Luxury to the masses was once the most coveted political move of any established brand. The idea was simple; start high to gain exposure among the jet-setting crowd and then come up with a more affordable line for everyone else who wants to be like them. However, that idea seems to be going away with the addition of capsule collections (invented by Target and now embraced by macy’s and others soon to follow) which allow designers to offer lower prices for a limited time without have to think about creating affordable clothing season after season.
Another occurrence, starting at the masses and then selling to the classes. Let’s talk about the Olsen twins who started at Wal-mart and now have the multi-billion dollar The Row which has won a CFDA award. The Olsens were one of the first celebrity designers to ditch mainstream affiliations, canceling their wal-mart account and re-inventing their line until i can neither afford nor want something from The Row. It is not just the price but the fact they have slowly drifted away from the initial customer that they have insulted those who actually made their business successful. Other more notable designers have followed.
The Juicy Couture founders, Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, have left their not so fairly priced company to build a new company offering higher prices and more generic looks. Skaist-Taylor has just reached Miami shores with a spot on Deco Drive showcasing their new “refined” clothing at the Bel harbor Neiman Marcus recently (the line debuted during February fashion week in NY). A hint towards this new turn may have been the launch of the bird collection with Juicy Couture in 2009 (which used cheap fabric to create demi-tailored looks in drab colors). The bird collection was not successful and we wonder if the best friends can create the fun and youthful look of Juicy in Skaist-Taylor because the new looks are not so appealing and too trend based. The brand is already the darling of Neiman Marcus and there is speculation that Dillard’s may be interested.
Finally we saw Betsey Johnson liquify her old company and sell off licenses just to launch a new dress line to department stores this coming spring 2013. She has already stated that the pieces would be paired down from her Betsey Johnson past. We can probably count on short dresses with bright animal prints, a line cuts, and maybe a little twirl appeal. We are sure not to see tulle, bows, lace and sequin. Of course, the prices would probably be lower has BJ is one of the few designers in this run to make the leap from class to mass (even though it was the masses who initially bought those 400 dollar dresses which was way to detailed for the classes). This new collection may appeal more to the classes showing once again that designers are willing to sacrifice their aesthetics to reach that 1% of the population.
It seems the sign of the times, corporate america has entered the fashion world and what seemed a more forward push to reach more of the market is now being undone by the lingering economy as 70% is the new 50 and profit margins are the main concern. Our future may solely relay on trend stores like H&M, Forever 21, Tod’s, Joe Fresh and Top Shop. Let’s pray the economy gets better before designer lower end lines begin to disappear.