High fashion goes democratic

Big-name designers release more accessible lines

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Stella McCartney for Target

The most intriguing movement in the fashion world is the recent shift towards so-called “democratic style.”

With the rise of popular chains such as H&M and Forever 21, trends from the runway have become accessible to everyone " regardless of budget.

Vintage shopping has increased in popularity over the last couple of decades, and more and more people are finding cherished pieces in places like Kensington Market in Toronto, and even Goodwill and Value Village.

The trend towards democratic fashion has become so pronounced, designers are beginning to rethink their strategy and provide lines that are accessible to all.

Last February, Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez launched a reasonably priced exclusive collection in Target stores and on Target.com that was available for 90 days.

Vera Wang has recently introduced Simply Vera Vera Wang " a line that offers the designer’s trademark style at an affordable price. Oscar de la Renta has also introduced the O Oscar line, which provides inexpensive accessories such as sunglasses, rings and handbags for retail prices as low as $35. The fashion world is abuzz right now with high fashion aesthetics more readily available to the masses than ever.

Simply Vera Vera by Vera Wang

The shift towards providing affordable fashions is in response to two major forces affecting the sale of luxury goods: competition and counterfeit.

With the introduction and spread of stores offering runway styles at a much lower cost, consumers began to turn to the more economically advantageous options for achieving high fashion aesthetics.

Magazines such as Elle, InStyle and Cosmopolitan have never had an easier time finding pieces to include in their “Get the Look for Less!” sections.

It has also become easier to counterfeit luxury goods, ultimately harming the brands that inspire these replicas. The September 2007 issue of Harper’s Bazaar included promotional advertisements for its “Fakes are Never in Fashion” campaign, dedicated to exposing the production and distribution of counterfeit goods. In the same issue, there is an interview with Courtney Love focusing on her regrets for her past “counterfeit faux pas” accompanied by a photo of Love with the headline, “I’d Rather Go Naked than Wear Fake Chanel.”

The creation of affordable lines by world-renowned designers makes counterfeit pieces unnecessary, and even undesirable. Why carry a fake Louis Vuitton when you can purchase a real Oscar de la Renta design for the same price?

Marc by Marc Jacobs

In today’s competitive fashion market, designers must account for the fact consumers recognize their purchasing options " options that are multiplying quickly.

For instance, in the November 2007 issue of People magazine an article inviting readers to “Splurge or Spree” shows how a fabulous seven-piece outfit can be purchased for the same amount as one Juicy Couture handbag.

People are realizing that buying an item because of its recognized luxury status is not as great a statement as it has been in the past.

The increase in affordable items means more can be bought for less, allowing for the creation of unique styles. Consumers are able to interpret the runway. People now define their personal look by creating an outfit that they have purchased at prices that used to signify “poor” style.

The biggest trend of our era has been set in motion. From rags to riches, fashion democracy is on the rise.

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