Retailer has designs on TV fashion

Bergdorf Goodman a consultant for Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

— Television has become one of the most influential sources of fashion trends. Walk down Main Street in Anytown, U.S.A., and you'll see a Carrie ("Sex and the City") wannabe or a Rachel ("Friends") look-alike.

But who's advising these fictional fashionistas to make sure they're wearing the hippest, hottest clothes?


AP Photo

The fifth star of HBO's "Sex and the City" is the clothes. Fashion followers keep close track of what actresses, from left, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall wear both on screen and off.

From now on, it will be retailer Bergdorf Goodman.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and Bergdorf recently announced a partnership that makes the high-end specialty store the "official fashion consultant" of the academy, the Emmys and the celebrations surrounding the Sept. 16 awards show.

That means Bergdorf will offer a preview of the expected trends in red-carpet fashion before the trophies are handed out next month. It also means the New York retailer will work year-round with the hundreds of Hollywood costume designers who belong to the academy to keep them abreast of what's new on runways around the world.

"Television and fashion are inseparable," says Robert Burke Jr., Bergdorf's vice president of fashion merchandising. "A show like 'Sex and the City's' impact on fashion is amazing."

"Sex and the City" costume designer Patricia Field says not everyone initially recognized that the show about four single women in New York could become a fashion show � including herself and costuming partner Rebecca Weinberg.

"We wanted to give it our best but it wasn't our intention to create a phenomenon," Field says.

At first, designers weren't eager to lend clothes because they didn't see the benefit, she says, but as the show, now in its fourth season on HBO, has gained momentum, the climate has changed.

"Sex and the City" � with its faux-flower accessories and nameplate necklaces � is quite influential on real-life fashion, Burke says.

And she recalls how "Dynasty" was a trendsetter as people took touches from the glamorous costumes, which featured plenty of embellishment and ultrawide shoulder pads, and adapted them for everyday use.

Bergdorf representatives attend upward of 175 fashion shows a year. They look at everything that comes down the runway, then decide what might appeal to their sophisticated clientele, store Chairman Ronald Frasch says. (For example, they dismissed the recent camouflage craze.)

Bergdorf is now offering that filter to the TV shows that want to feature the top looks without having the stars look like fashion victims.

Costume designers already have a day job, so keeping their radars tuned to what's coming up in the fashion cycle can be difficult, academy President James Chabin says. Having Bergdorf do it for them, then package it as a "first-look snapshot" should help costumers and the shows stay current � even though the programs are taped months before the season's clothes are in stores.

"This accelerates the link from runway to TV screen to living room," Chabin says. "What you see on TV tonight, you might walk into a store and ask for tomorrow."

TV stars, more than supermodels or even film stars, can influence everyday apparel purchases because viewers see these characters as more accessible, he notes.

"TV stars are more personal. They're in our living rooms. We get to know them because we see them every week. ... Look at what Regis (Philbin) did for the concept of a dark shirt and dark tie. It's like Jackie Kennedy with the pillbox hat."


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