February 3rd, 2006
In our mix + match fashion culture, what is the role of a fashion lifestyle brand?
Lifestyle brands envelop the consumer in a fantasy world, a world that reinforces the brand not only though the models’ wearing of that label head to toe, but also, as the name suggests, though the lifestyle the company espouses. Ralph Lauren is the epitome of the fashion lifestyle brand. He created the "World of Ralph Lauren," a fantastically fictional WASPy world of Hamptons mansions, yachts, and upper crust American leisure. And while Ralph Lauren was building his empire, this lifestyle branding made a lot of sense. It not only allowed him to diversify into a wide variety of product lines, but it also reinforced the "one outfit, one designer" aesthetic of the day.
It’s quite an understatement to say that the world has since changed. Dressing head to toe in one designer gave way to the pluralism seen in today’s outfit choices. Nowadays, mixing and matching garments between different designers is a given—and it is more stylish than personifying a single designer’s vision.
In this atmosphere of fashion pluralism, the role of a lifestyle brand has also shifted. As direct translations of a designer’s vision, these lifestyle brands are no longer to be taken literally—instead, they exist to inspire us, to give us something to aspire to, to give us a taste of another life. Here, one can draw a parallel, comparing meticulously fictionalized lifestyle brands to elaborately staged runway shows. Much is being said about how runway shows are growing more irrelevant over time. Some deride them as money losing propositions staged for ephemeral brand value. Others question the wearability of the outfits that are presented.
But while these factors do alter the role of the runway show, they do not necessarily make that role immaterial. We would argue against runway’s irrelevance–and that of lifestyle brands. For as long as they continue to inspire, to encourage innovation in design, to wake the creative spirits in the consumer public, they will hold value—measurable or not.