Feb. 15 - Fashion designers showing their creations at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City are setting their sights on ''Fashion-visas'', growing middle class tourists from Brazil and China who are coming to the U.S. to shop. Conway G. Gittens reports.
All-American fashion house, Kate Spade, may be seeking inspiration from the French for its Fall offering, but it's looking even further afield for new customers, says Creative Director Deborah Lloyd. SOUNDBITE: DEBORAH LLOYD, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, KATE SPADE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Definitely the growth potential in China is absolutely vast and it is something you have to embrace and enjoy and I can't wait to visit there and host them when they come here." Kate Spade is one of the many designers trying to tap into a new revenue source- the Chinese tourist, who spends on average six thousand dollars per trip to the U.S. And this could be the tip of the revenue iceberg for fashion designers. James Mischka of Badgley Mischka: SOUNDBITE: JAMES MISCHKA, DESIGNER, BADGLEY MISCHKA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Given this world economy and the way things are trending and sort of the opportunities over there it would be foolish for an American designer to ignore the Chinese market." Back in January, President Barack Obama ordered the streamlining of visas to the United States, focusing on China and Brazil. The U.S. Travel Association believes this could add over $859 billion to the U.S. economy by 2020. Even European designers, like Custo Dalmau of Custo Barcelona, setting up shop in the U.S. are trying to get a piece of the upcoming action, which includes a newly emerging middle class in Brazil as well. . SOUNDBITE: CUSTO DALMAU, DESIGNER, CUSTO BARCELONA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We are ready to open our first store in Sao Paulo and we are scheduled to do the first fashion show of our collection in Shanghai on March 8th." That expansion has to come with a few - alterations. Designers are already tweaking size, fit, and style to entice foreign shoppers. One example: more red - the symbol of luck in China which featured in Jason Wu's recent show. But fashion experts like Maren Hartman of WGSN warn against going overboard. SOUNDBITE: MAREN HARTMAN, TREND ANALYST, WGSN (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It has to be really balanced in the sense of protecting the U.S. customer and the way that the U.S. customer thinks and then also really hitting on the other end and providing the special pieces that is going to get the Chinese consumer excited and not feel like they need to go somewhere else to get it." Kate Spade is starting to roll out the welcome mat - hoping to not only win over Fashionistas, but Fashion-Visas - travelers looking to buy the latest American styles. Conway Gittens, Reuters.