From catwalk to sidewalk: How runway trends wind up in your closet

Thursday, September 4th 2008, 4:00 AM
McDermott for News The (very) big-bow blouse debuts on Proenza Schouler's Fall '08 runway. Blouses by the designers usually run about $600.

Dufour/Getty Madonna makes a splash with a bow look at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

The big-bow blouse as interpreted by Old Navy. The shirt, on sale now at, retails for $8.99.

If you happen to be Marc Jacobs, Heidi Klum or even a Gossip Girl, it's obvious why the world stops when Fashion Week starts. But what about the rest of us?
Most New Yorkers can't get into the shows. They can't afford the clothes. And they wouldn't wear some of the impractical designs even if they had the cash.

So why should Everywoman care about a $4,000 dress? Because one has probably already influenced what you're wearing now.
From the color to the fabric to the silhouette, everyday street wear takes cues from the catwalk. Check out the trends this season: blouses in stores from Anthropologie to Old Navy flaunt flirty bows very similar to a Proenza Schouler blouse shown in February. Picked up anything purple lately? Designers including Michael Kors used the hue in their collections this season, and the same shade is sprinkled liberally through Forever 21.
"High-end runway brands can seem inaccessible," says Mark Tungate, author of "Fashion Brands: Branding Style From Armani to Zara." "But in the end, it's still going to affect what you wear."

It all starts when fashion-industry intelligence operations like World Global Style Network send photographers out to capture detailed shots of everything coming down the catwalk. "Zara and H&M and Target, they are all clients of these kinds of services," Tungate says. "They're looking at these photos and trying to identify trends."
The most buzzed-about trends involve what's worn by celebrities - which is why designers make sure their front rows are dappled with stars.
When a major star wears a designer's look, "It sprinkles a bit of stardust on your brand," says Tungate. It also sparks interest from the affordable mass-market brands, which are steadily searching the runways for inspiration.

Once those brands have selected the hottest looks from Fashion Week, they get to work. "They have whole teams of designers, they have outsourced factories, and they can turn these things around very quickly," says Tungate.
"We'll be seeing cheaper versions of what we've seen on the catwalk appear in stores before the real versions actually hit. They're going to reflect what's happening on the runway."

The knockoffs are crafted from cheaper materials, but the look is more or less the same. Sometimes these interpretations come a little too close. Diane von Furstenberg sued Forever 21 for allegedly copying some of her dresses. She's also pushing a bill before Congress to strengthen copyright protection for fashion designers.
Several chains, including Forever 21, H&M, Target and Zara declined requests for interviews, although H&M released a statement saying, "Now more than ever, themes in fashion spread quickly around the world."
They're not kidding. Thanks to the Internet, trends on the catwalk and the red carpet become must-haves at record speed. Of course, New Yorkers still lead the way when it comes to sporting runway-inspired looks.
"Major cities pick up on the trends immediately," says Carol Hoffman, a buyer at the Doneger Group who's responsible for eyeballing trends and advising retailers on what to order.

"But if you cross the Hudson River, you've already got a little bit of time to bear before it really translates," Hoffman adds. "It may take some amount of time - two or three seasons - before it really is successful at retail outside major cities. But it does have an effect."
Of course, top designers have to get their inspiration from somewhere, too. "It can go the other way. The street influences the runway," says Tungate.
"[Couture designers] send photographers onto the streets to see what young kids are wearing and to try to get ideas," Tungate says, "and sometimes those styles can act as inspiration."
Like that, fashion comes full circle.

From catwalk to sidewalk: How runway trends wind up in your closet