Fashion Week shows aim for younger audience

Models walks the runway at the Donna Karan New York Fall 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on February 13, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barn... Read more
Neilson Barnard
Models walks the runway at the Donna Karan New York Fall 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Feb. 13, 2012, in New York.
Neilson Barnard

(CBS/AP) Luxury fashion still caters to movie stars, high-powered businesswomen and ladies who lunch, but in New York there are signs that designers are looking for a younger audience.

And you can blame it on the economy.

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"New customers are getting into luxury fashion in a way they weren't before the recession," said Ed Jay, senior vice president of American Express Business Insights.

Longtime clients who bought full-ticket designer clothes before the economy soured have proven loyal, but they aren't buying as much as they used to, so designers have taken aim at Gen Y fashionistas, who didn't used to buy much high-end but are now starting to, spurred in part by the ease of online purchases. `

The Row, the collection designed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, which previewed Monday, seemed to speak directly to these women, who aren't interested in traditional suits or eveningwear.

Ken Downing, fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said that even the fur turning up on a lot of runways could motivate younger shoppers. "We are seeing a lot of mink, a lot of textural mink. You thought of mink before as your grandmother's but this is through a new lens. ... Mink is something a lot of women don't have."

Some of the fur being shown is faux, but whether younger shoppers, especially given the mainstreaming of veganism and animal rights, will buy real fur-accented pieces as a new trend remains to be seen.

And while designers hope their new collections will inspire spending by shoppers young and old, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Fashion Week is an increasingly profitable enterprise for the city. At an appearance with Diane von Furstenberg Monday, Bloomberg announced that the twice-yearly shows are expected to generate an economic impact of $865 million for the city in 2012.

The number, calculated by the city's Economic Development Corporation, is up from an estimated $773 million in 2007.

"We are the fashion capital of the world. The buzz it creates helps underscore our city's reputation as a cutting-edge capital of fashion, home to more than double the number of fashion companies in Paris,"' Bloomberg said.