With Vera Wang unveiling her "design on a dime" clothing line at Kohl's
Just like when big-screen movie actors thought it was cool to start starring in TV movies and series, big-name fashion designers have caught the bug to have their styles showcased for the masses. Maybe it's part ego and part economics. Wang has noted that it costs a lot of money to design more than wedding dresses, and she's trying to break out of that niche mold -- but there's the potential for a backlash, too.
Vera Wang carries a certain "snob appeal" to the typical clientele who were attracted to her modern bridal-gown designs. But then again, maybe she already "jumped the shark" when she began lending her name to Serta mattresses. Is it really such a stretch, then, for a $10,000 wedding-dress designer to now be selling her clothes for less than $200?
Still, it's been all the rage. Martha Stewart helped propel the movement forward when she signed on with Sears Holdings'
While these designers have not been affected by their downstream associations, Wang is still seen as a cutting-edge designer who has an affinity with fantasy weddings for the stars. Think Jessica Simpson, Sharon Stone, and J-Lo. While each of those women has her own mass-marketed product lines (or is associated with one), Vera Wang is considered an icon. The question is, does bringing her fashion down to the average consumer's price point increase her appeal, or does it simply make her another shill selling threads?
Obviously, Kohl's is counting on the former. The company says it is supporting the clothing-line introduction with a fairly elaborate marketing and advertising plan, consuming approximately 5% of its entire ad spending this fall.
Yet not all these campaigns go smoothly. Wal-Mart
Vera Wang isn't doing that, though. In fact, the "Simply Vera Vera Wang" brand is closely tying the two together.
So what do shoppers look for when they go into a Kohl's? The demographic of the company has typically been mid-30s soccer moms, and it has made much of that as it reshaped its image. It's been all about the customer. Penney's has targeted a similar demographic. Certainly, giving the typical shopper a splash of style, as Vera Wang would do, might offer a bit of spice, but maybe it's a bit over the top -- say, more Posh Spice than sugar-and-spice. Will a working woman find an outlet to really wear these clothes, and will a midlevel retailer like Kohl's be able to capably market them to make them a success?
On both sides of the sewing machine, there are risks involved in dressing down retail. Hopefully this marriage doesn't end up looking like basketball pro Dennis Rodman in a wedding dress.
Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Wal-Mart but does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy looks swell in green.