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Fashion Week: From runway to closet

By Sarah LeTrent, CNN
September 14, 2012 -- Updated 1912 GMT (0312 HKT)
 Will the sexy cutouts and sheer overlays seen in this Nicholas K runway show make it into your closet?
Will the sexy cutouts and sheer overlays seen in this Nicholas K runway show make it into your closet?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fashion Week brings together clothing buyers, designers and insiders
  • What happens there affects the everyday consumer in subtle ways
  • Style, cut, color and pattern can jump from the runway into your closet
  • Fashion Week events, say insiders, encourage creativity in addition to commerce

(CNN) -- The international Fashion Week crowd has packed up its tents and menagerie of models in New York and moved on to London. After that, it's Milan and finally, Paris.

Meanwhile those unfamiliar to the Lincoln Center Fashion Week tents, where runway shows and designer presentations take over the city twice a year, are left wondering in a dust of sequins and a lingering cloud of Chanel No. 5: Why all the fashionable fuss? How does Fashion Week impact me and what I wear daily?

NYC Fashion Week: New face, new take

"On a strictly business level, it's a $350 million a year business," said Steven Kolb, the CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. "It's the second largest industry in New York City after finance. It isn't just these design jobs, it's the retail jobs, it's the truckers who drive the deliveries around to stores, it's the editors. It's a big, big business."

Particularly in New York, Fashion Week is more for the benefit of the buyers, or the people who decide what items to stock in department stores or boutiques for the upcoming season.

From there, Fashion Week designs will eventually trickle down into mass market retail. Garments that debuted on the runway this week may not be hanging from the racks of your local T.J.Maxx anytime soon, but you'll see their influence in the shades, patterns and cuts of mass produced items.

If the nearly 200 designers who showcased their lines during Fashion Week are any indication, by spring, the masses will be wearing skirt suits, sheer overlays, blush tones, edgy prints, sexy cutouts and head scarves.

Tamara Albu, an associate professor of fashion design at Parsons The New School of Design, said even for consumers who are "just not that into it," -- it being fashion -- the industry's influence is unavoidable.

"Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, we are constantly bombarded by information, which, of course, includes fashion," she said.

"The manufacturers may translate those specific details to more affordable versions that may be trickled down to mass production garments soon after the shows are over. Being totally oblivious about fashion elements would not exclude the fashion from an uninterested person's wardrobe," she said.

Insiders assert the pomp, circumstance and air kisses of Fashion Week don't just matter to the economy and your closet; they encourage creativity just like events that celebrate any other medium, such as music or fine art.

"It's not just frivolous. It's an entire industry of ideas and marrying the art of commerce with it," said Anne Kwon Keane, fashion director for Lucky magazine.

And while most runway looks, like the pink feathered Badgley Mischka gown or Tracy Reese's sequined pants, may seem a little extravagant for the business casual set, Keane, Kolb and Albu agree, there's still a takeaway: silhouettes, textures, colors, tailoring details and ideas on how to accessorize.

"It's a presentation of ideas and when thoughtfully put forward the impact can be really wide-reaching," Keane said.

"It can be whatever it needs to be to a consumer no matter the price point and that person's personality," Kolb said.

Others, like New York-based photographer Mike Mellia, remain skeptical. On Thursday, Mellia will open his latest exhibition, "The Death of Fashion," which questions whether Fashion Week "has become an anonymous repeating stereotype."

Still Mellia acknowledges fashion's power.

"Fashion's goal is to place itself on an aspirational pedestal because it seeks to transform art into commerce. As a result, the social reach of fashion is often greater than that of traditional art in today's society," Mellia said.

Are you a fashionista, or do you find the fashion industry irrelevant? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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