verbal croquis

the rich and the recession

Posted in DE stuff,opinions by verbalcroquis on May 14, 2008

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.


5 Responses to 'the rich and the recession'

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  1. the_kitten said,

    What an interesting read. I wish you all the best with your collection, though! It is difficult, because I guess most fashion-conscious people are now in the position to get their hands on most IT-items and trends for affordable prices, what with all the collabs, copies, and so on. Being in trend, and getting what has just been shown on the catwalk does not necessarily mean to be expensive anymore, the industry certainly has already adapted to the spending habits. Another point is this huge trend of thrifting, and vintage, at the moment, which shows the will-power of a lot of people to also fork through stacks of cheap clothes to find a gem, and not deliberately throw away their money for the next good thing available. I see many bloggers writing to wait for a while to see if a thrift store does not have something similar, instead of splurging on the real thing. Uhm, well, interesting topic in any case.

  2. Laura said,

    Here’s a recent article from Slate about fashion and recessions:

    I’m sure your collection will do splendidly!

  3. Noah L said,

    single people in my opinion are the saving grace for the economy AND the fashion world. They buy clothes not only to go out and to impress but to also attract in good times and in bad! Its what sex appeal is for and thank goodness there will always be a lot of single people (me included). I think as long as new designers have a solid business foundation and reasonable goals anything is possible in any economic environment. Best of luck to your you and your line from one DE to another! 🙂

  4. casey said,

    So true! Why would I buy a 800 dollar top from a designer store, when the knock off is only 25, and I can throw in the washing machine? Savings all around.

    That being said, I think that people will still splurge on something special. A design with integrity and quality. I can understand how it might be intimidating, when launching something new, but if Ed Hardy can sell a t-shirt for 165 dollars, I think you will do just fine.

    Best of luck!

  5. Miss Cheeky said,

    Gurrrrrrrrrl! You will do so amazingly well because you live right smack in the middle of DINK-ville – the Bay Area – er, rather San Franfreakshow. They have to spend their money on something besides kids so it’s clothes and um designer yarns (it does get cold there).

    I’m so excited for you!

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