The End of the High Road: Are Luxury/Lifestyle Brands Coming to an End?

Luxury items and Lifestyle brands; as much as we stray away from them and connect all the negative connotations to them, somehow, they are a part of our life. We all have spent our money on a designer label, done some holiday shopping at a department store, put into some designer outfit as a child, or idolized a celebrity's designer look. Every decade, every generation, it's all the same; for me personally, I remember wanting a Tommy Hilfiger windbreaker and one of his bright shirts as a kid solely because I saw kids on Nickelodeon, my sisters and their friends, and everyone else on Earth during the 90s had one. 

Trends and fashion have changed since the 90’s. Our mentality and views on fashion have changed as a society. Many, including myself, to be honest, aren't impressed with designers anymore. Sorry to burst the bubble of the label heads out there, but the days of spending more to impress people could be coming to an end. 

In recent years, numerous retails stores have announced they're filing bankruptcy or closing altogether. Last week, J. Crew announced their CEO, Millard "Mickey" Drexler, will be stepping down and James Barrett, the former chief merchandising officer for Urban Outfitters, will step in. During the reports, many news outlets shined a light on the fact that J. Crew has suffered from low sales while trying to compete with top-selling stores like H&M. While people find this surprising, as a fashion forward millennial, I don't and I knew it was coming, I just wasn't expecting J. Crew to be effected so soon. J. Crew is just another store added to a list of other popular stores that are hit the hardest because of the economy and the current trends of fashion. 

I’ve always believed that fashion, like many art forms, is a reflection of our society, as well as the views and directions our world is headed in. In a world where Millennials are the most educated yet the most underpaid, ironically, we currently hold the buying power. You would think these big retail stores and fashion houses would know how to market to millennials, but many of them drop the ball in that area. In a time when people with Master’s degrees are working at Starbucks, struggling to get jobs, doing the unimaginable to pay for college, and fighting against prejudice and discrimination, a $70 sweater is the last thing millennials are going to put value in. 

We, as a society, are starting to relearn to appreciate what we can afford. We are also beginning to relearn that money and the price tag of clothes doesn’t necessarily equate to stylish or best dressed. With that in mind, I believe retail companies should start marketing and catering to that mentality our society has. The marketing and advertising tactics used today aren’t effective as they were in years past. The real discussions and the ways we socialize when it comes to fashion don’t match the commercials and ads we see today.  For instance, women are a huge market in the fashion industry; so many companies are still selling this idea of a “fabulous woman, draped in designer clothes” when that’s not the modern woman. Sure, women still love a good designer bag, but women aren’t impressed with the price of your outfit. Modern women today, especially millennials are more impressed with house much money you saved and if the label fits their body type. Honestly, more women are impressed when you get something at a thrift store than when you get something at a department store. 

Have luxury and lifestyle brands come to an end?

Probably so.

Let’s be honest, as much as I love J. Crew, and as much as I love my Ralph Lauren sweaters, I understand the reality of the world. Economically, we are in a state where the majority of Americans can afford to buy these brands. The pricing of these clothes don’t reflect the “target audience” they’re trying to cater to, the department stores prices are no different, and to top it off, the styles are a bit outdated. In addition to the styling and price probably, many brands and retails stores are failing. As a retail consultant, Howard Davidowitz explained, apparel chains, like department stores, are a disaster with new bankruptcies announced weekly. These stores simply can’t keep up with the success and popularity of brands like UNIQLO, Zara, and H&M that focus on inexpensive clothes released at rapid intervals. They also can’t keep up with the social consciousness and unique sense of style that minority-owned/independent clothing lines offer, as well as the accessibility of online shopping. 

Although we’ve come to the end of the road (yes I threw that Boyz II Men song in there), luxury brands will always be a part of society, whether we desire it or go out and spend the money to own it. Luxury and lifestyle brands will always be a staple of what the American dream is, but until this country is in a condition where people have access to education, healthcare, employment, and living in harmony as a united front, the fashion industry needs to stop selling us and styling us as the American dream, and start selling us the American reality.