Friday, May 29, 2009

Is Trading Up Flushing Out?

As a fashion designer I am constantly searching to understand where we are today and where we are going to be tomorrow.  We are always on the cusp of something wonderfully new and now is a particular moment in history that we are all trying to understand.  Some insightful information about where we are today highlights the latest news concerning Christian Lacroix.  He's in financial trouble and may be liquidating.  

An article in the New York Times by Suzy Menkes, Lacroix Files For Bankruptcy, explains that 20 years ago we idealized the haute couture designer and his royal following and would purchase perfumes and such to buy in to the brand representing the highest craftsmanship, creativity, and allure.  This is no longer the case today.  As a society we want to buy in to celebrity pop culture and royalty is not as bankable as Hollywood anymore.  We don't seem to be as interested in the prestige of birth, but instead how good we look and how hard we rock while we are here.  Therefore, why would we buy a perfume by Lacroix when we can get J Lo's at a similar price?  

The once popular philosophy of marketing the high end and then putting a lower priced product on the market for revenue is no longer the winning formula.  We've changed, we have become savvy to the marketing tricks of "trading up".  As Menkes describes, Giorgio Armani is doing great, but Armani has been investing in Hollywood for a long time.  When was the last time you saw a red carpet without an Armani gown or tux?  He didn't focus just on the women, but also the men and his name is synonymous with Hollywood. 

The conclusion is this:  In order to be successful in today's design market you must focus on fame.  Both fame of the designer and fame of the wearer determine the success of a brand.  This doesn't mean that tomorrow will be the same scene, it only reflects how we have been living up to now and the recession is flushing it out.  

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