Calvin Klein's $3,500 Sweater

Go ahead and melt your jewelry to pay for it

Davidowitz is just warming up. "More than 150 million Americans whose family income is $44,000 or less—half of America—their living standard will never be the same, never recover," he says. "We can't pay for Medicare, for Social Security! We can't pay for anything!"

Um, does that mean most people won't be getting new outfits this spring? "The apparel business is a disaster," he tells me. "If you look at the biggest apparel sellers, you see the Limited—terrible, Gap—terrible, Abercrombie & Fitch down, Bon Ton, Dillard's, Kohl's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom's down, Ann Taylor down, Chico's is wrecked—it doesn't look too good."

Kohl's? Chico's? What about Saks and Barneys? "The expensive stuff can't even be discussed! Fine leather from Italy? Forget it! There's been a 70 percent price increase." So is anyone buying anything? "People from Europe. That's what's held up the New York real-estate market—because Europeans are coming here now." How long can this national nightmare last? "I have a sign in my office that says, 'Nothing is forever,' but for half of the country, it will seem like forever. People won't recover. When I look at what we have to do to crawl out of this hole, it's bad as far as the eye can see."

Danny Hellman

Now his voice is rising in anger. "Those nitwits on TV, they talk as if things will go back to normal. Bush is a complete and total moron. When we went to war, his message was: Go shopping. Everything Bush says is insane—he's a C student, a cheerleader, a drunk! 'Keep shopping' is characteristic of an idiot—but I understand his point. If you have a bubble economy, you've got to keep it going, you've got to keep borrowing."

At this point, Davidowitz is practically screaming. "No one runs faster than a scared banker! They sent 10 credit cards to people in homeless shelters, and of course they didn't pay! Now the geniuses at the banks are surprised! A guy with no income, no job—they sold him a house! They gave him $400,000! And now the banks want to be bailed out!"

Um, sure, but what about clothes? "Who's the biggest apparel seller in the country? Wal-Mart. And what are they cutting? Apparel. People are buying what they have to buy—drug chains are doing great. Those checks the government is throwing out of helicopters are going to go to Family Dollar for food—they're not going to help Ann Taylor. People are eating at home more often, they're driving less, starting to conserve, and what's the thing they don't need? Most people—they don't absolutely need another pair of jeans. They have 14 sweaters, they don't need 15."

Well, I do, I mutter, barely above a whisper. "Yeah, my wife too," Davidowitz says. "She'll plotz."

Danny Hellman

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