Since Ralph Lauren announced that he was stepping down as CEO of the multinational company, I’ve been thinking about the importance of the leading designer for setting up of the brand reputation, perception and emotional connection with its consumers.
From the beginning, this industry has been led by different designers, each of them creating their own brand with a unique and characteristic style. This is an industry where, unlike other industries, brands are very close to the person that creates them; that is, they are closely linked to the creator’s reputation, style and quality.
Clothing brands have the ability to create a concept world around each designer, with the capacity to attract and captivate millions of people around the globe. This imaginary becomes tangible through clothes and accessories, making even more powerful the emotional connection between brand and consumer. Each designer becomes an icon and a leader of the fashion industry, conveying different emotions and ideas through its products, which are in turn reflected in the consumers. As Coco Chanel once said, “a girl should be two things: classy and fabulous”, this can be seen and felt in every piece of clothing that comes out of any Chanel store.
But, what happens when the founding designer moves on? How can the brands keep their connection with their consumer if they don’t have the living spirit with them? Many clothing brands are evolving and simplifying, removing the founders name from their logos, transforming a name into a concept. Silvio Testa, professor of Fashion Management in Boconi University, said: “Deleting the name of a brand creator is a way to make it eternal and global”.
Many fashion brands are taking this route. For example, Yves Saint Laurent is now Saint Laurent Paris, and Christian Dior is only Dior. Other brands lost their founders’ names many years ago and these aren’t mentioned any more, like Versace, Prada or Gucci.
The biggest challenge for haute couture brands is to be able to abstract and codify the characteristics and attributes of their creators and reflect them in their products, services and experiences.
Coco Chanel famously said
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”.
And it’s just the same for brands, which succeed when they go beyond a simple promise, product or service proposition around quality or effectiveness, and become part of our living culture, now and in the future.