Twenty five years ago we started carrying a line from Hamburg Germany called Jil Sander. It was perfect for Louis, incredibly well made, modern researched fabrics, minimalist styling and a price tag that matched all this luxury. At the end of the 90’s Jil descided to sell 75% of her company to Prada because “she wanted to improve on the breathe of her handbag-shoe business” . She was promised by Prada’s chief executive officer that the business would remain the same. Well it didn’t stay the same. The first thing that Prada demanded was that all of the clothing would be made in the Prada factories. There went the quality that Jil was known for, and the fabric research was cut in half, there went the modern take on clothing. Jil couldn’t work under those conditions, and feeling duped, she left. There went the design. We dropped the line as soon as Jil made the announcement. (how could it ever be the same value?)
After that, Prada worked hard to try and restore the value to the company which was of course, impossible. After a few tries they brought in a menswear designer named Raf Simons.
Raf had never designed for womenswear. (Somehow they thought it was a good bet). A few seasons later they sold the company to an English investment company who quickly announced that they were going to sell the company as soon as they made it profitable again (like that could happen). Raf’s first attempts at a collection were actually better than I thought they would be and each season you could see he was learning and growing, but the company still struggled . A few years later a Japanese/Italian company bought the company and continued to support Raf and you could see improvements with the collections and sales (the quality still could not match the standards of the original Jil Sander).
Last year around this time John Galliano was fired from the Dior house for racial slurs during a night of drinking in Paris (one of many nights). It was announced the Raf was a consideration for the job. Well now…. here is the fashion world in a nutshell. Gibo, (the Japanese/Italian company) who had been investing money (while losing it) in Jil Sander (a company abandoned by it’s designer) watched it’s designer publicly announce that he was interviewing for a job in a company that was trying to rebuild their brand that was abdondoned by yet another designer. (I know that was a run on sentence) So Gibo fired him.
The fashion world is in a tizzy…They are mad at Gibo for firing Raf (who, by the way, miraculously popped out the most beautiful collection for his last season). They are thrilled that Jil is returning, and they are expecting the company to return to it’s original splendor. Well guess what….in won’t. I was asked to start showcasing Jil again in the store. I thought long and hard about it and I refused. There were two reasons. First, Jil is now sold at many stores not just the controlled specialty stores that she insisted on originally . Second, Jil’s control on quality will be minimal. She will not have the control over the factories like she did before, and her obsessive control over details will be cost prohibitive. I’m sure she will push the envelope of the company owners, but the price of her pants in 1998 are still considered outrageous at $1200 (and that quality can not be replicated for the same price).
The musical chairs of designers that is going on with these fashions houses are going to catch up with their customers and eventually their sales. Branding IS important, I know that, but product integrity is also important. Is the consumer so gullible that it will eat anything companies throw at them? One change can be understood, but when the consumer needs a road map to understand how far away from the original concept the company has gone, the consumer will abandon the product. Success in a label is usually a combination of design, make and fit. When these elements are rearranged or eliminated the BRAND can’t stand on it’s own…look at the GAP. I wish Jil well and I will be watching carefully to see if I did underestimate the situation. But I thought I would give you, the reader, insight into how decisions are made. I will be the first to admit my mistakes, but I have to have some guidelines to give my store the integrity that I demand from my vendors.