Designer Democracy: Rushing to Better for Big Volume and Riches

Better sportswear is suddenly chic, attracting the likes of Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Nicole Miller and Ron Chereskin to its volume-oriented realm.

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“We need new ideas, new resources, new thinking,” Doroff said. “But it’s all about the product. I think it’s great that there will be so many new entrants and the name on the product certainly does not come close to ensuring its success. But it’s still about the product, product, product, and can they come up with the concept. Obviously, Marc Jacobs is great and one of our best-selling lines, and if he can come up with something fresh, then terrific.”

Doroff said a lot of established better players would lose ground if all these new entrants succeed — as there’s only so much pie to go around.

“In the better sportswear arena, you could see some people falling off the map,” he said. “But a lot of these things aren’t that easy. You take the price level down and sometimes the clothes don’t live up. It helps if the product is good. I’d rather have great product with no designer name than vice versa.”

Jane Elfers, president and ceo of Lord & Taylor, said she thinks these new entrants into better will be positive for the chain’s customers, since better-to-bridge sportswear is the core of the store’s assortment.

“It will really energize the better sportswear floors, which are in need of energizing, and give the customer a reason to shop for better apparel,” she said.

On the other side, Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman, said there’s something to be said about designers like Chanel and Manolo Blahnik who have never stepped out of the designer realm.

“It’s the fact that the name is held in the highest esteem,” Burke said. “Meaning if it’s a Chanel or Hermès, it means something to our customers. I am not saying you can’t go there, but I feel strongly that it means something to our customer. Look at Manolo Blahnik. He’s never done anything but at a certain price, whether that customer has bought Manolos all her life or she’s young and saved up, it means something. There’s a name there.”
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