Girly designer Nanette Lepore recently blogged at Huffington Post about having to cut staff at her company because of the economy–something businesses in nearly every industry are having to face. It’s impossible not to be sympathetic, especially when Lepore frets about the emotional impact on her ex-staffers, but when she went on to ask, “Where were our leaders?” I had to roll my eyes.  Is it really the government’s job to keep an eye on privately held businesses and warn them that an annual growth rate of 20 percent is not realistic? As she admits, a lot of us went a little crazy with the idea that a luxury lifestyle was attainable for everyone. Especially in the fashion business, where the smoke and mirrors are even more distracting. 

About a month ago I met Linda Heister of Mark Heister Designs, a successful Chicago label that has been selling tasteful dresses and separates to well-to-do ladies for some 30 years–a strong, deep niche if there ever was one. She told me this is the worst period their company has ever experienced. On the other hand, if designers and retailers can survive the next few years, they can probably feel confident that they can survive anything