Month: November 2015

Valentino x Goop: Only Somewhat Super

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This week, Goop announced a collaboration with Valentino on a Wonder Woman-themed capsule collection. Comprised of 25 pieces ranging from sneakers to gowns, this collaboration is a great coup for Goop – Valentino is by far the highest-profile label Goop has ever partnered with, and Goop can also boast the distinction of being Valentino’s first-ever partnership with an outside label.

The brand pairing is excellent – the major fashion house will boost the much-derided Goop’s credibility, while working with Goop will reinforce the Chiuri and Piccioli-helmed Valentino as being youthful and not without a sense of humor. The Wonder Woman theme is incredibly random, but cute and apropos of the current feminist conversation, as well as an in-on-the-joke move aimed at Paltrow’s critics.

It seems like the perfect partnership – the resulting product, however, is mixed.

The pieces are genuinely stunning in person (I had the pleasure of visiting the Goop Pop-up store in New York yesterday) and beautifully constructed. But the price points are too high even for Goop’s altitudinous norm, with t-shirts and sneakers coming in at about $1,000 apiece, and a leather jacket for $10,000. The gowns, though, are truly special and worth the 5-digit price tags.  Many of the pieces are also hard to wear or too novelty for everyday use, like the star-spangled denim hotpants, the similarly-decorated denim jumpsuit, and the completely sheer t-shirt. If Goop and Valentino were going to pursue these price points, they ought to have incorporated at least a few simpler pieces that would be worth the investment But then again, Valentino isn’t exactly known for its practicality – every piece is something special.

The collection seems to be doing well, with several pieces having already sold out just two days after the line’s debut. Apparently the price points haven’t been too much of a deterrent for online buyers, though most of the women in the pop-up store cast one frightened look at the Valentino rack and hightailed it to the more budget-friendly cosmetics section. Price points more akin to Valentino’s Red collection would have been much more accessible – and would have sold out immediately. Or at least caused a reaction more similar to the opening for Balmain x H&M, and less like white ladies nervously eyeing a $1,000 crown.

I certainly hope to see more high-profile collaborations with Goop and even a brick-and-mortar store in the future. Gwyneth should leverage her celebrity friendships to this end. Could Tom Ford x Goop be next? The world might explode – or at least mine certainly would.

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Eating My Hat: DressBarn’s Chic Rebranding

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Prior the last two months or so, I would have probably gambled my life on DressBarn remaining the most tragic mall staple of all time, incapable of pulling itself out of the mire of frump or breaking the curse of a name that connotes manure and/or unbecoming girth.

But I would have perished, because it has done both, and spectacularly well, in what may be the best executed re-brand in recent memory.

The new strategy was two pronged: to present the brand as real “fashion,” and to acknowledge, with humor, its less-than-chic name and frame it as an asset, not a liability. In their fall ad campaign shot by Patrick Demarchelier (!), Hilary Rhoda wears cocktail dresses designed by the likes of Carmen Marc Valvo and interacts with different farm animals. The accompanying slogans are cheeky acknowledgements that the name is atrocious, like “Don’t Let the Name Fool You” and “Still Hung Up on the Name?,” with some refreshing self-awareness.

The ads are visually arresting, especially the shot in which Rhoda gracefully cozies up to an enormous bull. And the clothes aren’t bad either – her dresses look chic, flattering, and wearable. Rhoda was the perfect model to front this campaign. She’s young and stylish, but has an air of maturity that‘s more in line with the target consumer, and perhaps more importantly, isn’t overexposed (looking at you, Estée Lauder and Topshop). Asking Carmen Marc Valvo to design a capsule collection was another smart move. The target demographic will recognize the name and read it as a stylish but not intimidating choice. Someone like Christian Siriano would be a good choice for next season.

The stroke of rebranding genius is due to a change in marketing management helmed by Lori Wagner, who has previously worked for J. Crew, Nike, Talbots, and more. Apparently, she and her team had considered changing the company’s name, but I think their decision to keep and re-situate it in the minds of consumers was the better choice. People love a heritage story, especially coupled with an underdog element. Other mall staples should take note, especially the floundering Gap, and the identity-less New York & Co. and The Limited.

Will cutting-edge fashion lovers start shopping at DressBarn? No. But a lot of women will. And the ad got me, formerly a vociferous detractor, to visit the company website, which is a big step in itself. I look forward to seeing what Wagner does next, even if I won’t be among the consumers.

 

 

 

Label Consolidation and British Stars on Trampolines: This Week In Burberry News

Last week, Burberry announced their decision to roll up all of their lines – Brit, London, and Prorsum – into one label. Henceforth, everything will be known as simply “Burberry.”

This decision follows similar moves other luxury labels have recently made to get rid of their “junior” lines: D&G and Marc by Marc Jacobs have both became defunct in the last year. Burberry’s consolidation is much more akin to Victoria Beckham’s swallowing up the lower-priced Victoria, Victoria Beckham (although London couldn’t exactly be seen as a junior line, pricewise).

Does this make sense from a business perspective? I suppose. To the untrained shopper, the different labels might be confusing. But I think Christopher Bailey ought to have cut out London, and kept Brit and Prorsum as bookending collections – but perhaps this is my own sentimentality talking.

When I was first discovering fashion, Burberry was the brand I deeply identified with, soul-loved. I obsessed over it; the black and white ads covered my walls (and still do in my childhood bedroom); I finally felt like a world understood me and my interests and tastes and aesthetics. I would look at the Brit line on Nordstrom.com and think that one day I might be able to afford a piece. I contented myself with the fragrances (this was a pre-Burberry Cosmetics era – imagine!) and then one day, at sixteen, I garnered the nerve to go into a Burberry store with my mother. There was a black eyelet cotton Brit dress on sale. We bought it. It was an important psychological shift for me – I finally owned a piece of the world I wanted to live in. I was me. And I would go on to make wonderful memories whist wearing that dress, and it’s something I will keep forever. Brit’s differentiation from the other Burberry price points made that possible.

Besides my maudlin affection for the Brit line, Bailey should keep it because it’s so distinctive from the runway collections. Brit is made up of classic pieces, like sweaters and polos, starting at about $300, and usually incorporate the house’s logoistic check pattern. It’s a starter line that’s clearly identifiable as Burberry for those who don’t have the budget to afford the higher-priced London line, or a penchant for a pastel trench coat from the Prorsum collection. Without the identifying nomenclature, I feel like Burberry’s enormous inventory will be difficult to navigate, and perhaps turn away new-to-fashion buyers, who only see thousand-pound dresses and leave, unaware that they can afford something less pricey.

And as for Prorsum – Latin for ‘forward’ – that designated the high-fashion runway collections, well that’s a shame to lose. It’s a word that evokes the Burberry knight, and Burberry’s unique ability to move forward stylistically while still remaining a heritage brand. Not to mention its erudition factor – it also brings to mind a romantic vision of Oxford and Cambridge. Something like this, which, coincidentally, is the aforementioned wall décor:

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I’m sure Bailey has good reason for the roll up – I trust him and his vision for the brand, even though I wish he wouldn’t make this particular move. So who’s next to streamline their label? Kors won’t – yet. There’s too much of a price gap between Michael, Michael Kors and the Michael Kors Collection, and besides, he should want to keep the two separate to placate both the label-toting suburbanites loonies with brand ownership, and the starlets he dresses on the red carpet with a non-embarrassing connotation. Armani won’t yet either. There will always be a Eurotrash market for Armani Exchange on one hand, and a market for sophisticated actors to wear his suits on the red carpet on the other. How are these label stratifications even part of the same brand? They are so antithetical – not at all like Burberry’s or even Marc Jacobs’ lower-priced lines, which simply reflect(ed) the larger brand at a lower price point. I suppose a powerful name can code for a lot of different things to different audiences – but I’m not sure that’s a compliment to Mr. Kors or Mr. Armani.

Burberry also debuted its holiday video advert last week. No luxury label does holiday marketing quite like Burberry, and the label delivered once again, with a star-studded tribute to Billy Elliot, with appearances by Romeo Beckham, Elton John, Julie Walters, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, George Ezra, Naomi Campbell, Michelle Dockery, and James Cordon, just to name a few. That’s what’s so special about Burberry – all of these faces perfectly fit the label. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, black or white, 13 (Beckham) or 68 (Sir Elton), Burberry is for everyone. They consistently strike a unique pitch of inclusiveness, while still maintaining luxury, aspirational status. Perhaps that’s the heritage factor, but I’d chalk it up to a special British alchemy.