What is Fashion Doing Wrong?

Images via WWD and Kate Spade Saturday
The other night, my little sister in the sorority posted this article on my Facebook timeline, and when I read it I was upset but not at all shocked. Kate Spade Saturday, the younger, mod sister of Kate Spade New York, just announced that they are closing all stores and reworking their online retail business. This comes only weeks after clothing brands/retailers C. Wonder and Piperlime announced they were shutting down operations, and other companies like Gap and J. Crew are going through major business changes. With a new midpoint clothing retailer shutting down what feels like every other week, the question begs to be asked: what is the fashion business doing wrong?

I'll give you a moment to think about that question, because it's a difficult one to answer. After all, the economy is doing well once again and luxury retailers are finally seeing profits after a few years of a recession. If Prada can make money, why couldn't Juicy Couture?

To be fair, it's easy to figure out where Saturday and C. Wonder could have gone wrong. Saturday only launched a mere two years ago and in that time span opened 32 brick and mortar stores. That's a lot of expenses to burn on a budding brand where you don't know if it will be successful or not. And Saturday wasn't really meant to be a permanent brand; originally it was going to be a Kate Spade x Target collaboration, then a pop-up store, but editorial praise for the brand encouraged Kate Spade to expand the Saturday brand into a full-fledged sister line (perhaps a little too rapidly, though, in retrospect). C. Wonder, on the other hand, was always pegged as a revenge brand and compared to Tory Burch (Tory's ex-husband J. Christopher Burch was C. Wonder's founder, btw).

With both brands, overexpansion seems to be the culprit, paired with mediocre quality and a lack of strong advertising (when I texted my mom last night to tell her the news about Saturday, she responded, "It never got much play. Not well advertised..." Agreed, Mom. Agreed.) Still, given that these stores didn't even exist five years ago, it feels like these brands never really had much of a chance to prove themselves or rework their brand if they were failing.

Piperlime is a different story, however. With only one flagship store in New York, you cannot blame the high cost of maintaining physical stores for the online retailer's demise. One would think that the cost of maintaining an online clothing store would be minimal, but when a company fails to produce a sizeable profit (of all the Gap-owned brands, Piperlime made the least money) it doesn't matter how minimal the costs of maintaining a website is when it's unsuccessful.

image via WWD
Regardless of how and why these different brands shut down, there's a lot of uncertainty moving forward if you are a midpoint clothing brand. Is it the end of the preppy clothing store? The offshoot brand? Where does fashion go from here? The concept of Saturday or C. Wonder—cute, fun clothes for affordable prices—seems smart, especially with the case of Saturday, since many people find Kate Spade New York clothes cute but too expensive for what they are, but these brands are created to make money, not be all that critically successful. When you create a brand as a diffusion line or a way to piss off your ex-wife, your foundations may not be as solid as a brand with years of planning and gradual growth. If your diffusion line isn't successful after a few years, it's easier to just cut your loses and focus on the main brand. The same goes for Piperlime; Gap isn't going to keep holding on to a product that isn't financially successful. Even though Piperlime is it's own entity, it is essentially a diffusion line of Gap.

From Juicy Couture and Abercrombie & Fitch to Kate Spade Saturday and C. Wonder, midpoint fashion retailers need to sell, and if they aren't churning out a sizeable profit, there's no point of maintaining a failing business. Brands that are still in business are reevaluating their business strategies (J. Crew hopes to lower prices and Gap just got rid of their creative director role) in the wake of all these closures.

High fashion and couture can get away with lower numbers because they are luxury goods for a select market; that's the point. Clothes that are created for the masses, however, aren't here to innovate the fashion industry, they exist only to clothes the masses and make money. I guess, the bottom line is the bottom line. If you're made to be sold to everybody and not everyone is buying, what's the point?

If you're still a bit confused about the latest fashion retailer news, this article does a good job of trying to explain the craziness of the retail fashion industry.

What do you think about the recent wave of brand closures? What is the future of the midpoint fashion retailer?

2 comments :

  1. Really great article Lindsey, totally agree with you that the spin off brand for Kate Spade really did expand too quickly. I rarely do any shopping in traditional bricks and mortar stores now. It's all done online. I only purchase beauty products in stores because you need to try them but the fashion landscape is really changing now.

    Really like your style of writing! You have a new follower!

    Thanks for sharing this! Would love if you could drop by CH1K.com as I am running a Daniel Wellington Giveaway!

    Helen xx
    http://CH1K.com

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  2. Reminds me of this: http://www.businessoffashion.com/2013/12/the-rise-fall-and-future-of-juicy-couture.html Contemporary fashion has seen better days and it makes you wonder who is gonna be next!

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I love hearing your thoughts! Thanks for reading! ♥︎Lindsey