Sometime in the early Aughts, when I was a wet-behind-the-ears WWD business reporter, a colleague replied to some silly thing I'd said by looking aghast and asking, "Don't you know? Fashion is all about the shoes and the bag."
The shoes and the bag.
I didn't know then how right she was, in both sartorial and business terms.
The shoes and the bag might add dashes of wit, color and texture to an ensemble, but they're also great business -- fat profit margins, devoid of sizing issues and somewhat resilient to the whims of passing trends.
Michael Kors and Tory Burch are just two brands that have parlayed success in accessories into wider empires.
And now, the fall of apparel is being catalogued.
Credit Suisse analysts this week wrote a report, titled "The Decline of Fashion Apparel in the Mall," that quantifies the impact of the hot accessories market on everyone else.
From 2007 to 2012, mall-based apparel stores saw compounded annual sales growth of just 0.8 percent, while footwear, accessories and beauty sales grew 5 percent, Credit Suisse said. Over that time frame, apparel's share of the mall market fell to 58 percent from 60 percent, while fashion, accessories and beauty products jumped to 32 percent from 27 percent.
Of course, there was the Great Recession in there, and it's easy and cheaper to update a wardrobe with a bag than a whole new look and so on. And eventually -- since I believe in the notion that what goes up must come down -- women will tire of having so many bags and look again with favor on apparel.
But it might take a while, since success in marketing is a self-replicating affair. When something works, retailers do more of it. And then even more of it.
As Credit Suisse said: "Increasing capital investment in alternative categories continues, suggesting the next five years will see continued share shift away from fashion apparel."
The analysts noted that stores are just starting to reset their footwear offerings, that accessories are taking floor space and that beauty goods are getting more attention.
All of this is going to lead to more and more and more. Until it leads to less and the next great fashion resurgence. But when will that come, and who will be around to take advantage of it?