Despite recession, Aspen Fashion Week organizer remains upbeat | AspenTimes.com

Despite recession, Aspen Fashion Week organizer remains upbeat

Rick CarrollThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy photo

ASPEN – The luxury goods industry has taken a beating like most business sectors because of the Great Recession, but that hasn’t scared off the organizer of Aspen Fashion Week.Aspen Fashion Week recently announced it would return for its second run March 14-19, and founder Lisa Johnson shows little concern about marketing up-scale fashion in this down-beat economy.”I’d note that in down economies, it’s the most important time to keep a consistent marketing message,” said Johnson, a former vice president of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. With an emphasis on winter resort wear, along with ski and snowboard apparel, Aspen Fashion Week comes at a time when the fashion industry as a whole has a flat outlook for 2010. Just last week, Versace announced it would lay off one-fourth of its staff. And other industry giants are restructuring their business models in an era that Financial Times calls the “worst recession to hit the [fashion] business in two decades.”Johnson, however, remains upbeat that Aspen Fashion Week, while still in its start-up phase, can overcome both the economic obstacles and image issues that might accompany playing host to such an event. A quick inventory of the downtown retailers demonstrate that Aspen and winter sports fashion are fit to be tied, Johnson said. “I’m not concerned with perception challenges – fashion and sports products are an enormous part of the economy in Aspen and around the country,” she said. “Take a look around town, all these designer boutiques, sport and specialty stores are in Aspen because it’s an important market. “Retailers need all the tools they can get to sell their products – they market their brands in a variety of ways – this is an innovative tool to do just that and in a market that can support them.”Recession aside, Johnson sees Aspen Fashion Week growing over time. She cites such events as the Winter X Games and the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen as events that took “time, dedication and money to produce. It can be years before they’re profitable. But how lucky are we to have them here? That’s what we’re building and it takes time.”She added: “Our goals are long term: We want to build each year to create a stronger platform for designers from luxury brands to traditional sportswear brands to show winter collections on the runway for media and for consumers – amazing collections infused with the Aspen lifestyle. While fashion will continue to be the focus, expect some impactful programs with film, photography and art as well. Traditional fashion week events around the world are geared toward industry/trade – we’re building on the consumer model – creating a destination event that people want to travel to attend.”Johnson also hopes that the March dates fill the event hole that the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival left behind a few years ago. It’s also a time of the year that is accessible to fashion designers, Johnson noted. And, she added: “Those dates happen to be a big opportunity to fill a trough for the Aspen hotels.”And unlike the Comedy Fest, which held events in the day and night, Aspen Fashion Week events start at 4 p.m. Johnson hopes that gives participants some time on the slopes. “The events are in the downtown core driving traffic to the retail stores, restaurants and hotels,” she said. Johnson has lined up such lodging partners at the Sky Hotel, St. Regis Aspen Resort, The Little Nell, Aspen Meadows Resort, Limelight Lodge, Hotel Aspen, Molly Gibson and Frias Properties. Media partners include W magazine and Plum TV, and FEED Projects – a nonprofit that fights world hunger – is on board as its charitable link.Johnson said she didn’t consider any other location for the event. “It was not shopped anywhere else – it was designed to become a world class event for brands to showcase winter luxury, sport, ski/snow collections while also being an economic driver for town,” she said. rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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