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October 23, 2008 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, October 23, 2008 - 3B

Catwalk economics

"Remember us? We're the Titans!"

Jn the early weeks ef Septem-
ber, when the finance world
was bracing for disaster, New
York's Bryant Park was alive with
excited anticipation. Inside the
tents at Fashion Week, editors,
buyers and
stylists strut-
ted their most
fashionable
looks in front
of the photog-
raphers lined
up to greet
them, seem- CAROLINE
ingly oblivious HARTMANN
to the darken- -
ing financial climate just a few
minutes downtown on Wall Street.
But the crowd was far from
oblivious. In the midst of a global
crisis, fashion tends to drop down
a few notches in priority, but the
garment industry is hardly some-
thing to ignore in times of trouble.
According to the Garment Indus-
try Development Corporation,,
New York's fashion industry alone
employs about 100,000 people
with a sales volume of $14 billion.
This isn't just an issue of being
able to afford the newest Fendi
clutch; the fashion industry is a
massive operation affecting sev-
eral overlapping economies and
controlling thousands of jobs, and
the recent crisis is taking its toll.
Like so many other industries,
the big-name corporations are
faring better than younger brands
and boutique startups. But even so,
department stores like Saks, Nei-
man Marcus and Nordstrom are
experiencing dips in sales. After
the vdlue of its stock shares fell
more than 10 percent in early Sep-
tember, Saks President Ron Frasch
told The Associated Press that "it's
all a big guessing game" now.
Fashion is suffering in large
part because of its dependence
on credit, which has been hard
to come by this fall. For design
houses, the dilemma goes beyond
meeting payroll: The industry
operates under a tight calendar of
production, turning out garments
months before they hit the racks,
so borrowing money for materials
and factory expenses is the norm.
It's unclear whether this will lead
to lower quality standards, fewer
choices for consumers or bank-

ruptcy, b
could be
Consi
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new and
labels, y
fashion
nant. Bu
sit still,
to find w
The It
is in obv
econom3
is a little
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ion serv
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by lower
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ing from
but even
have an
you're b
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the systs
But now
has corm
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are look
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T
. 1
nc
ing to w
and trad
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The s
tect: Pro
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end man
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"Desi
distingu
sentinge
dressma
director
Fashion
told Slat
fusion o
a defens
Both4
and subt

but either way, the outlook seen more of a runway presence
grim. over the last several months,
dering the industry's and many critics believe the
ng hesitance to take on creative decision is economi-
c potentially unsuccessful tally motivated. No matter what
ou might expect to see other form of sartorial detailing
grow more and more stag- becomes the next focus, the bar
it this industry isn't one to on craftsmanship and fabric qual-
and designers are trying ity has undoubtedly been raised
rays to adapt. (because nothing screamstheap
uxury goods market like a synthetic tweed mini). In
ious decline, but the a highly competitive market that
y's impact on style trends works without patents, the fight to
more complicated than secure a dwindling customer base
upply and demand. Fash- is heating up, and design itself
es as a classic example of looks like the determining factor.
-down system. Runway On the more personal end, there
re picked up and spit out will likely be a shift from quan-
r-cost manufacturers: tity to quality among consumers,
ses are rarely choos- though rightnow it's too soon to
the latest conventions, tell. Until the current market and
tually, the runway does production cycle starts turning
influence on the clothes out sales, it's difficult to determine
uying at The Gap, or even exactly what the industry might
rt. (Insert Meryl Streep's face in the next few years. Still,
"Devil Wears Prada" we can imagine the possibilities:
here.) Usually, this keeps When you decide to invest in one
em comfortably balanced. new seasonal piece, instead of say,
that unbridled spending four, odds are you're looking for
e to a halt, even the high- something that's going to make
ilers' affluent customers a statement. So not only has the
ing elsewhere. Rather artistry of dressmaking begun to
y high prices for designer change, but a shift toward more
sore people mightbe will- adventurous style trends may beon
the horizon as well. And like any
industry in an uncertain economy,
-he fashion the chances are good that larger,
more stable companies will weed
ndustry is out less popular options, so some
labels might actually experience a
)t an island. boost inbusiness.
Upon closer inspection, there
might be reason to believe that the
economic downturn will result in
ait an extra six months a return toa higher-quality mar-
ie down in quality for the ketplace ... or will it? Unfortunate-
ost. ly, the original problem rears its
olution? Defend and pro- ugly head in every equation: How
duce a garment that is so much of a risk is any one designer
y constructed that no low- willing to take?
nufacturer could possibly With the cultural code of
e it. conspicuous spending being
gners are attemptingto supplanted by a push tobe patri-
aish themselves by pre- otically frugal, it's hard to tell
consumers with feats of which way designers will lean.
king," Valerie Steele, the Inevitably, there will be com-
of the museum at the promises, but we can only hope
Institute of Technology, that less will mean more for the
e.com in June. "The pro- future of fashion.

Being the bad guys
of the Big T en

Even in a down
year, Michigan still
plays the role of
sports movie villain
By ANDREW LAPIN
Daily Arts Writer
This past Saturday, every other
school in the Big Ten enjoyed yet
another moment of collective
schadenfreude. As usual these
days, it came at the hands of one
more humiliating Michigan loss.
Despite the fact that Penn State
was heavily favored leading into
the game, they (and ESPN) still
considered takingdown unranked
Michigan a dramatic victory. This
weekend, MSU will stomp in here
with the same "root for us because
we're the underdogs" mentality,
even though their record begs to
differ.
We've already suffered enough
disappointment this season to fill
several unwatchable sports movie
montages. Somehow, though,
everyone still sees us as the bad
guys of the ongoing good-versus-
evil blockbuster known as "college
football." So why is it that Michi-
gan always seems to beg such
intense dislike?
From a film writer's standpoint,
the answer seems to be obvious.
The typical filmgoer, filled with a
typically insatiable thirst for the
dramatic, tends to watch sports
games like they're sports movies.
Everyone likes to see the under-
dogs triumph over the villains,
andthetruthisthatsometimesthe
University fits thevillainmodel all
too well.
Think back to the Yankees from
"The Bad News Bears" or the ice-
skating Soviets from "Miracle."
They were big, intimidating teams
with lots of money, talent and con-
ceitedfans.BetweentheBigHouse,
our school's continued emphasis
on the importance of tradition and
the way we appear to throw money
around like it's nothing (most of
RichRod's buyout and the stadi-
um's massive skybox construction,
to name the most recent examples),
Michigan does tend to resemble
the sports movie villain. We even
wear dark uniforms at home like
the evil Hawks in "The Mighty
Ducks" (and Iceland in "D2"). Not
helping our reputation is the "You
Suck" cheer, which we all know
(or should know) isn't the correct
vocalization to "Temptation."
Any lower-ranked team that
plays us is automatically going to
look like the Little Giants in com-
parison, complete with a nerdy,
Rick Moranis-type coach. This
was no doubt going through the
minds of the Toledo players two
weeks ago and the Appalachian
State players in last year's season
opener. Take down Michigan,
and you'll be scoring one for "the
little guy." Both of those teams
and their respective schools were
able to live out their own ver-
sion of "Miracle" on our home
turf while we could only gaze on
speechless. Meanwhile, the only
Hollywood-worthy story thread
that's emerged from our end has
been Caucasian Sam McGuffie's
emergence at running back, a

position normally reserved for
African-Americans. (I'm pictur-
ing something like "The Express,"
but in reverse.)
The whole situation is unfair
to us fans because we just want
what all other sports fans want:
to live out our own inspirational
moments. This kind of sports
movie mentality can be a danger-
ous thing - just ask a Chicago
Cubs fan. (100 years wasn't the
magic number, guys.) Wolver-
ines are a differentbreed, though:
We use pseudo-words like "win-
ningest" in everyday conversa-
tion. We're used to good things
happening all the time, and we
become frustrated and angry
when they don't. Think back to
last year following the Appala-
chian State game, when stories of
drunken disgruntled Wolverines
taking out their anger on random
passersby were a dime a dozen.
None of us want to play the real-
life equivalent of the boisterous
bad guys who fall face-first in the
mud after an improbable loss (a
scene that appears at the end of
every Disney sports comedy).
It takes commitment from
everyone to make inspirational
games happen. The hordes of
people who cleared out of Michi-
gan Stadium at the half during
the Wisconsin game last month
weren't even willing to stick
around long enough to witness a
perfect sports movie comeback.
With devotion like that, maybe
we don't deserve to see the team
winning any more than they cur-
rently are.
The two films that set the gold
standard for modern sports mov-
ies are "Remember the Titans"
and "Friday Night Lights." When
I thought back to these films fol-
lowing the Toledo game, I real-
ized something: Neither of the
teams depicted in these movies
were underdogs. The 1971 T.C.
Williams Titans outmatched all
their opponents and played an
undefeated season, while the 1988
Permian Panthers from "Lights"
were a high school powerhouse
with high aspirations of winning a
state championship. Yet somehow
these films still manage to inspire
me every time I watch them.
The source of good will in
"Titans" is clearly from a racially
motivated viewpoint, since an
integrated football team was able
to bring a divided small town
together in the post-segregation
era. "Lights," on the other hand,
gleans its inspiration from a trick-
ier place, since the Panthers suffer
a heartbreaking loss at State and
fail to elevate the spirits of their
economically strugglingutown.
It serves as a reminder that
most of the time, real-life games
don't end like sports movies (even
when they come down to the last
play, as in both the film and dur-
ing the Toledo game). It also fea-
tures a very RichRod-like coach
in actor Billy Bob Thornton's por-
trayal of Gerry Gaines, someone
who seems to be afraid his own
goals for the team won't measure
up to what's expected from every-
one else. Most of all, the film ends
with the suggestion that all the
players have learned much more
from their disappointments than
they have from their victories.

It's important to remember
that everything in sports (and
sports movies) has a silver lining.
When we win, we win. When we
lose, we're setting ourselves up
for a comeback. Now that Michi-
gan is off to its worst mid-season
record in 41 years, there are few
people left that are expecting
much of anything from the team
the rest of the season. We've sud-
denly gone from being the vil-
lain to the underdog - a bunch
of scrappy youths who don't
play well together, led onto the
field by a coach who still has to
prove himself. If sports movies
and the past few football seasons
have taught us anything, it's this:
Sometimes, the underdogs win.

f sleeves may, at heart, be
ive move."
extravagantly decorated
tly clever sleeves have

Hartmann checks her LVMH
stock hourly. E-mail her at
carolinh@umich.edu

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