The Credit Crunch Moth – Why Fashion’s Super Brands Are Watching

Superbrands Burberry, Bulgari, Dior and Gucci are watching the demise of their high street counterparts with interest.

Despite spinning in a different orbit to stores such as USC and The Officers Club, the superbrands, such as Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Gucci, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton and Chanel – synonymous with glamourpusses such as Britney Spears, Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce – are keen to ensure damage limitation for their brands during the economic downturn.

The credit crunch moth

When French women’s clothing store chain Morgan went into administration at the end of 2008, it was just another example of the credit crunch moth eating into a well-known clothing brand (albeit French) with stores now set to close across the UK.

The proliferation of high street clothing stores biting the dust is just desserts, some argue, for some chains whose hefty profit margins were exposed by more competitively priced so-called ‘disposable fashion’ stores such as Primark and Matalan, resulting in a dramatic switch in UK shopping habits (over the past eight years, these brass end retailers have doubled their share of the market).

No High Street miracle, despite the influence of Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus

With the demise of household names like USC and Mark One, Britain’s clothing retail sector, it seems, has never had it so bad. Despite many stores tapping into the High School Musical and Hannah Montana market with its American youth-inspired lines, it’s not been enough to stop the downfall of many of the mid-priced stores. What is a celebrity shopper like Jade Goody or Lindsay Lohan to do?

The uncertain future for superbrands like Gucci, Dior, Bulgari and Dolce & Gabbana

Traditionally, companies at the luxury end of the market are hit hardest by a global economic downturn (Whittards, anyone?), so, surely, it’s only a matter of time before these big names go under.

After all, the company at the heart of it all, Lehman Brothers, pointed out that up to 60 percent of the luxury goods industry’s customers remain in classic, developed markets, which are notoriously pummeled in a recession.

A worrying time of uncertainty for any American Idol looking to wow the red carpets in that knockout Versace dress. Is it finally downsize time on the celebrity circuit?

Are we, the common men and women of Britain, to be confronted (and affronted) by the sight of Britney in a heavily discounted sequined top (pack of three) from Asda or have our eyes assaulted by the image of David Beckham stepping from his shiny Bentley in a hand-stitched white leather jacket (ethically sourced) for under £50 from TK Maxx (or, as my sister-in-law calls it for added chic mystique, Tee-kay-mah).

Editors and buyers, after all, are saying we are now entering the age of minimalism and austerity.

Mamma Mia or Mamma See Ya?

o Gucci president Danielle Vitale says the credit crisis will affect the G brand in the short term but she’s not too concerned thanks to healthy international sales and the fact that Gucci is a truly global brand with a wide customer base and that it has seen off recessions before

o Burberry has been particularly affected by the slowdown in the US economy, saying its US outlets are expected to place smaller orders this year. Hopefully Burberry CEO’s decision to diversify the label, giving their signature plaid a backseat, will prove to be a wise decision in 2009

o Yves Carcelle, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, has dismissed the economic downturn as having ‘no impact’ on his company. Explaining his bold claim, he states that when things are uncertain, Louis Vuitton thrives because it is ‘of eternal value’

o The move towards a less ostentatious 2009 in the fashion world seems to have been reflected in Bulgari CEO Francesco Trapani’s decision to sell his classic 137-foot yacht, which was known as the Bulgari yacht with Trapani sometimes conducting interviews on it

o Dior CEO Sidney Toledano isn’t worried about his superbrand or it’s survival during the recession, telling the Associated Press, “When times are tough, the mistake is to throw in the towel. I use this metaphor – when the kids are not hungry, you have to cook even nicer dishes to stoke their appetite.”

Ironically, it may be lower-end retailers, such as H&M and Kmart, who provide the lifeline for superbrands during the lean months of 2009, maintaining the link between chic and high street. They’re now providing the best of both worlds to consumers.

These brass end retailers have enjoyed great success with designer collections, such as Stella McCartney for Puma, Issac Mizrahi for Target, and Karl Lagerfeld for H&M.

And so the love affair between brass end high street retailer and superbrand seems to be allowing both to endure for now. In the words of another famous love affair, Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?”

It appears, for now at least, the superbrands still smell as sweet…but alas, poor isolated Morgan is the latest to fall upon its sword.

Only time will tell if the Guccis and Diors of this world will suffer a similar fate.

The Bargainista – Updating Your Wardrobe on a Budget

The Bargainista is a fashion bargain hunter. She loves fashion, loves to dress but cannot afford designer fashion at full price. So what does she do? She has to be financially creative and shrewd when it comes to updating her wardrobe on a budget and so she sniffs out bargains.

She lives for sales and shops at designer outlets, factory outlets, TkMaxx and searches for fashion treasures on ebay. She is not a label lover but shops from high end to low end brands on the high street as she has a keen eye for quality and fashion. The bargainista will buy full price in the luxury lines of the low brand but will wait for the sales of the high end stores to see what designer labels she can pick up at discounted prices. Plus now you can get celebrity branded fashion at high street prices, like the Kate Moss collection exclusive to Topshop, so even better for the bargainista.

The bargainista is always looking well put together. She saves money on fashionable clothing and she gets her monies worth by wearing them any and everywhere. She is not haunted by the fact that a luxury scarf cost £90 (ninety pounds) because she picked it up for £15 (fifteen pounds) at a discount outlet or sale. Her sense and appreciation of fashion allows her to think outside of the box when putting together a look. While most fashionistas and label lovers would not think about wearing anything other than designer labels, she can achieve the look of Gucci in Primark or Dolce & Gabbana in Topshop.

She keeps abreast of fashion trends and can manipulate these trends to create her own look. So other than her ability to reproduce this season’s fashion trends on a budget, a bit like Gok Wan in “Gok’s Fashion Fix”, she pre-buys for the next season by making smart investment choices in clothes and statement fashion accessories she knows will come in handy the following year or season.

Shopping in Milan

Milan is a paradise for shopping lovers. All the clothes you have ever dreamed of are available in Milan. This is the home of fashion and design. It is also the home of the flagship stores of many great designers: Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Krizia, Missoni, Ermenegildo Zegna, Moschino, Mila Schön, and Trussardi among others. If you are a high priest or priestess of style, take the first flight to Milan and go directly to the so-called “Quadrilatero d’Oro” or the Golden Quadrilateral.

The Golden Quadrilateral is formed by the Via Montenapoleone, Via Della Spiga, Via Manzoni, and Via Sant’Andrea. They are the most expensive high-fashion Milan areas. These streets contain the most prestigious boutiques and showrooms in the world.

The most luxurious accessories, dazzling jewels, beautiful clothes… Everything is impregnated with ostentation in the Golden Quadrilateral. Many tourists just go to Milan to go shopping.

Via Montenapoleone is the most important street of the “Quadrilatero d’Oro.” Here you’ll find, amongst other things, all these boutiques: Gucci, Luis Vuitton, Prada, Tanino Crisci, Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tanino Crisci or Cartier. In Via della Spiga is the home of some other major brands such as Sergio Rossi, D&G, Krizia, Gianfranco Ferré, Tod’s, Genny, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Chopard or Bulgari. Via Manzoni holds the Armani kingdom. It has a huge multi-concept store with a luxury Japanese restaurant, a show room and a cafe. In Via Sant’ Andrea you can find such famous boutiques as Armani Chanel, Fendi, Kenzo, Moschino, Hermés, or Trussardi.

If you can not afford such high prices, don’t worry! There are more affordable stores spread around four important streets: Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Corso Buenos Aires, Via Torino and Corso di Porta Ticinese. Here you’ll find the more popular stores such as H & M, Footlocker and Zara, etc

Outside the historic centre, there are thousands of fashion outlets, which sell last seasons major brand clothes at economical prices. For those who prefer the bustle of street markets, Milan not only stands out for its luxurious boutiques. It also has beautiful street markets where you can find almost everything you could wish for. Milan’s largest street market is the one held on Via Papiniano: some stalls sell designer seconds clothes. There’s an antiques market on Via Fiori Chiari and a large flea market, with everything from books to clothing to appliances.

Most shops open from 9:30 to 13:00 and from 15:30 to 19:30, although the bigger stores stay open all day.

Don’t stay at home! Take your credit car with you and go to Milan to enjoy the most beautiful shops in the world! You will have a great time there so prepare to make your wallet tremble!

Top Names in the Fashion Industry Face the Crisis Head-On

Although many might not want to admit it looks like the recession is here to stay and the tables have turned on the fashion industry. The designers are known for setting the scene when it comes to what’s hot and what’s not but interestingly with cutbacks and curbed spending habits the big fashion houses are the ones who are having to responding to the economic crisis to ensure their survival.

What has been classified as recession fashion has seen a return to classic traditional lines and a focus on more traditional investment pieces. Even the most flamboyant of consumers are tightening their purse strings and chopping up the plastic. Even style advisors are encouraging their clientele to revamp and combine old garments from their wardrobe agreeing that accessorizing is the key this year. So, how are the top names in the fashion industry coping with the current cautious climate?

Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfield, Gucci and Prada, all known for their luxury and forward thinking designs are now returning to the past years of economic crisis for inspiration and although sales are down the fashion savvy are still buying. The big fashion houses are confident of their survival, but why?

Both male and female outfits have switched to minimalist, straight, crisp, vintage and traditional lines and neutral palettes. Scaling back, downsizing and getting back to basics seems to be the key elements of collections.

Military and aviator themes are commonplace as collections seek to symbolize not only a seriousness but strength. Slick, tailored suits are present in many collections and recent reviews have seen cufflinks and ties for both men and women have a renewed popularity. Interestingly ties are thinner and cufflinks less embellished and simplified. Individual pieces such as jumpers, trousers and shirts have been broken down and created with combination in mind.

It should be noted that not all designers have followed this trend, notably Dior opted for exaggerated and excessive styling in their summer collections and consequently received very mixed reviews but neon colors, short hemlines and ruffled sleeves are clearly popular with consumers. Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, has recently stated that the fashion industry should not run scared and stick to the expected but not many consumers are looking to overdress. The male fashion industry has, understandably taken a lesser knock as most designers consistently to stick to traditional conservative lines no matter the economic situation.

Designer garments are also going on sale a lot earlier than previous years and downgraded pieces are up for grabs. Retail outlets are reporting that dresses are being put on a back burner while more conservative pieces that blend and last for several seasons are selling well. The big names in fashion are facing the crisis head on but it has been reported that many now realize the intense consumerism of previous years will not be making a return anytime soon.