Thursday, 26 February 2009

Diffusionistas: Opening the Doors of Fashion for All

After reading a blog by Susie Bubble where she raved about The Look, a six part fashion documentary series that aired on BBC 4 last December I decided to have a peep myself. I tuned into the last part, The Power of the Press, which delved into the relationship between the designers and journalists. Halfway through watching I had a sense of deja vue; then it dawned on me that I had seen this programme before. Circa 1995 and fresh out of University I watched this same documentary which featured a very young and glam Lowri Turner – check her out with the Veronica Lake look – I instantly fell in love with the fashion industry. So this show was kind of pivotal to me. The Look was about the psychology and the business of fashion and it touched on issues such as catwalk and modelling, the power of labels and diffusion lines.

A diffusion line is a collection that a designer creates specifically for a store. Pieces from the catwalk cost a fortune and not many people can afford it so the designer makes a line that is cheaper and more affordable. This line goes into the shops but sits as a second, third or sometimes ever fourth line of the brand. Successful diffusionistas are DKNY, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu by Prada, D&G, McQ by Alexander McQueen and of course Armani whose is the master of this. Previously diffusion conjured images of cheap and badly made garments but now they have earned a certain amount of kudos and are often the designers’ bread and butter. We all know that collections do not sell but diffusions do and like hot cakes. Look at Debenhams who introduced lines by a cohort of designers such as Julien McDonald, Betty Jackson, John Rocha and Ben de Lisi into the store. H&M got in on the act in a big way a few years back by commissioning Karl Lagerfeld to design a collection and although the store were left with racks of clothing left the collaboration did a lot to raise the profile of the store. Since then H&M have collaborated with designers such as Viktor and Rolf, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli and Comme des Garcons and sold bucket load of clothing.

This quote from the book, Fashion Babylon written by Imogen Edwards-Jones in 2006 sums up the whole designer and high street relationship perfectly.

"There isn’t a British designer who doesn’t have a high-street store behind them, except McQueen but then he is backed by Gucci so he can afford not to. But for the rest of us, high-street backing buys us freedom. It pays the bills and gives you a more constant cash flow than if you had only two collections and two drops a year. All you need to do is walk past the designer stores in the West End on a Saturday afternoon to see how much ready-to-wear needs the high street. The big designer stores are empty. There are just not that many people in the world who can afford to pay £1,500 for an unstructured cotton jacket."

Well if diffusion lines are not your bag but you still fancy a slice of the action you can buy the perfume, sunglasses, bag, cuff links, underwear, scarves etc. Designers have no qualms lending their name to products other than their collections. Following the lead of Pierre Cardin who started this trend off back in the 60s by selling his name to 800 products that turned him into a household celebrity. This is why perfumes are so popular; those who cannot afford the brand can buy a slice of the lifestyle and feel like they are part of it. The designers are happy because they do not have to invest any money into the production, distribution and marketing and yet they are exposed to a mass global market. Basically it is a win win situation for all parties involved.

1 cool comments:

Sabb said...

nice article. I really got what u ment and actually never heard the worddiffusion in this connection before. Thank you