Coachella Is a (Rich) Focus Group for Designers

Photo: Jordan Strauss/WireImage

With Coachella kicking off today, we thought New York’s designers — especially those stuck here in the drizzle — might be jaded about clicking through slideshows of sun-kissed Californians in their crop tops, feather earrings, and cross-body bags. But an informal survey of those at Donna Karan’s “Fashion for Haiti: One Million Hearts” event at Urban Zen last night proved street-style fatigue has yet to plague the festival circuit. For some designers, the steady stream of summer festival coverage offers great marketing — and market research.

“We as a brand put out different suggestions for your ‘hashtag’ festival wear,” said Mara Hoffman, who happened to be wearing a festival-friendly geometric printed mini-dress with ankle boots. “A lot of our bathing suits can get paired with shorts and jeans, and sort of layering it with print on print on print. We kind of push it out there for those girls who are looking to break it all out.”

Jewelry designer Pamela Love added that, because there’s a good cross-section between her customers and Coachella-goers, she watches how they wear their jewelry. Zac Posen said he does the same thing with sunglasses. Handbag designer Monica Botkier agrees. “We get into the vibe even if we don’t go there,” Botkier said. “I have a friend going. She took one of our bags. I was like, ‘Take pictures of it having a good time, because I want to see what’s going on!’

Most of the designers were too busy — or in Posen’s case, too sun-sensitive — to attend music festivals. Victoria Bartlett said she’s never been to one, in spite of being a major music lover and former backup singer. Her band, Canyons and Matches, even played at Stonehenge when she was a teenager. “I can’t remember what I wore. Are you kidding?” she asked. “Back then people didn’t even have cameras.”