Are Luxury Brands Losing Their Exclusivity?

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Picture courtesy @dresssenselady

Is “go big or go home” the name of the game in luxury now?

As we’ve explored here on PurseBop, many designer brands battle to keep their top positions in the luxury hierarchy by maintaining exclusivity. Business of Fashion recently posed the topic of whether luxury has gone too “mass” as accessibility threatens the image of exclusivity.

Realistically, exclusivity can only be maintained by selling a limited quantity of product to a smaller audience, However, strictly prioritizing exclusivity is detrimental to financial growth. With the luxury market experiencing some of its weakest years, many brands have introduced lower priced, entry-level products to help hook more consumers. To keep pace with the competition, elite fashion houses such as Hermes, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton are taking the dangerous risk of becoming more accessible.

PurseBop investigates: What’s the cause of this shift? How can luxury brands still secure their exclusivity despite growing accessibility?

The Dilemma

Mass media and the changing culture around fashion have pushed the appeal of certain designer brands to the forefront. We are influenced to fall in love with luxury goods through even our briefest interactions with social media, entertainment, and advertisement campaigns. Luxury brands are keenly aware of the consumer desire to attain even the smallest status or distinction of shopping at a certain brand. The rise of the “trinket”, or bag charms and other smaller accessories, is a testament to this fact.  Brands hope that once consumers are able to indulge in lower price products, they will maintain loyalty and purchase more, which drives in a significant amount of sales.

Yet, this financial strategy poses a big problem and unexpected outcome. Many consumers never make the jump to buying more expensive products from the line and a brand’s exclusivity can get more and more diluted. Likewise, the small amount of loyal consumers purchasing more of the limited, expensive products, may be turned off from the brand’s growing accessibility and overexposure.

The Power of The Icon

Most luxury brands realize that they have to maintain their presence and appeal to the mass consumer, but how do they still foster an exclusive image?

Companies like Marc Jacobs and Burberry are approaching this conflict by re-strategizing their collections and compiling everything into one exclusive brand. For example, Marc Jacobs sells more accessibly priced products in the Marc by Marc Jacobs collection. Similarly, Burberry’s more accessibly priced “sub-brands” are Burberry Brit and Burberry London. Instead of sub-brands, both of these companies plan to sell all products simply under the company’s main line names Marc Jacobs and Burberry respectively. This tactic will hopefully help consumers focus on both the lower and higher priced items in the brand in a more streamlined way.

Other fashion houses like Hermes and Louis Vuitton have successfully maintained most of their exclusivity by promoting a strong image around their iconic, flagship pieces. The Hermes Birkin and Kelly Bag have become such sought after or holy grail pieces that consumers still aspire to move up the range, even if they purchase lower priced goods like jewelry or home decor. A few years ago, Louis Vuitton struggled maintaining its appeal as lower priced, monogram items became more of a focal point. However, Louis Vuitton has made a huge resurgence under the vision of creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere and his focus on highlighting classic, iconic bags such as the Alma, Capucines, and Dora.

The Hermes Birkin and The Hermes Kelly ~ @stylishsheba

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Louis Vuitton Favorites ~ @frauteeee

For brands like Hermes and Louis Vuitton, desire seems to run steady. However, keeping this cloud of desire while marketing products towards the mass consumer may be more of a struggle for other companies without the same type of iconic products. In Business of Fashion‘s article, Sonja Prokopec, suggests a potential plan of attack regarding this dilemma:

Going forward, brands need to focus on trying to keep consumer desire alive. This can be done by carefully managing their product portfolios, focussing on their brand DNA, and investing to create exclusivity, in particular, across their operations online and in emerging markets.

As described by Prokopec, brands can use their popular reputations to their advantage if they focus on crafting a signature, standout pieces as well.

Do you think luxury has become too “mass” to the point of losing its desirability? Which brands do you think have mismanaged the balance between accessibility and exclusivity? Join the conversation on BopTalk with your thoughts.

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The Paris foursome share a partial shot of the shopping damage #pursebopgoestoPARIS

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