(6) Fall Fashion: 100 Fashion Finds Under $100

Leah Bourne   Fashion lovers don’t need to break their budgets to replenish their wardrobes with the trendiest new looks this fall.
That’s because a long list of prominent designers, from Jimmy Choo’s Tamara Mellon to Anna Sui, are launching price-conscious secondary lines, partnering with mass retailers or just lowering their prices to appeal to consumers.

Many designers understand that the magic number for shoppers these days hovers around the $100 mark. If that’s within your budget, you can now scoop up some of fall’s hottest items, a welcome change from the last few years when retailers were predominantly pushing luxury goods.

Look first for menswear-inspired looks, such as tailored blazers, Oxford shoes and oversized button-downs–all fashions that can work at the office. The 1980s is another trend that’s very popular now–bold shoulders, neon colors and anything with a vintage biker feel is a must-have this season. In addition, ladylike pieces inspired by Dior’s “New Look” couldn’t be more in fashion, so keep an eye out for pearls, floral-print sheaths and prim cardigans.

Rachel Roy, whose eponymous line has been worn by the likes of Michelle Obama and Kate Hudson, has partnered with Macy’s to launch the price-friendly Rachel Rachel Roy. The line hit shelves in August, a move that was motivated by the economic downturn.

“I believe both designers and consumers have had to prioritize practicality over aspiration in this economy,” says Roy. Instead of investing in her asymmetrical wool dress from her fall ready-to-wear collection for $1,195, women can opt to buy a black sheath dress from Roy’s less expensive line for a fraction of the cost: $109. Roy believes her line will attract customers who are “worldly, educated and modern.”

Roy isn’t alone in trying her hand at affordable fashion. Jil Sander, master of the woman’s power suit, left her namesake label in 2004 and is now launching a collection with Uniqlo called +J in October. Nothing in the collection will exceed $150. The collection includes a crisp white button-down shirt, a tailored black overcoat and cropped gray trousers, all perfect for getting this season’s minimalist androgynous look.

On the accessories front, Jimmy Choo is partnering with H&M, the Swedish-based bargain retail chain, to launch a collection of shoes, handbags and clothes. Expect shopper lines around the block when the collection hits stores in mid-November–and be sure to scoop up the zebra print sandals. After all, animal prints couldn’t be more in style this fall.

Target began collaborating with designers such as Isaac Mizrahi as early as 2002, and has since worked with notables including Alexander McQueen and the Proenza Schouler duo. The retailer is now partnering with Anna Sui on a collection inspired by the characters on Gossip Girl. It will be available in mid-September. Says Sui, “I went through [my] archives and picked the best silhouettes and prints that were representative of each character to draw from the collection.” All of this season’s big fashion trends are covered: There’s a faux leather motorcycle jacket, a menswear vest and a trompe-l’oeil lace printed white and brown mini dress.

Designers aren’t just thinking about fast fashion, however. Some are trying to lure investment shoppers. Consuelo Castiglioni, who designs for the pricey fashion label Marni, says, “I think people are being much more thoughtful about their purchases, looking for things that will last and only get better with time and care.” With that in mind, Castiglioni started designing a capsule collection this spring that, while not for budget shoppers, is less expensive than Marni’s runway collection.

In the fall edition of the collection, there are cropped black trousers for $560, a raspberry silk sheath dress with a raw-edged bow that’s priced at $810 and a long-sleeve fern green wool tartan coat for $1,315. While not cheap, these are refined investment basics that can be worn for many years.

Indeed, the recession may turn out to be a boon for fashion enthusiasts who now have more access than ever to upscale designers. Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s Rodarte, which won the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year award this year, is designing a collection for Target. Christopher Kane, the young British designer who is a favorite of Donatella Versace, has partnered with Topshop, and Rag & Bone and Temperley both recently announced that they have diffusion lines in the works.

“People don’t want to wear head-to-toe high-end designer [outfits] like they used to,” says designer Anna Sui, “Consumers now just expect high-end design at affordable prices.”

Affordable Fashion

ForbesWoman editors have selected the 100 best fashion finds–from skirts to dresses, shoes, jewelry and even hats–for under $100. Click on the trends below to see our top wallet-friendly picks for fall.

The Classics


Animal Prints


Eco-Friendly Fashion

Fall Florals


Fall Brights


Pleats & Ruffles



(5) High Fashion Faces a Redefining Moment

High Fashion Faces a Redefining Moment

The fabric in the hands of Thakoon Panichgul, one of Michelle Obama’s favorite designers, is exquisite. An Italian jacquard, woven from yarns of eight different colors, it costs $100 a yard. A dress that Mr. Panichgul plans to make from the cloth for his runway show next week will cost $2,000.

He lets it fall away. It troubles Mr. Panichgul that as much as people love beautiful clothes, they do not understand why they cost so much. “It’s becoming a losing battle,” he said.

Designer fashion — the creative wellspring of the American apparel industry, the engine of style magazines, the stuff of plain old dreams — is experiencing a serious case of the blues. As another show season rolls out across the city, against the chilliest retail climate in years, many believe this is not merely a difficult moment for high-end fashion but a defining one as well.

Here is the reality: More and more people shop at H & M and other purveyors of cheap chic. Factories offering fine craftsmanship in Italy and New York are closing as business moves to China. Consumers do not see longevity in the clothes they buy. “I think the true designer business is in trouble, no question about it,” said a senior buying executive at Macy’s, declining to speak on the record because of the company’s policies.

With shoppers afraid to spend, department stores cut orders for fall goods by 30 percent. For next spring — the collections being shown during New York Fashion Week through Sept. 17 — little improvement is seen.

“In my 40 years in fashion, I’ve never seen women scared to shopat all price levels,” said Vera Wang, who sells $1,000 dresses at stores like Bergdorf Goodman and also has a low-priced line at Kohl’s.

Retailers have pressured designers like Ms. Wang to lower their prices. Anyone walking through an empty store in recent months could see why this was necessary. On Tuesday, Neiman Marcus reported a $668 million loss for the year. The luxury chain said the latest quarterly sales at stores open at least a year fell 23 percent from the period a year ago. Saks posted a 16 percent drop. On Thursday, the industry tried to excite people with after-hours shopping at stores around the city, called Fashion’s Night Out.

Makers of high-end fashion wonder how far they can drop prices without diminishing their prestige, or cutting corners that might compromise their creativity.

Ms. Wang said she cut prices for her resort collection this year by 40 percent, but was told by some stores that those $600 to $800 dresses were maybe too low for a designer brand.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Ms. Wang said, referring to the future of prestigious labels. “It’s going to be a world of crepe de Chine.”

Although designer fashion accounts for only a small portion of the $191 billion apparel industry in the United States, and many consumers would not mourn the disappearance of $2,000 dresses from the racks, the creativity of runway collections inspires looks in the mass market and sets trends that entice shoppers back into stores season after season, fueling a vast segment of the economy.

In the 40 years since modern ready-to-wear came into existence in Europe and America, and made household names of Ralph, Calvin and Donna, designers have enjoyed enormous respect and prosperity. However, in the past few years, they have lost some face with consumers. Their clothes became exotically pricey as they courted celebrities and did quick-and-dirty deals with makers of fast fashion.

This week the situation reached a nadir of sorts when the Paris house Emanuel Ungaro — once the pride and joy of the Upper East Side — announced that it had hired Lindsay Lohan as its artistic adviser.

Another impact of recession-driven designing is a retreat to more predictable styles, a repetition of the safe looks that sold well in previous seasons. The designer Elie Tahari, whose labels generate about $500 million in sales, is focusing on dresses, animal prints and leggings and slim pants worn with tunics.

“Fashion has to be new and wearable and there has to be a need to it,” he said. Mr. Tahari has cut prices by 30 percent and closed a handbag factory he had in Italy to move that production to China.

Even Oscar de la Renta, the very emblem of high-end New York design, known for $4,000 and $5,000 dresses and suits, plans to offer a $1,500 dress in his spring line to meet retailers’ demands.

And although he recently bought a local garment factory that had planned to close, to help maintain his label’s craft standards, he has also sought out less expensive suppliers in Asia and Eastern Europe.

In his Seventh Avenue studio, Mr. de la Renta pointed to a sleeveless black dress with two knitted, frilly panels. The panels, done in Romania and combined with an Italian wool, will help keep the price of the dress down to $2,500. And Mr. de la Renta likes a silk faille that he gets from a mill in South Korea. Aside from the price — it costs a third of what Italian faille does — he likes the look.

“Listen, Prada has been using it for years,” he said.

European houses, with their savoir-faire and deep pockets — thanks to leather goods and perfume sales — may hold a creative edge over American counterparts that will matter in the marketplace. Stores insist that women, while choosier now and prone to mixing styles, can’t part with quality altogether.

“There are still customers who want that workmanship,” Ann Stordahl, the general merchandise manager at Neiman’s, said. “There are just fewer of them than there were.”

But there’s a paradox in all this, a slight slub in the fabric. Ultimately, what distinguishes high-end fashion is an appreciation for the small differences: in the fit, the fabric. This is a designer’s creative toolbox. Remove a tool, and he has less with which to do his job.

Joseph Altuzarra, a young designer in New York, specializes in ruched georgette dresses, priced around $2,000, which are made in France. Recently, he asked his factory there if it might simplify the ruching process to lower costs. The factory refused.

“They said they would be ashamed to produce a garment that way,” Mr. Altuzarra recalled.

Then he took a sample to a New York City factory to see if it might produce garments for him. “They looked at the sample and passed it around the factory and 15 minutes later said, ‘We can’t do it,’ ” Mr. Altuzarra said. “It was technically impossible for them to do it.”