A few weeks ago I did a piece on the “End-of-Summer Stomach Ache” and now…sadly…summer is really over. Today’s headlines in Women’s Wear Daily speak to the stomach ache designers are feeling while they approach the worst economic market since the Great Depression. How is that for an Imodium Moment? While reading through the article, something stuck in my craw that I wanted to talk about. In addition to the many elements that made our economy crumble, I firmly believe that the fashion designers who made those Target, K-Mart and other down-market deals, did not do themselves or their peers any favors. What it did for a hot moment was highlight their own brand, while potentially damaging it from the other end. The frenzy around designer duds at H&M prices has to have had a residual effect on the consumers. You spoil the masses and you are then up the creek without a paddle by the time you resume your regular–ridiculously high–prices.
Do I think capsule collections at sharper prices are a good idea? Yes. But to have driven consumer traffic so far away from the luxury boutiques and specialty stores was a major deterrent (or detriment) to the high-end business. Case in point: when Barneys New York teamed up with Target. You can call it fabulous if you want. I call it really, really sad. Not for Rogan, for sure. But for everybody else. It proved that Barneys needed to suck up to down-marketeers. What’s next? Maybe we’ll see a Neiman-Marcus Kohl’s launch party for Vera Wang. Or perhaps a K-Mart logo on a Max Azria Collection or better yet, on an Hervé Léger dress. I can see it now. The cross pollinating, cross promotional retail extravaganza will be off the hook…and pathetically low rent. For the better market to acquiesce to the down-marketeers and their focus groups will only chip away at the better designer market for good. Who knows, maybe that’s what we need to even out the score from all the excess. And maybe this will eliminate the riff-raff-celebrity-cum-designers that flooded the market. I know: let’s keep all the “celebrity-designers” in the low end market and bring the real designers back to the specialty and better department stores. Now there’s a novel idea. But what do I know? I just feel things in my gut…and the gut tells me that this is a time to hold onto your ideals, be pure in your creative process, accept a decline in your business, and focus on ridding the ego extras as we batten down the hatches for the Spring ’10 fashion week. Wishing everyone a great market.