Affordable luxury clothing – no longer an oxymoron

vera wang wedding gown source googleIt’s almost every girl’s dream to walk down the aisle in a beautiful one-of-a-kind Vera Wang wedding gown. Most girls also wouldn’t mind wearing couture jackets and carrying designer hand bags. Well, this was just a dream for all of us “average girls” out there… until now.

Many high-fashion designers are considering those on a budget and are creating lines for bargain stores like Target, K-Mart and Kohl’s. So it looks like we can get a little taste of designer heaven after all.

Designer Duds in Discount Stores
Vera Wang is known as one of the most talented bridal gown designers around, so many were surprised to see her line of boots, jackets and more appropriately titled “Simply Vera Vera Wang” at Kohl’s stores across the nation. Most of the clothing ranges from $20 to $100. It may not be a “steal,” but you’re definitely getting quality garments.

Isaac Mizrahi is another one who chose to make “designer styles priced right.” Most people are used to seeing his clothing on pin-thin runway models at New York Fashion Week, but now, “everyday women” can wear his designs. His Target line has everything from cashmere sweaters to little black dresses in a price range from about $25 to $120.

Target also scored big when Anya Hindmarch launched a line of handbags. The London designer found a way to convert a $1,200 clutch to a $20 clutch, and she did a darn good job if I say so myself. Women now have a variety of quality handbags to choose from that still look classy and elegant.

Anya Hindmarch designer bag
Anya Hindmarch designer bag

Success of the Lines
Although these clothing and accessory lines have been successful, some think the discount aspect may “turn off” the designer label buyers. Those at Pierce Mattie Public Relations wrote this post and agree Wang made a good decision targeting a different market, but also second-guessed her designer status.

The line is largely successful in partial thanks to great brand communication (aka public relations). What about the “new” image of Vera Wang? Does this detract from her status as the go-to for the best bridal gown possible?


Anya Hindmarch Target bag
Anya Hindmarch Target bag

My PR Perspective

As a buyer looking for quality, designer-like clothing at an affordable price, I think Wang, Mizrahi and Hindmarch are smart for targeting these consumers and stores. Although some may think it will take away from their high-end designer status, I don’t think their sales will suffer because they have already established loyal buyers.

At the end of the day, public relations must come into the mix. If these designers see consumers demand something, they should give it to them. Pleasing the customer is always the most important thing, and those in PR know they must do that every day. 

What do you think of these designer transitions?

Check out Isaac Mizrahi’s Target commercial to see his luxury designs for an affordable price!


7 Responses to “Affordable luxury clothing – no longer an oxymoron”

  1. 1 Katelyn Luysterborg November 14, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Great post, Lauren. I’ve been thinking about this topic myself, and I would have to agree that as someone with no money, I love being able to get designer products at an affordable price, but in the same respect, I think it’s devaluing their brand. With designers like Vera Wang and Isaac Mizrahi putting marketing the designer labels as affordable, it makes their label less high-end, and eventually I think people will stop looking at them as luxury designers.
    I think Target is on the right track by featuring a high-end designer, such as Proenza-Schouler, each month. It brings high-end to the everyday consumer yet it’s doesn’ take away from the luxury brand image.

  2. 2 laurencarll November 16, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks, Katelyn! I agree with what you’re saying to a certain extent. I think Isaac is going to have a harder time boosting his brand back up rather than Vera. Since Vera is known for her wedding gowns, which is a completely different market than Isaac, I think people will still want to wear her gowns regardless of her Simply Vera line.

  3. 3 laurencarll November 16, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    oops, didn’t mean to post just yet! I also think Target is on the right track with the “Go International” line. It gives people just a little taste of designer clothing, but not enough to take away from the designer status.

  4. 4 Lauren R. November 23, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    I remember reading about the debut of Simply Vera by Vera Wang at Kohl’s. Many articles discussed the first week of the debut and did not have initial good reviews. Garments were not properly merchandised in some stores, not delivered to all stores, and key advertised pieces were missing in other stores. People did not line up in front of the doors like they do for other stores’ designer introductions. Vera Wang’s initial transition into the mass market was not successful. Her line was also advertised in Vogue and with very little television advertising. Next to the poor merchandising, the other big problem was that little people new about the launch. Kohl’s target consumers of women do not read Vogue. A criticism would be that Vera Wang relied completely on her name to sell the line and did not truly understand who Kohl’s consumers were. Vera and her company failed to research. Perhaps launching her line with the same advertisements in Vogue, at another store, would have had different results.

  5. 5 laurencarll November 23, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Lauren. I have also heard some negative things about the Simply Vera line. I have not personally purchased anything from it, but some people say it’s just so-so.

    I can also see how poor promotion of the line may have affected sales. However, most people who shop at Kohl’s are not looking for designer-like designs and high-quality fabrics. I’m sure most just wanted a little taste of a different line of clothing than most Kohl’s shoppers are used to.

    At the end of the day, Vera is a wedding gown designer, and that’s why I don’t think the Simply Vera line will hurt her dress sales. The two markets are completely different.

  6. 6 Katrina Polansky November 25, 2008 at 3:40 am

    When I was a little, I did once too dream of walking down the isle with a designer white dress such as Vera Wang. Wait, who am I kidding, I still do dream for this to happen. Now that designers such as Issac Mizrahi and Anya Hindmarch are making clothes affordable for those who can’t afford them, this dream may come true. But is this really going to benefit these top designers? I agree with Katelyn that by making their clothing line in more affordable places, such as Target and K-Mart, they may loose their brand image. Think about it, why do we want name brand clothes? Mainly because we know we can’t afford it, making it something we all wish to have. I think by doing this designer’s are taking a risk. They could loose their unique image. Without their unique image, would the designer truly be a designer? Who pays attention to the cheap or average designers anyway? I don’t, I only know what is best becuase of it’s “brand image”. Therefor, I by doing this would take the risk of loosing customer’s and their true brand identity.

  7. 7 Katie Moore November 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    These designers are trying to survive with the ever changing market. I don’t blame them at all or think less of them for creating “affordable” quality products. When I get married one day I still want to wear a Vera Wang wedding gown, its always been a dream of mine. The fact that she is now making a slightly less high fashion line for the average woman shows me that she is thinking about other types of markets, not just one. Wang is thinking outside the box and these days that seems to be one of the only ways your going to survive in the ever changing consumer market.

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