Let me start this off by saying I’ve never been the biggest fan of Michael Kors as a brand. The main reason for this is my perception of the brand – slightly cheap with too much obvious branding, bought by often rather tacky people who think they’re buying into great luxury and design innovation – which really reveals my snobbery rather than much else. The reason for this is the low prices of the accessories and the mid-market retailers which stock them – TK Maxx (or TJ Maxx if you’re outside of the UK), for example. I also don’t like seeing his bags in high end stores alongside the originals that he copied them from (Prada, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and Celine to just name a few) for prices that will obviously appeal to a broader market, hence the oversaturation of some popular styles. In my opinion, if you’re going to buy a designer inspired bag just buy the high street version instead of wasting money on a contemporary designer who blatantly ripped it off for profit. It just makes the customer look foolish.
I feel that I am sometimes a little harsh on Michael Kors. I do wish he had a little bit more originality, especially when it comes to his accessories as I can imagine they are his highest performing category. In fact, I think I’m altogether too dismissive of the brand. The clothes aren’t ugly. Many would fit into my wardrobe well, actually. A few times I’ve been browsing online and have seen things from Michael Kors that I actually like but the items are often spoiled by logos and branding, especially if it is in one of the lower end ranges like Michael Michael Kors: the shoes have unnecessary little silver buttons on the counter (the little bit at the back which holds your heel in place) and the pants – just crepe jogger style pants – have silver MK branding on little tags that are intended to be kept on. This bothers me because I just want things plain.
However, things are changing for MK. Recent reports have revealed that Nordstrom, in the US, have dropped the handbag line from “nearly half of [its] stores” due to quality issues and constant discounting. Perhaps this then spurred the brand to announce that it was scaling back its department store offerings and focusing more on selling in their own retail stores, around 65% which will allow the brand to control its image. Being on sale all the time isn’t good for a brand’s value as it means customers will no longer be willing to pay full price, ultimately hurting profits. Think about it, how many brands do you refuse to pay full price for because you know it’ll be discounted sometime soon either on a sale website like The Outnet, on the brand’s own website, or on a department store?
In light of the fact that MK will perhaps be re-positioning itself and building up brand value again, I have decided to throw it back to a time before the MK brand was tarnished and became associated with teenage girls, oversized watches, and bargain bucket prices. This is the Fall 2008 collection which is actually one of my favourites of his. The retro vibe and expensive feel make this show worth looking at. I loved the fur, the sexy wiggle skirts and the 50s silhouettes which gave the collection a Hitchcock blonde feel. Parts of the show felt very Max Mara to me, like an American doing Italian. Italian fashion is often my favourite because I think the designers can usually make the woman look feminine and sensual without being overtly sexy or tacky. Also, I feel that these clothes were made for adults instead of teens. That is not to say that his clothes is made for teens nowadays, just that is the main audience who seems interested in him nowadays. Of course, I don’t have the same customer breakdown that department stores have so perhaps I am way off with this assumption.
After viewing this collection and loving it, I can only hope that MK produces more like this in the future and shies away from the lower-end, lower-price point items that I feel are only hurting his brand in the long term. If you want to be thought of as a high-end brand, I think the brand message needs to be consistent and somewhere along the line things have gone slightly off track.