the rich and the recession
There’s a lot of talk in the air about the recession and how it’s affecting trends–trends in buying, trends in style. It’s true that fashion has always been a barometer of the times. Hemlines went up and corsets dissappeared to liberate women. War, and the resulting fabric rations raised hemlines more. Post-war boom inflated dresses, youthquake raised hemlines further, free love resulted in macrame couture, the 80s power era gave birth to shoulder pads even Joan Crawford would have raised an eyebrow at.
Once, when I was little, the adults were talking one day about the economy “looking good”. I asked my dad what a “good” economy looked like. He said it looked like a diamond–a small percentage of rich people on one the top, a small percentage of poor people on the bottom, with a great many people in the middle. That image has always stayed with me.
When the economy “looked good”, diffusion or bridge lines cropped up everywhere. CK, D&G, DKNY. Contemporary pricepoints with a designer’s mark. Can’t afford the $2000 Armani? Buy the $1000 Emporio. Now, the economy doesn’t look so good. The middle class has shrunk and the diamond is now about as rectangular as the emaciated androgynous models that have taken over the runways. Now it’s all about designers striking deals with discounters like Target. O by Oscar is flatlining, but everyone is buzzing about Comme des Garcons for H&M, or whatever the pairing du jour may be. (Side note–doesn’t anyone else find the Barney’s launch for Rogan for Target a bit weird?)
The rich, for the most part, stay rich. Maybe they’ll opt for a smaller summer house, or hold off just a little longer to buy yet another new Porsche, but they stay rich. They keep buying their designer frocks. The poor aren’t much of an indicator of the economy either. They buy what they can afford. There will always be poor people. It’s the middle class and how they spend their money you have to watch.
It starts at clothing stores. The $1000 Emporio seems too much now and you start going to A/X instead. Hmm, maybe you can find something similar elsewhere. Hey! isn’t Designer X doing a Go International line at Target and isn’t that guy always ripping off Armani anyway? OMG, if she can find an Armani mistakenly tagged $5 at Goodwill, I can too!
But people still want to give off the illusion of money, no? Not everyone sees your house and your old furniture, but everyone will see that your car is new(ish). People won’t flip your collar to read your label but they will notice you in some silky material with detailed bra-cups and assume it’s Proenza.
Interestingly, the trend with rich people, discounting (no pun intended) the flashy, insecure nouveau riche, is with understated luxury with (hidden) labels like Bottega Veneta. They have to separate themselves from the masses somehow, right?
These are all things I’m thinking about as I’m preparing to launch my designer pricepoint collection during a recession. It’s scary. Once upon a time you could count on the added boost in sales from the middle class splurging their holiday bonus on designer clothes. Once people start looking at clothing pricetags and think “that’s X tanks of gas!”, it doesn’t exactly bode well for newbies like me. We’ll see.