My last Milan trip ended with the realization that there seems to be an ever-increasing number of fashion designers that feel the urge to expand their brand beyond their core competence. Nowadays one can smell, eat, drink, and even dance to his/her favorite brand. Brands are extended to every aspect of lifestyle imaginable. So it comes to no surprise that, walking around Milan's fashion district, along famed Via Montenapoleone and its surrounding streets, I stumbled upon bars, cafés, restaurants, nightclub, bookstore baring the name of the likes of local fashion icons Dolce&Gabbana, Armani, Cavalli...
Off the beaten path, with fewer tourists stomping the cobblestone streets, in the trendy district of Brera, lies the Marc Jacobs boutique. The only designer concept store I was able to visit during my short stay in Italy. Brand diversification at its finest, it offers everything from ready-to-wear, keychains, iPhone cases, and other trinkets as well as accessories from Marc by Marc Jacobs.
Exhausted from roaming through all the pretty things that the store has to offer, you can relax and savour a cup of expresso at the bar/café located in the rear of the store. The entire concept is designed in true Marc Jacobs fashion, loud and bold.
While the commoner benefits from brand extension, as the once exclusive luxury is now made available to any wallet-size, the risk lies in the loss of exactly that: luxury. Luxury was once defined as something of quality yes, but moreover something that was made accessible to only a chosen few. Now, with a few dollars being able to access a bit of glitz and glamour, what happens to the once elusive, aspirational value of those luxury brands?
It's a balancing act and I'm curious to see which brands will succeed and which will fail. Marc by Marc Jacobs store seems to have found a winning formula. Not pretending to be anything that it's not, the store is approachable and laid-back — far from other pretentious concepts I happen to have caught a glimpse at — differentiating itself from its more glamourous counterpart Marc Jacobs.
Note: By the way, I am guilty as charged. I did succumb to the temptation and did end up buying a "I ♥ MJ" keychain, convincing myself that a) i was in dire need of an overpriced memory stick cleverly hidden within a heart-shaped keychain and b) this particular keychain and I were meant to be as it spelled out my initials and thus was too good to resist.