Since about the turn of the 20th century, elaborate fashion shows have helped some of the most successful style companies build lasting brands. After all, designers aren’t just displaying their wares when they send models down the runway in expensive outfits. By showcasing lines of high-end clothes that not everyone can afford, companies construct brand identities centered around luxury and opulence. So while Ralph Lauren or Michael Kors won’t sell many of their most expensive garments, the sophistication and taste of these items serve as attention-getters that drive the sales of mass market products.
But this “halo effect” created by high-end lines and fashion shows doesn’t seem to shine as brightly as it once did. Calvin Klein, for instance, recently announced that it will close its luxury business. Known simply as “Collection,” this line focused on the world’s top models wearing bold styles and had been a longtime highlight of New York Fashion Week. Calvin Klein himself oversaw Collection in the 1990s at its height. In 2016 the company hired a renowned designer named Raf Simons as chief creative officer to return the line to its glory days. Although his creations won the company numerous awards and the admiration of the industry, these accolades unfortunately did not translate into wider mass market sales. In December 2018 Simons left Calvin Klein as the company headed in a new direction.
Calvin Klein’s top-end line will now focus on denim rather than runway fashion. This strategy tracks with the company’s biggest ad campaigns, which feature celebrities like Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner wearing jeans. What’s more, Calvin Klein’s former dedication to designer fashion appears to have been a controversial subject at the company for some time. Former chief executive Tom Murry frequently referred to Collection as a “marketing expense” since it contributed less than 5 percent of sales to the $8.2 billion brand yet cost a bundle to produce. Only time will tell if abandoning the runway will work out in Calvin Klein’s favor in the long term.
- How can high-end fashion shows bring attention to a designer’s mass market products? Do you think this is an effective marketing strategy?
- Do you think Calvin Klein will harm its brand by closing its high-end fashion line? Why or why not?