The fashion empire led by designer Charlie Brown is the latest casualty in the battle to retain customers who are increasingly turning to cheaper labels, the Adelaide Advertiser reported.

"The Charlie Brown collapse is part of a journey that has been going on for months and will accelerate in the next six to nine months," says Shane Barr, chief executive officer of The Nathan Group, which operates the Trent Nathan label.

"The industry is over-catered for. Fashion is simply not as important to consumers now as it was 15 years ago."

Peter Metzner, managing director of fashion public relations firm The Arc Factory, said consumers crave "freshness" which designer labels cannot provide because they work too far in advance to anticipate trends.

"Instead of (releasing) a whole season of products, the focus needs to be on dropping "pods" of fashion... so if shoppers go to a store every four weeks they'll see something new," he said.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has also impacted on the fashion industry, with consumers becoming more aware of their spending habits, he added.

Fashion houses such as Just Jeans, Levis, Bonds and the Sydney-based Marcs are performing well because they offer frequently updated basic garments.

"They are the products that people will continue to buy whereas a pair of designer $800 leather pants is a luxury item," Mr Metzner said.

Harry Watt, the SA designer behind the Harry Who label, says fashion houses in difficulty are more likely to be mismanaged than victims of a flagging market.

Mr Watt and business partner George Gross say their sales increase every season.

"(These difficulties) do not extend across the board. We've always felt very positive," he says.

"There's a reason we've been in business for 28 years. We don't go out and buy lavish buildings to operate in and we have very tight financial controls."

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