The Philadelphia Collection returns, aims to drive local retail

Get those heels ready, Philadelphia. The city's largest fashion and retail initiative returns this fall.

On Wednesday, Mayor Michael Nutter announced before a sea of structured blazers, shift dresses and stilettos that The Philadelphia Collection will take place from September 13-20. The week-long series of fashion and style events, which was founded in 2010 by the City of Philadelphia, looks to promote all aspects of the city's fashion economy. This year, The Philadelphia Collection will house over 75 events, spanning from expert panel discussions and fashion presentations to large-scale runway shows and parties.

Depicting the city as a "fashion and shopping destination with cutting edge, emerging design talent,” Mayor Nutter ambitiously added he would like to see it become a worldwide "fashion capitol." Although that title is normally contested between Paris, Milan, London and New York, Philadelphia has certainly aligned itself as an emerging if not already-established, competitive retail destination.

City representative Melanie Johnson reviewed the growth of local retail, noting that twenty years ago, Philadelphia was considered, "sweat shop city." In the past two years, the city has been included on multiple shopping and cultural destination lists compiled by the likes of Travel + Leisure, Forbes and CNBC. The recent effort to drive revenue and attention to the city's shops and boutiques stems from the Philadelphia Retail Marketing Alliance. The organization was created four years ago with the goal to designate Philly as a shopping city, ultimately hoping to "enhance the quality and quantity of the city's retail offerings," said Vice President of Communications for the Center City District Michelle Shannon.

It seems to be working: Multibrand retailer Intermix is coming to Center City this fall, moving into Knit Wit's previous location at 17th and Walnut. The uber-cool apparel and accessories chain specializes in mixing and matching designer wear with mainstream brands. For example, pairing a $300 DvF top with $165 Citizens of Humanity jeans and a $2,000 Chloe purse is the strategic approach the retailer has established- with immense returns.

In addition to bringing more retailers to Center City, the various entities hope to attract more design-related initiatives like the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, which was established earlier this year. With the Incubator's designers in residence and executive director Elissa Bloom on hand, Shannon praised the program for how it's "galvanized the fashion community." She added that the designers will present their Spring 2012 collections in Macy's grand court as part of The Philadelphia Collection. Calling the Incubator a "public-private partnership that really works," Shannon hopes ideas and programs likes these will reshape the city's fashion identity.

To preview the third annual string of events, the City of Philadelphia has paid a fee to participate in Fashion's Night Out, a global fashion initiative founded by the CFDA and Vogue in 2009 to help drive attention and revenue to retail. Now in its fourth year, the one-night-only fashion celebration will take place on Thursday September 6, exactly one week before the launch of The Philadelphia Collection. Anthropologie, Adresse, Nicole Miller and Joan Shepp are among the local stores and boutiques that will remain open from 6-11 p.m. on Fashion's Night Out.


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