Fashion as Big Business: The New Face of Luxury
In the 1990s the levels of disposable income were constantly high, so the spending habits among newly wealthy women began to change. Seductive marketing and advertising campaigns were created a swarming frenzy each time a new or limited-edition range was released. This is how the "must-have" culture was created. All fashion magazines were full of glossy adverts promoting the latest offerings in luxury handbags, a trend that still continues today. Some women were buying luxury handbags every few months as a display of their status and fashion eliteness.
The success of the luxury goods industry in the last twenty years can be attributed to four main factors: the huge wealth creation of the 1990s; a growth in the tourism (newly wealthy people including Chinese and Russians could afford to travel to major cities such as New York, Paris and London, where they could purchase luxury goods tax-free); increased market share and network distribution by the big fashion conglomerates; and, most importantly, a strategy by the luxury goods houses to foresee the democratization of luxury. The last factor is the reason for the major change in the nature of consumerism as we know it. However, the democratization has created a market so fickle and dependent on the economy that anything from a slight dip in the financial markets trough a severe recession sees consumers zipping up their wallets. The very reach are different though, they are recession proof, but they cannot carry the whole luxury goods market alone.
With the success of diffusion lines, mass-market chain stores have jumped on the bandwagon and flexed their financial muscle. As designers try to ride the storm, an opportunity to further their market appeal and share has seen them democratize fashion further down the economic scale. The initiative was taken by H&M with its global network of 1,800 stores. It's limited-edition collections have included collaborations with Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli, Jimmy Choo, Matthew Williamson, Sonia Rykiel and of course Lanvin. These have generated favorable media attention as well as a stampede of customers.
Meanwhile, Alexander McQueen designed a line for the US chain store Target, and Giles Deacon has designed ranges for New Look in the UK. In 2009 there was a highly publicized collaboration between the Japanese casual wear brand Uniqlo and the German designer Jil Sander.The collaboration brought together Sander's highly respected design aesthetic and the financial and distributional might of Uniqlo, which has more than 750 store around the world.
Once the epitome of budget fashion for the masses, the mall and high street is now becoming the epicenter of democratic luxury, style and for money. As financial instability plays its part, luxury boutiques once brimming with rich and aspirational consumers now find the very same aspirational customers flocking to the mall along with the masses to indulge in the new, acceptable face of luxury.
Have a great Friday Night! The weekend just began! (at least where I live :)