Well, you know how it goes in the world of fashion: here today and gone tomorrow. At the moment, colored jeans are hot, but you wouldn’t be caught dead in pink jeans by next summer. (Of course. if you start wearing them 10 years from now, you’ll probably be rather cool again.)
Recently. New York City celebrated Fashion Week. I’ve never explored Manhattan’s Fashion Avenue during Fashion Week but some of my friends have. I guess it’s quite an experience. Of course. it’s impossible for “commoners” to attend the actual shows where those long-legged, one-in-a-million beauties with the Barbie dimensions – 36-18-33 – walk the runways. But apparently there’s quite a show on the thoroughfare itself; that is, you can see those gorgeous women climbing out of the limos. A friend claims to have witnessed 10 or 15 ladies darting between buildings wearing nothing but flimsy lingerie.
Whatever famous labels they’re wearing this week will flood the second floor of Nordstrom’s flagship store like a tsunami this fall. And. no matter how cash-strapped the economy is, between Thanksgiving and Christmas a rush of female customers will follow in its wake. Most will avoid the $1,000 dollar cocktail dresses, but many can afford an Olga bra. (Ironically, have you ever noticed that most of the women you see in the lingerie shops you wouldn’t want to see in lingerie?)
In the past, luxury houses maintained tight control of their exclusive world. In the last few years, some major top-of-the-line retailers have opened brick-and-mortar outlet stores for their unsold and overstocked items, but these outlets are few in number and are often difficult to drive to so they’ve had little effect on the main stores.
The digital revolution is about to shake the fashion empire to its very core, just as it’s shaken almost everything else you can name.
A few years ago, a couple of luxury houses very hesitantly ventured online for the best of business reasons: Money. And their gamble proved very profitable, indeed. Online sales at Sak’s, for example, grew by 30 percent in 2012 and another 30 percent in 2011. There’s evidence to indicate online customers buy nearly four times more merchandise than they would normally buy when shopping in a store.
Yet profitable as it was, the luxury names were a bit fearful because they weren’t sure they could maintain their strict control over who sold their merchandise and at what price. Their fears were well founded. In recent months. a mind-boggling assortment of luxury sites have suddenly popped up all over cyberspace. Some sell in-season luxury items at great discounts.
So, instead of driving to Southcenter or Seattle for personal in-store service, you can order that Prada dress online, at half price. A robot will zip up and down the aisles of an enormous warehouse somewhere in the middle of Montana and the next afternoon the item will arrive on your doorstep.
This may not be the end of luxury shopping in scented surroundings with a glass of wine – after all, the top 1 percent has to have some uncommon privileges. But it will surely raise hell with the status-conscious, exclusiveness of luxury names. And at half price.