By Sophie Neuman a.k.a. luxenoir
In the last two seasons there has been a shift way from easily replicated designs in collections—most notably from Balenciaga. High-tech, heavily structured garments were featured in both the Spring 2008 ready-to-wear and to a slightly lesser extent in the Fall 2008 ready-to-wear collection. Sure, we are going to see an influx of floral prints this summer as seen on the runways of Missoni, Marc Jacobs, Luella, D&G and of course Balenciaga. However, it is safe to say the copycats are going to struggle to replicate silk on foam fabrics and garments cut by ultrasound. In the Fall collections we have seen fur at Monique Lhuillier and J.Mendel, crocodile and python injected with silicone at Zagliani, heavy ornamentation as seen at Gucci, stingray skin at Pontine Paus and various furs and exotic hides at Jean Paul Gaultier.
Designer brands are moving away from the easily reproduced, the high street and the accessible. Fragrance, often the most lucrative part of a fashion company, is no longer the point of entry into the luxury goods market, now accessories are the forerunner. Handbags, footwear and eyewear have become recognised symbols of wealth. We as consumers are fed images of glamour everyday through the media. Advertising sells us a lifestyle we aspire to. Is it reassuring to know that no matter where you are in the world you will be able to get your hands on a ‘Hysteria’ bag? (Gucci has stores as far flung as Johannesburg, Kuwait and Guam).
Consumers are trading up to higher quality luxury goods; in these economically uncertain times those who can afford it are seeking out luxury as an antidote. Brands are tapping into the new markets opening up in China and Russia, also as levels of disposable income rise in Europe the competition between the brands is as fierce as ever. The luxury goods market is worth over $157 billion, 60% of this figure is from accessory sales alone. It looks like this trend of ‘premiumization’ is here to stay. After all, in a world where celebrities borrow red carpet dresses and designer knockoffs are rife, everybody wants a little genuine luxury.