Sunday, September 29, 2013

June Influence: Designer Accessories

Designer Accessories are the New Black

We claim these high-end designers as masterminds, defend them as artists and award them the title of revolutionists to the fashion industry, all the while continuing to purchase clothing elsewhere. How can one be recognized as an amazing designer of the 21st century if we aren’t even buying the clothes they produce? I’m taking a step back to analyze why we are really groveling over these massive design houses.

Everyone wants to own a piece of luxury even if it’s a Marc Jacobs keychain in the shape of a rat. This is partly because of the world’s love of branding as well as the never-ending amount of conspicuous consumers. In recent decades designer handbags, shoes and cosmetic sales have skyrocketed. Many of the world’s most prestigious fashion designers have added or expanded several accessory lines and are continuing to make larger profits in these departments. What ever happened to a clothing designer just designing clothing?

I remember when fashion designers were acknowledged for their innovative and beautifully crafted clothing. I’m now realizing that this way of thinking is no longer the case.

Many fashion conscious women will gladly share who their favorite designers are but when it comes down to their purchases they are only buying accessories. While in conversation my fellow colleagues told me that the main reason they would rather invest in designer accessories is because clothing trends are moving too quickly. It doesn’t make sense anymore to purchase luxury clothing when the $600 trousers you bought will be out of style in less than a year. Sandy McDonald, who has been a personal stylist at Neiman Marcus for the past 25 years, told me, “Styles are constantly changing and women would rather purchase cheaper trendy clothing items. I remember when we couldn’t wait for the next designer collection to come out, and it consisted of only a dozen pieces. These items would get purchased instantly. Now it seems like a new collection of 60 pieces or so is coming out every few months!” As of the last few decades designers have multiple clothing lines running at the same time, the average produce six and some up to 16 collections a year. It’s all way too much to keep up with. With the rise of fast fashion and everything under the sun being accessible at our fingertips why spend so much on a designer blouse that will just be remade and sold at H&M three months later?

But somehow the coveted designer shoes and handbags have kept their glory. Women are willing to invest in designer accessories like the latest Louis Vuitton handbag or some leopard print Dolce & Gabbana heels versus an exquisitely detailed designer dress. The handbag can be worn for five years or more, same as a great pair of Prada heels. Shoppers have gotten smarter and they are becoming more knowledgeable about how products are being made and where they come from. They understand that it would be impossible for these huge international companies to continue producing all their products in house. Large quantities of designer items are made over seas. This process gives their products less value in return the customer buys less of their items and becomes a bit more choosy with their designer purchases.

While I understand this concept I can’t help but think that recent hype of accessories sales has to do with the brand marketing. By simply flipping through a stack of fashion magazines it is easy to see how many prominent handbag, cosmetic and perfume adds there are over clothing ones. This type of advertising is even done through the use of merchandising in the stores. It would be nearly impossible to go into a high-end designer boutique and have the majority of sales floor items be clothing. On a recent shopping trip to Louis Vuitton, at San Francisco’s Union Square, the interior is glamorous, but upon entry there are no clothes to see, just vintage suitcases and handbags. I walked upstairs and found a very small rack of clothes at the back of the store, about 12 pieces. So what is this telling us? We are worshiping a designer brand for simply the name and the accessories. The same thing happened at Prada, Marc Jacobs, Dior, and Chanel. More than half of the stores didn’t even have clothing in their window displays. Just abstract displays of purses, sunglasses, and shoes. When I asked one of the sales women at Prada why they mainly display accessories, she replied, “Because that’s what sells.” []

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