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Why Karl Lagerfeld's Masstige Line Can Democratize Fashion While Maximizing Profits

What happens when the Kaiser of fashion Karl Lagerfeld cancels a runway show for Paris Fashion Week in favor of a creating new ready-to-wear line to be sold primarily on the Web? It's a sign that management of the fashion industry is changing, one collection at a time.

Lagerfeld, who helms the design efforts of the house of Chanel in addition to his eponymous line, is a bit late to the Internet party, but we can forgive him. This, after all, is the driving-glove-clad designer who famously buys computers because of their aesthetic, not because he plans to use them.

Yet even Lagerfeld knows he should stick to his knitting rather that attempt to lead an online effort. Therefore, as the Karl Lagerfeld line is repositioned as a more commercial effort, he plans to be less involved.

The new collections would be owned and operated by Apax Partners (which already own the Lagerfeld label). Apax would outsource production and e-commerce sales would be boosted by selective wholesale with retail partners and showroom sales.

Let's not forget that Lagerfeld is something of a trailblazer when it comes to the democratization of fashion. His collaboration with H&M was one of the Swedish fast fashion juggernaut's firsts â€" and sold out within minutes back in fall of 2004. Though the capsule collection was an undisputed success, Lagerfeld bemoaned the management's decisions and swore he wouldn't attempt to jump from haute to High Street anytime soon.

They did not make the clothes in sufficient quantities. I find it embarrassing that H&M let down so many people-- I don't think that is very kind, especially for people in small towns and countries in Eastern Europe. It is snobbery created by anti-snobbery.

Ostensibly, Lagerfeld is now going to rectify this elitism by grafting Karl Lagerfeld label to the "masstige" movement -- that being an effort to democratize fashion in a way that even frugalistas can afford. His collection will include reasonably-priced women's wear, some men's items, denim, and sportswear.

This new initiative would also restore the Kaiser's reach to its former glory. The Lagerfeld Collection was sold to Tommy Hilfiger for $30 million in 2005, a year before Hilfiger was bought out by Apax. Cost-cutting ensued and Lagerfeld's collections were trimmed to menswear only and some licensed accessories. Then, when the deal of the century went down earlier this year, Phillips-Van Heusen (PVH) acquired Tommy Hilfiger for $3 billion and Lagerfeld was left conspicuously out.

Lagerfeld may have the last laugh, eventually. Fashionistas, frugal or otherwise, still have a huge appetite for labels. By offering his threads online to anyone, Lagerfeld's not only taking himself out of competition with the likes of more exclusive luxury brands, he's increasing his potential to turn a profit. And that seems like a good fit to him.

Image via wikimedia commons CC 2.0


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