At Fashion Week, '80s Excess, '09 Woes

"I launched this collection last fall, right as the economy was headed south," said Josie Natori, designer of the Natorious collection. "But I started developing it when the economy was in full swing, and I felt, even then, that the collection should be more accessible to a wider range of women than a typical designer price point. ... Everything in our collection for fall 2009 is priced below $600 at retail."

Cutrone said some designers are also taking a more toned down approach when it comes to style.

"We're seeing muted tones, slate, grey, chocolate, black, simple pieces maybe with a touch of excitement or color detail -- much more basic," she said. "But on the other hand, we're seeing other designers who are saying we already know the consumer has enough of basic and they're not going to need to re-buy that, even in a tweaked or new, modern way, so we're going to give something really special, really colorful, something they don't already have."

In the End, Fashion Week Is About Fantasy

Despite the trying times, fashion week still retains some of its signature sparkle.

"I think international fashion events are almost always glamorous," said Natori. "Fashion week brings people from all over the world to New York to see beautiful clothes."

Jaqui Lividini, former executive of Saks Fifth Avenue and current partner at PR firm LWP, said, "Of course, we are in many ways selling a fantasy, and no matter how 'nuts and bolts' we need to be about the business, we need to be mindful of the dream."

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