since started a custom clothing line simply named “Jessica Halabi Fashions”.
Currently, a custom designed and tailored jean jacket with unique detailing may cost just over $125 while a tailored woollen winter jacket can cost upwards of $400.
Though her work is only available online at the moment, her future plans include retailing her clothing in stores across Canada and eventually opening up a boutique which will exclusively sell this line.
Historically, fashion during periods of economic hardship becomes more conservative. Colours like black and grey become more popular and hem-lines drop. According to www.fashion-templates.com, during the “Roaring Twenties” women known as flappers wore short colourful dresses, but after the stock market crash which propelled the Great Depression, skirts and dresses dropped down to the ankles.
Fashion historian Julia Petrov from the University of Alberta said that during the Great Depression women cut down their spending out of necessity, and during the war, some women were forced by government to ration their money.
She added that because this was the situation decades ago does not mean the same thing will happen again.
“The last time there was a Great Depression, the fashion industry worked very differently than it does today,” said Petrov. “More production was based in North America and Europe, and more people had the resources to make their own clothes. In our new global corporate economy the results of an economic downturn might be unexpected and far-reaching.”
Today, terms like “recession-chic” and “recessionista” are popping up in fashion magazines and blogs everywhere. Even French cosmetic company Bourjois began promoting the brand’s cheapest mascara and lip glosses as “the Recessionista Collection,” an antidote to gloom.
Vogue Magazine has most recently reported that Doo Ri announced plans to launch a second, less expensive line for the Autumn/Fall season of 2009. This action is similar to Donna Karen’s second line, DKNY, which was revealed shortly after the stock market crash in 1987 – also aimed at middle class women who cannot afford the original line’s items.
Twenty-two year old Katrina Webber labels herself as a bargain hunter, but still manages to spend about $300 per month on clothing. She doesn’t plan on changing her spending habits with the looming economic downturn either.
She says that because of all the sales which are trying to make up for the lack of interest right now she is buying more clothes than usual. However Webber agrees that that people may definitely make the decision to splurge on a beautiful black dress as opposed to a beautiful neon orange dress.
“Black is timeless and always in style so there is more sense spending your money on a little black dress especially when there isn’t a lot of money to spend in the beginning.”
People won’t forfeit looking good because of situations like these, but they will find way to spend less, Webber added.
“I don’t think that the image of high fashion will be sacrificed just because people will not have the extra dollars to spend on high quality designer names,” said Webber. “These people may still dress a sort of “high-fashion” minus the sky-high price tags and diamond bracelets. Maybe people will rely on inexpensive accessories to enhance their wardrobe. “
Webber says that the best places to find inexpensive clothing and accessories are places like Winners, H&M, and – most importantly – Value Village.
“If you have a good two hours, loads of patience, and enjoy sifting through incredibly large racks you can definitely find hidden gems in the place,” said Webber. “I once purchased a beautiful leather jacket for only $20 and I still wear it around today.”
And while Webber’s closet is slowly forcing its way to other parts of her room because of the sheer volume of dresses, jackets and T-shirts which have accumulated over the years, she doesn’t expect her collection to stop growing; nor do our local designers expect to stop designing.