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The Stalwart submits: It's fashion week in New York City, which means that everyone but you has an invite to at least one late night corporate-sponsored party with free booze. Who cares though? Who wants to be the least stylish person at the party anyway? It's not like any of the models are going to talk with you.

Despite all of the talk about spring lineups and whatnot, fashion shows aren't about clothes that people wear, they're about clothes that people talk about. They're much like auto shows, which are filled with cars that people will never drive (ahem, fuel cell vehicles). Instead, the manufacturers want to get some time in front of the trade press, and improve their brand cache.

One of the stories from the week that's been inducing titters was the Wal-Mart fashion show, featuring modestly priced, everyman attire. But, and we alluded to this earlier, the real story isn't that low-brow Wal-Mart had a runway, it's that the clothes on low-brow Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT) runway are real clothes made to wear that are ready for this fall. Forget the spring lineup, people right now are looking to buy leather coats for the fall and winter, which is exactly what Wal-Mart had on display.

The fashion industry is very much a manufacturing industry, and it's in this area that companies might gain an edge. Spain's Inditex, the parent company behind Zara, has gained significant traction with its extremely fast turnaround time on new lines. While other companies wait for months to get new clothes on the racks, Inditex goes from planning to design to manufacture to retail within a matter of weeks. They keep their stores fresh, and in style.

It's a change that seems to be happening, then, in many areas. Again, take the auto example. Companies, like Ford (NYSE: F) are looking to dramatically shorten the product development cycle for new cars, so as not to get caught on the wrong side of an energy cycle again.

If manufacturers and fashion companies embark, across the board, on a plan to reduce lag times, companies may regret blindly moving so much of their manufacturing operations to the cheapest locations and to low-quality outsourcers.

Source: Wal-Mart on the Runway