Monday, June 13, 2011

Kate Spade, Revisted

Kate Spade, the person and the brand ambassador, has done a lovely job branding herself into a lifestyle conglomerate.  Maybe "conglomerate" is too large of a concept for Kate Spade the brand since I haven't seen preppy printed cereal boxes or coiffed ads for energy drinks donning her signature designs...yet.
Once a cult brand reaches the status of: a) being knocked off and found on NYC street corners due to the art of the "over-logo", b) worshipped by 'tweens, and c) popping off too quirky and/or branded for their own reputations, it is time to move along because the brand appears to be played out.  This happened to Kate.  It happened to Lilly in 2001 when they decided to open heaps of stores and cover everything in goofy pink flamingos and green palms. I am a sucker for some vintage Lilly, and they have made a nice comeback in the last year or so, but notably have also stopped plastering everything with the word "Lilly". The "over-logo" will drive that base clientele right into obscurity. 
The common denominator is that the clientele who helped to launch these brands by their sheer devotion, will also abandon something quickly when they fear it is not exclusive enough.  Ralph has survived this somewhat by offering his exclusive Purple Label, opening stores only in chic locations and keeping them impeccably decorated, and of course always offering some bit of the "lifestyle" that is untouchable - like his new "Vault" collection (some of the items are "price upon application", ooooh).
Another thing that works for Kate, Lilly, Ralph, and my friend Camilla (CK Bradley) is that they all have developed a lifestyle brand based on their lifestyles.  They were not trying to be anyone else.  They have simply offered their concept of how life should be lived to their clientele - mostly those who currently live that lifestyle and recognize it. So you can see where and how some may have gotten off track by getting too big, or over-logoed, or just lost sight of the colors and feeling of an afternoon by the pool followed by a proper cocktail party under the stars...
Take from this what you will. Possibly entertain the idea of branding yourself in order to remain consistent in your aesthetic goals.
If we're talking business though, remember this: lifestyle brand consumers will always want what they cannot have, will spend money to obtain a slice of that feeling/perception/idea, and will remain loyal if you offer them exclusivity amidst the ordinary.
I had just a few thoughts on business and branding while I reviewed Kate Spade's latest clothing and jewelry (below).  There are stripes involved, so clearly that is what got my attention. 
Cute.  I love stripes. 

Kate Spade striped dress.  Everyone needs one like this.  Don't listen regarding the whole horizontal stripe theory.  Just avoid looking like a bumble bee in wide, bi-color-equal width stripes (unless you are playing rugby).

Kate Spade Bow Cuff.

Kate Spade "Bamboozled" Necklace.  I love bamboo anything, this looks vintage.  Another piece of the puzzle when keeping things "exclusive".  Vintage means no one else can find this...and consumers like that concept.

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