How Luxury Fashion Brands Survive – Forbes

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Say the words luxury brand and many labels like Armani, Dior, Balenciaga, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Tiffany come quickly to mind. Let me define luxury. Luxury brands share these features: they are expensive, high quality and long lasting, and have a limited distribution. You can wear a luxury brand garment several years after purchase and still get admiring glances. That’s because the design itself of a luxury garment is often futuristic and pleasing.

Luxury items are made of high-grade materials, so they last longer than the copies they inspire. Generally, they come from design studios which have a consistent imprint on the fashion items they create. Clients can also expect craftsmanship that is the highest in the industry.

Luxury is more than beautiful design and well-made workmanship. Many beautiful garments are well made but considered very common since they are very accessible. Zara, for instance, has many stores throughout the world full of attractive merchandise. The products are easily available and affordable. Their success is great because the merchandise is so accessible. In contrast to luxury items, they flood the market.

Another feature that typically defines a luxury brand is the high level of service that is attached to the sale. Many luxury brands sell their garments to specific clients, and they always make sure that the garments fit and please the customer. There is a lot of customer service involved to ensure 100% satisfaction so that customers return to view the next collection. There is no question that the salesperson knows the customers size and taste. Such service is key to building customer loyalty; a loyalty to a luxury brand is often admirable. And, when in place, it can ensure those customers do not shop other luxury brands.

Sure, there is a lot of theatre when new collections are introduced. New York’s Fashion Week is an example; it is when many luxury and better houses display a new season’s collection of garments and do so with great fanfare. Champaign flows as favorite clients return. The fashion weeks in other countries are just as spectacular.

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Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and sometimes Nordstrom JWN venture into the luxury field by featuring designer boutiques. The salespersons are carefully selected, and garments are chosen with some customers in mind. They may not always come – but that is the risk a fine store must take. After all, the relationship with customers is always very fragile – and all the more so when serving luxury shoppers. However, the showing of designer clothes at stores like Bloomingdale’s enhances the appearance of the entire store and supports other customer shopping.

Luxury brands often rise and fall with the designer that leads them. Some designers reflect their own lifestyle, others create something new and different – enough to constantly please their customers. The recent change of leadership at some of the top luxury companies is opportunity to revitalize a brand that has lost its appeal. We are seeing that in several organizations: Burberry’s Marco Gobetti went to Ferragamo, Versace’s Jonathan Akeroyd went to Burberry, and new Versace CEO Emmanuel Gintzburger came from Alexander McQueen.

Will customers follow their star designer or stay with the brand they always loved? Only time will tell, but these recent moves have revitalized the organizations.

POSTSCRIPT: Luxury defines a special segment of the market. While typically these products are expensive, they are never over-priced. There is a difference; expensive merely reflects the quality of the unique design, fine materials, and excellent workmanship. Similarly, luxury is not faddish but long lasting. There are many brands, but few rise to be really in that special category to be a luxury brand.

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