Tuesday, 01 January 2019 12:58

2018 The Year of the “ReBland”

reblanding Burberry logoAt the end of a tumultuous year for traditional retail, and at the start of another, which doesn’t appear to offer much respite, there’s been a distinct trend in rebranding for both luxury and high-street brands. While you’d expect them to want to stand out, it seems as though they all want to blend into one another. This homogenisation is a case of an expensive “reblanding” exercise. Rebranding means creating a different identity for a brand, from its competitors, in the market, which, in fashion, is even more important especially when you're trying to flog luxury goods and the idea of difference and individuality. This feels like the opposite.

The recent rebland list is long: Belstaff, Celine, Calvin Klein, John Lewis, Burberry, Berluti and Balmain have all gone for simple and bolded logos without any of the details and distinct serifs. Playing it safe, what these new logos and fonts say is a lack of confidence and often change for change’s sake.

Left - The recent logo "reblands"

In August, Burberry unveiled its new logo. Replacing the Burberry Equestrian Knight logo with its bespoke Bodoni font, which had been used by the clothing company since 1901, the new logo is the work of celebrated British graphic designer, Peter Saville. It’s also worth noting he rebranded Calvin Klein with a similar font when Raf Simons took over and wanted to refresh.

reblanding Burberry logo

"The new logotype is a complete step-change, an identity that taps into the heritage of the company in a way that suggests the twenty-first-century cultural coordinates of what Burberry could be," Saville exclusively told Dezeen. Somewhat cryptic and full of marketing speak, he describes what he and Riccardo Tisci, the new Burberry Creative Director, settled on as “modern utility,” adding, “It looks like it’s been there forever, but it’s still contemporary.”

Right - Hedi's masterstroke?!

Tisci said on Instagram ‘Peter is one of our generation’s greatest design geniuses. I’m so happy to have collaborated together to reimagine the new visual language for the house.’

Burberry are in the throes of changing everything way before the new Creative Director’s impact has been proven. As his first collection hits stores to a rather muted response by the fashion press, it’ll be interesting to see how it sells, especially the items with this new logo on.

Seb Law, Fashion Copywriter & Journalist, says, “I really hate that they’ve added’ ENGLAND’ to the Burberry logo after London. As if it’s London, Texas or something.”

It “Seems like an attempt to look ‘international’ and more premium, but also it’s now becoming an established way of a new designer starting at a different house to mark the start of their chapter. Does the general consumer care about this, or is it dive behaviour? Also rebrands cause plenty of chatter in fashion circles and build publicity – see Hedi’s previous rebrand of SLP. All press is good press, apparently.” says Law.

Hedi Slimane is a designer who likes to put his mark onto a brand and in September it was announced that the French house, Celine would be, controversially, losing its accent. Law and others have been defacing the brand’s posters by returning the accent to the first e.

“For me, it’s a matter of good use of language. As a copywriter and journalist (with a degree in French), diacritics aren’t just a pretty typographic tool to be played around with at the will of a designer, they’re an integral part of the word.” says Law. “‘Celine’ and ‘Céline’ are different words, pronounced differently (‘sell-een’ and ‘say-lean’, respectively).  he says.

reblanding Burberry logo Celine Hedi Slimane

“It’s a continuation of the cult of personality over brand, in both cases. Causing a splash, in whatever way possible, seems to be the aim of the game. With Burberry, I’m disappointed that the logo doesn’t have a more uniquely British feeling, which the old one did IMO – I do love the interlocking TB print though.” says Law. “With Céline, it’s a classic case of Hedi doing whatever he wants. Brands should be aiming to exercise their unique personalities; this uniqueness is what attracts customers and maintains a brand’s personality. Homogenisation might attract sales, at least initially, and while change is obviously necessary, and often good, these two rebrand exercises feel like they’re a bit half-arsed. They’ve succeeded at building publicity, but is that what a logo redesign should do?” he says.

Left - The new logos are all very similar

On the high-street, John Lewis, in September, rebranded as John Lewis & Partners at a reported cost of £10m. Its first rebrand in 18 years and inspired by the company's 1960s "diamond pattern" motif, John Lewis managed to not only complicate its name but also lose its trademark dark green. Opting for safe black, it was yet another example of this reblanding trend.

In an age when these brands should really be trying to expressive confidence in themselves, these boring logos show a striving for safety and an anti-criticism blandness. It’s hard to be critical and negative about something so simple, yet they aren’t memorable or standing out. These aren't utility companies. Fashion’s current love of the sans-serif is definitely missing something.

Published in Fashion
Wednesday, 24 October 2018 09:56

ChicGeek Comment Only Billion Dollar Brands

Christopher Kane divesting from KeringIt was while watching the Alexander McQueen documentary at the beginning of the summer - Read TheChicGeek Review here -  when I wondered where the subsequent crop of young designer brands were. 

The British based designers who were the generation after McQueen and showed so much promise - Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katranzhou, J.W. Anderson etc. - and despite some investment, just haven’t been able to scale up their brands in the same way McQueen and Stella McCartney were able to.

Left - Christopher Kane's only permanent store on London's Mount Street

I realised that this was a signifier of how the luxury market has changed and the days of nurturing fledgling brands into ‘Mega Brands’ are over. It illustrates the saturation in the market and it’s all about making big brands even bigger, today. “If you’re not going to be a billion dollar brand, then it’s probably not worth our time", is the new attitude. It probably explains the reason why Michael Kors recently bought Versace. Read more ChicGeek Comment here

David Watts, Founder, Watts What Magazine, says, “I suspect that this is more to do with the parent company realising that these businesses are not scaleable - or to the extent of other portfolio brands and cutting their losses.”

“In the current very challenging retail market and designer wholesale model not being as robust as it used to be, brands need to shore up cash and also give themselves a buffer,” says Watts.

J W Anderson divesting from Kering

“For the larger groups though, bigger really is better,” says Sandra Halliday, Editor-in-chief (UK), Fashionnetwork.com. “When they take on a brand, they want it to have billion dollar potential, or at least to occupy a strong niche that will guarantee high profit margins. The stakes these days are too high to do anything else,” she says.

When the Gucci Group invested in McQueen, Stella McCartney, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga in 2001, it signalled the moment the luxury fashion industry was in full expansion mode and opening stores all over the globe. Following that, there was a raft of investment in the generation after, with Kering - formally Gucci Group  -  investing in Christopher Kane in 2013 and LVMH investing in Nicholas Kirkwood and J.W. Anderson in the same year.  Everybody was billed “as the next…” but it just hasn’t materialised. Well, not in consumers’ heads anyway.

Now, brands are going into reverse; fashion’s answer to “Conscious Uncoupling”. Stella McCartney just bought back the 50 per cent she didn’t own from Kering and rumour has it, Christopher Kane, is in talks to buy back the 51 percent stake from the French group after a 5-year partnership.

Right - J.W. Anderson single store in East London

Halliday says, “I think in Stella McCartney’s case there was a genuine desire to run her own show and given the strength of her brand, that’s understandable.”

“For Christopher Kane it’s probably more about Kering focusing its resources and its time on its big winners, and that makes sense with Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga doing so well and Bottega Veneta needing lots of TLC,” she says.

“It give them a certain freedom and with the knowledge and experience learned (hopefully) as being part of a large group that they know how to be more careful with finances and astute with merchandising and keeping overheads down,” says Watts.

“Staying small, focussed and niche with a direct to consumer model could work for some brands, but it’s also very tough to make serious money at that scale,” says Watts.  “Of course, there are possibly different and extenuating circumstances for why these brands find themselves in their current predicament. What does it tell you that LVMH and Kering cannot make Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane, Edun and Tomas Maier work…..gonna be tough for them as independents however the chips may fall,” he says.

Announced this year, LVMH has severed ties with Edun, Bono’s ethical fashion brand, and Kering has closed Tomas Maier, previously the Creative Director at their other brand, Bottega Veneta. These brands will have to regress back to start-up mode and think small again if they are to survive.

“In many ways, the future prospects of small designers hoping to break into the big time are quite depressing as the barriers to doing that are very high.” says Halliday. “But, on another level, the internet offers opportunities that didn’t exist just 20 years ago. The combination of a well-run e-store and a physical flagship can actually be a very cost-effective way of reaching the maximum number of consumers.” she says.

“Even if smaller labels can build profitable businesses, the chances are that the end result will be a hoped-for takeover by a bigger group, or by private equity investors, as that’s the kind of investment that’s really needed to make the transition into bona fide big-name brand,” says Halliday. “And all of that doesn’t even factor in what might happen if the luxury boom runs out of steam at any point,” she says.

Those brands fitting somewhere between these smaller designers and the giant groups are making their play for their futures too. Versace has already taken shelter in a bigger American group and other Italian family brands are sensing this shift and deciding on which side of the billion dollar divide they aspire to be on. Missoni opened its ownership up to Italian state-backed investment fund FSI for a cash injection of €70 million, in exchange for a 41.5 percent stake and rumours continually circle around Ferragamo suggesting they are looking for investment or a new owner.

Belgian designer, Dries Van Noten, recently sold a majority stake in his eponymous fashion brand to Spanish cosmetics group Puig.

“Dries Van Noten is 60 and after 30 years if he keeps creative control and remains chairman of his brand, then cashing in a huge stake gives him financial security, and also Puig brings cosmetics, beauty and fragrance know-how,” says Watts. “It could be huge for a brand such as Dries Van Noten - it’s a win win for him on paper.”

“Most people who are outside of the fashion (production) industry really have no idea both how complicated it as and how hard it is to make money,” says Watts.  “Fashion wholesale is broken and fashion retail is in freefall,” he says.

Disappointingly, the focus has moved away from talent to bankability. Young designers who were previously given a leg-up with investment look too high a risk and expensive for today’s investors. It seems that only those brands breaking that billon dollar turnover ceiling are worth focussing on. You can increase profit margins by making less, but in larger volumes and become a more dominant force. It is more of a risk having fewer brands, but you can win bigger and Kering is clearly taking pole position right now.

Read more ChicGeek Comments - here

Published in Fashion

Department store rebrands John LewisMid-market department stores have become the punch bag for the state of modern retail. Often the largest, most visible and expensive stores to run, they are the cumbersome dinosaurs of the British high-street and, much like those, talk is about them dying out.

Two of Britain’s biggest department store chains, John Lewis and Debenhams, unveiled their rebrands on the same day, this week. Much like a first day at school, and a fresh seasonal start, this is their equivalent of a fresh text book and pencil case. But, will it be enough?

Left - John Lewis & Waitrose adds its Partners to their new logos

John Lewis is ramming home the fact it’s a big, fat cooperative by adding ‘Partners’ to everything. For the first time in the company’s history the names of both John Lewis and Waitrose have added ‘& Partners’. 

At the same time, they also unveiled the largest own brand womenswear collection of 300 designs, which was created entirely in-house and carries the new name ‘John Lewis & Partners’. Plus its first own-brand gifting collection called ‘Find Keep Give’. The range is comprised of unique pieces, the majority of which were designed in-house by Partners.

This is John Lewis really putting its stake in the ground for point of difference. The future, they think, is something desirable you can’t get anywhere else. Never knowingly sold elsewhere!

Department store rebrands DebenhamsRob Collins, Waitrose & Partners Managing Director said: “This moment is far more significant than simply adding words and changing the design. It symbolises something bigger, expressing what’s different about our business and signalling our intent to make that difference count for even more: committed, knowledgeable Partners who care about the business they own, sharing their love of food and offering great customer service.”

Right - All about the D at Debenhams

John Lewis Partnership said in June that it would continue to invest in both businesses at a rate of £400m-£500m per year, to enable the two retail businesses to differentiate themselves from other retailers by innovating in products, customer service and services with the creation of ‘Customer Service Ambassadors’ who provide warm and personalised customer service front of store. As well as healthy eating specialists, they are training Partners to offer a concierge style service and equipping ‘Personal Stylists’ with the skills to deliver daily fashion talks; as well as investing in technology to improve customer service. This will be hard for other retailers to match.

But, John Lewis is feeling the pain too. They just announced the loss of back office jobs in IT, finance and store security from its 50 departments stores with 250 roles affected. This reflects the recent plunge in profits, and the announcement in June that profits in the first half of the year will be "close to zero”.

On the other hand, Debenhams was definitely due a refresh. Devised by new creative partner, Mother, Debenhams has unveiled a “modern, friendlier logo”. A new media tag line “do a bit of Debenhams” invites customers to “celebrate their discovery of the brands and products they love”.

Debenhams chief executive, Sergio Bucher, said, “Whilst we have made real improvements to our stores and continue to improve our product offering we also want to signify overtly to customers that Debenhams is changing and give them more reasons to come in store – our new brand identity is a way of signalling the change.”

As part of the ‘Debenhams Redesigned’ overhaul, the online shopper journeys have been reduced by half and conversion rate improved by 20%. The first new logo in 20 years, Debenhams’ new look reflects the investment and changes that Bucher, who was previously at Amazon, has made.

Department store rebrands Debenhams

In June, Debenhams said full-year profits will be lower than expected - the third time it has issued a profit warning this year. The department store blamed "increased competitor discounting and weakness in key markets" for the profit shortfall. It said annual pre-tax profits would come in between £35m and £40m, below previous estimates of £50.3m.

Left - Debenhams new logo 2018

“Perhaps the rebrand for both these important retailers could be have been actioned earlier, but I am pleased to see that both Debenhams and John Lewis have now grasped the opportunity and wish them both well with the next steps. I am also encouraged to see that both businesses see the initiative as much more than signage and are taking the opportunity to look at every aspect of their businesses in terms of both the relevance and the importance of excellence in delivering goods and services to their customers.” says Michael Sheridan, CEO and founder of retail and brand design agency Sheridan&Co.

One department store chain that could possibly do with a makeover is the privately held Fenwick. The Newcastle-based department store chain is to shed 421 jobs as part of a cost-cutting plan following a slump in profits. The retailer reported, yesterday, it had not been immune from the struggles facing its competitors. It said management, support and shop floor staff would be affected by the job cuts - the result of a restructuring - taking its total workforce to 2,879 people.

Fenwick posted a 93% fall in pre-tax profits to £2m in the year to 26 January. They said a 3.6% fall in sales over the 12 months was a resilient result.

A spokesperson said: "Our annual results reflect the challenging market conditions all department store groups are facing, including increased competition from online retail, declining footfall on the high street, and increasingly competitive price discounting - factors that have been exacerbated by a rise in the cost of living that has led to a fall in consumers' disposable income.”

Fenwick is a small chain, with 9 branches, mostly in wealthy market towns. They have no e-commerce ATM, and, while they plan to, I think it could be too little, too late and they would be better off investing in their stores and “owning” the towns they are in. They need to remind us why we need to go to a Fenwick’s store. They should follow John Lewis’ lead and offer good customer service and product points of difference. It doesn’t have shareholders pushing for short-termism profits so should look longer term.

We’re still waiting to see what is happening with House of Fraser, but I’m sure we’ll see a new logo and branding there within the next 18 months. 

These department stores are using new logos to draw a designed line under the past with the aim to looking forward. They’ve been surrounded by negativity for so long and this must be hitting the morale of the staff and this is a way of saying “new start” and they are investing. 

There’s a lot of play for, but everybody needs to become leaner and faster, and many chains have no more meat left to cut. They, now, need shoppers returning and buying more. Only exclusive products or services they can’t get anywhere else will draw them back.

John Lewis has deep pockets and Debenhams’ survival could be at the expense of another chain. John Lewis’ classic branding didn’t feel tired, but maybe they thought it was important to change before it does, but I would have kept the original dark green colour. Debenhams’ new look looks fresh without trying too hard. It looks reliable and welcoming and does reflect the changes that have been going on in-store. Debenhams has come on massively over the last couple of years and it was a good idea to have a clear out of its “designers” - read more here. Now, it needs enticing, contemporary product to replace it.

The mid-market department store, as a concept, isn’t dead, but for the bad ones it’s the beginning of the end and no fancy new logo or slogan will fix that.

Read more expert ChicGeek Comments - here

Published in Fashion

Sit on My face North Face Death of Superbrands

Take the escalators upstairs to the first floor in Harrods and a sign above the entrance to the women’s designer floor reads ‘Superbrands’. Inside, individual, luxury fashion brands are housed in marbled-lined shop-in-shops giving consumers the full brand experience. 

How these ‘Superbrands’ are anointed I’m not sure - it could be sales or how much they wanted to contribute to the fixtures and fittings - but, what we were willing to accept maybe ten year’s ago feels out of step with how we feel about brands right now.

Left - North Face or Sit On My Face?

Selfridges opened a similar ‘Superbrands’ room during the noughties, but has since dropped the moniker.

We’re moving into an anti big brand age and being labelled a ‘Superbrand’ isn’t the compliment it once was.

Fila Fendi Hey Reilly Death of Superbrands

“Superbrands…who are they? Self appointment does not make you a Superbrand. And really was it just an industry ‘thing’.  Did consumers really know or care who the Superbrands were?  Did consumers really buy into this???  I think probably not. It struck me as quite ‘self congratulatory,” says Jo Phillips, Creative Director, Cent Magazine.

Right - The Hey Reilly Fendi/Fila collab for AW18

“The newer generations want brands that are traceable, responsibly care for the environment with ingredients, content etc, that is traceable and kind to the earth. Some want to have one offs so they can be seen as elite, first adopters, trail blazers etc or there are those who want individual products so they look for independent brands, small runs etc so they don’t feel like clones. Sadly some want to wear brands head-to-toe, emblazoned with logos so we all know ..how much money they have??? But, its beginning to look a little tired, like those people that act like a sandwich advertising board for a brand..especially if they wear them head to toe…its all a bit tragic,” says Phillips.

First published in 1995, and now in its 19th edition, ‘The Superbrands Annual’ highlights brands from a wide range of sectors that have become the strongest and most iconic in their field. The brands are voted for by marketing experts, business professionals and thousands of British consumers. There are two separate surveys: Consumer Superbrands (the UK's strongest B2C brands) and Business Superbrands (the UK's strongest B2B brands).

“A Superbrand must fundamentally deliver a good quality product or service but they also must be famous, come to mind ahead of the competition and be emotively engaging and distinctive, for example have a personality or tone of voice that is unique (think Virgin Atlantic vs Delta), or have a purpose that people can identify with and buy into.” says Stephen Cheliotis, Chairman of Superbrands UK.

Things have changed since 1995 and while many brands once wanted to make it onto the Superbrands list, it feels like the energy for consumers is turning towards start-ups and young, dynamic brands rather than something larger and established. People have become suspicious of big companies and this form of back slapping feels somewhat arrogant.

“While the fundamentals of what makes a strong reputation and what drives a positive perception have not in my view fundamentally changed, much of the context of marketing and buying has shifted substantially. For example, the channels or tools used to communicate with consumers has changed and there are now many more options, the consumers’ demands have has also rightly risen. With increased competition, not only has the bar been raised, but brands are increasingly called to account for poor delivery, for example through social media.” says Cheliotis.

Darling Carling OiBoy Death of Superbrands

“In many ways, brands are still, besides people, the most important asset a company has. A strong reputation in the market is essential to success. In this country we often focus too much on short-term success and short-term metrics, but really focussing on creating a distinctive brand with a clear purpose, point of view, personality and proposition should be a fundamental board consideration.” says Cheliotis.

As part of this change in thinking we’re seeing smaller brands or artists hijacking or playing around with established brands’ logos and slogans. These comical or clever playing with words have made many people think about brands’ messages and what they really mean. It’s part of our age of #fakenews, growing suspicion and rage against the establishment. 

Left - OIBOY - £28

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art, Reilly has carved a unique position in the world of illustration and graphic art by playing with what is real or not in brand terms. His recent Hey Reilly AW18 collaboration with Fendi sees a play with the sportswear brand Fila. Both brands merge into a cool and playful outcome. It takes a level of confidence for brands to accept and give these tweaks their blessing. Other designers or artists such as Philip Normal, Proper Mag and OiBoy are all offering a British sense of humour on other people’s branding.

Based in South London, and founded by George Langham, OIBOY recently made its debut at Selfridges. “We all like to categorise everything into boxes, it makes us comfortable, but what makes a model super? "She's a ‘Supermodel’ not just a regular model”. Maybe adding 'super' to a brand or a model allows them to demand higher fees or prices because they are now super?! It's all bullshit really, BUT without these unaffordable (to the masses) 'superbrands', there wouldn't be brands like OIBOY, which is seen as affordable and accessible.” says Langham.

Is this about a lack of respect for brands who have spent many years and millions of pounds establishing themselves.

Yoots Boots OiBoy Death of Superbrands

“I’m not sure it’s a lack of respect from our side of things, we see what we do as something lighthearted and harmless fun. What seems to be happening is privileged kids glamorising the working class, even glamourising poverty in some cases, you can see this with the trend of every fashion shoot being on a council estate or pie 'n' mash shop or wherever, it's like going on a safari for them, seeing how the ‘others’ live…” he says.

Left - OIBOY - £28

“Well ,we used to take any brand that rang a chord with us and British culture/humour, hoping that the brand(s) would see the funny side of what we had done, at the same time, realise it’s guerilla advertising, we never look to discredit nor try to pass ourselves off as them, yet lately we’ve had some issues from 2 ‘superbrands’... the first one which is an American preppy brand who were fairly nice to us and asked us to kindly remove items from sale off of our site, the other, which is a French tennis brand, they tried taking us to the cleaners, so I guess to answer your question; we now can’t mess with clothing (super)brands, so we best stick to beverage companies from now on.” says Langham.

"It's just another marketing spin, why is Mark Ronson a 'super' producer not just a 'producer'? I like the idea of some super hero character producer coming in to save the day, but not really a super brand.” he says.

This reaction is about brands not taking themselves too seriously and being able to laugh at themselves. Many larger brands have built themselves a straight jacket of branding and guidelines and aren’t flexible enough to respond to the new consumer’s desires. This is about having a personality and being confident enough to join in the joke. They had this trouble when social media first appeared and they needed to have a singular voice.

Paul & Shark Proper Mag mug Death of Superbrands

Superbrands is a dated concept and as such illustrates the change in the way we view established brands. Today, you don’t want to be seen as being too successful. You want to be part of the struggle and that’s also why many big brands are starting smaller brands all the time. Just look at H&M and its growing stable.

Many Superbrands have lost sight of its product and got wrapped up in the brand too much. They need to disrupt themselves. I think we’ll see many of these brands falter unless they give more attention to the final product and particularly its quality and longevity. 

Right - Proper Mag Mug - £8

I wrote about ‘Russian Doll Brands’ - here 

Published in Fashion

Bored of Luxury Brands Tiffany & CoIn last week’s Evening Standard, Hatton Garden jeweller, Sam Hunter, brother of director, Sophie Hunter, wife of Benedict Cumberbatch, said, “People are bored of the little blue boxes, extortionate prices and minimal design that is now completely characterless,” he went on “It’s the name you’re paying for and nothing else… It’s fine if the piece is exquisite, but they’re producing less and less of those!”

He was, of course, talking about the American jeweller, Tiffany & Co., but he could have easily have been describing the majority of modern luxury brands.

There was a time when you wanted everybody to know your brand. There was a time when success was built on brand awareness. There was a time when consumers wanted you to know the brand they were wearing in order to convey status, but times change and this awareness and ultimately saturation has breed predictability and boredom. 

For example, I was recently in Berlin. I walked past their fanciest department store, KaDeWe, and in the windows were great looking clothes. I always like to try and guess the designers and then, like a museum piece, look at the labels on the glass. I didn’t recognise a single one of them. In the past you would dismiss this as being a second rate store or inferior because the ‘big labels' weren’t there, but instead it was far more interesting and refreshing.

Inside was another story. The usual luxury shop-in-shops: Bottega Veneta, Valentino, Gucci, acres of marble and the same look, the world over, but the element of the unknown is what will get people off their sofas and into stores.

It’s much more exciting, today, to not recognise a label and go purely on quality and design. It’s a sign of good taste and a good eye rather than blindly buying a ‘name’. It's also a sign of confidence. But, it’s hard to stay unknown forever and why shouldn’t brands that are good be celebrated, but it’s the level to which they are exposed and rely solely on the name or label that I have a problem with.

A good example would be the Italian brand, Slowear, soon to open another store on London’s Marylebone High Street, they are understated and their multiple labels - Incotex, Montedoro, Zanone - aren’t household names and don't seem to want to be. Slowear, while not cheap, offers better quality, fit and value than clothes at twice the price. This isn't about being a contrarian and always different and obscure. It's about brands that have a humility, aren't a vehicle for a designer's ego and are understated with a ‘we’re too busy making great clothes-to-focus-solely-on-the-label’ attitude which makes it very democratic and far more interesting.

Go seek out the unknown. I've never heard of them. Tell me more. 

Published in The Fashion Archives
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 14:54

ChicGeek Comment - Be Exclusive Not Excluding

LV Series 3 Sticker Wall Louis VuittonIt should be remembered that the term exclusive, long touted by fashion brands in the positive sense of the word, is the opposite of inclusive.  The opposite, to exclude, becomes a negative: a pushing away and a physical wall between the them and us.

Left - The LV Series 3 Sticker Wall - Take home a sticker of an item you probably can't afford

Luxury brands tread a fine line between wanting the masses to buy en masse - they have to in order to sustain these giant businesses - while keeping this positive form of exclusivity.

As brands find it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves in a crowded market, both in physicality and ideas, some are using that muscle to ‘educate’ the consumer and let them into this ‘exclusive’ world.

French brand, Louis Vuitton just opened a new, month long exhibition, opposite Australia House on The Strand, entitled LV Series 3, to showcase the thought processes their womenswear designer, Nicholas Ghesquière, had behind their current AW15 collection.

Like many of these things, it is a risk. You either leave with the brand going up higher or lower in your expectations. Obviously, the brand, spending huge sums of money, wants the former.

Rather than a wow, it wasn’t quite clear what you were looking at and then, unfortunately, you ask yourself, do I really care? 

Brands have to be careful not to believe in their own myth and hype. They have to remember who put them there. Some of these things can have a touch of the Marie Antoinettes: the great unwashed allowed in, on their terms, to look, but not touch.

People are giving up their precious free time and making a journey to see these things featuring perspex boxes housing £5000 bags with the pretention that you should feel privileged that they are even allowing you in to see something you’ll never be able to afford. 

I understand brands want and need to put their product on a pedestal in order to make it feel special, but it also needs to feel inclusive. If people are taking time out of their busy lives to frequent these things it needs to be on par or better than a museum show or don’t bother at all. These things are beautifully made and while there are two artisans demonstrating and making product inside the exhibit, you leave feeling like you don't know anymore than when you first went in.

It could be that I'm not a fan of Ghesquière's, but I went in wanting to be wowed and educated on why he's been given the top job at the world's biggest luxury goods company. It fell flat on that front. I left feeling that luxury brands need to remember that it’s important not to patronise if they want us to carry on patronising.

Published in The Fashion Archives