I had a fantastic job. For eight years I worked as a vice president for one of the top French fashion brands. During these years, as I rolled out stores across the country, built teams, bought product for them and gathered clients, I saw and participated first-hand in the luxury brand tsunami that swept across this country and the world. And much like a tsunami it seemed to emerge out of nowhere...and before we knew it, luxury brands went mainstream. No longer was fashion still a place relegated to the few who could appreciate and selectively acquire pieces. Somewhere along the way, the story tipped (I would love to find that moment) and women and men around the world became logo-toting and logo-conscious.
I remember a lunch conversation with my dear friend Tim Girvin who is very close to the subject. Our discussion was around the art of the brand. Logo'ed luxury items were top sellers, but why? Was it simply to send a message about status and class? And if so, what was happening to the true character of that luxury item in the process? What was happening to the heritage and legacy of the brand in the process...Was it going to be lost in all this status-chasing, class-jumping?
I was flipping through a copy of a beautiful magazine that Hermes sends to their loyal clients. Inside I found a six-page article with accompanying photographs explaining the art of a glover. Step by step, it showed and described the process of making a precision (and exquisite) pair of women's gloves. The quality described in the imagery and text...the fact that somebody still DOES this work ... well, it just almost made me cry. It was so beautiful. Wasn't this what luxury was always about - should be about? Did the market force the hands of the brand or did the brand marketing engine ignite the market? I wasn't sure, but I was sure that I was starting to become concerned.
As this was happening in my outer world, something was happening inside. Of course I was deeply proud to represent a major designer house, founded by one of the most brilliant designers in history. At first I was proud to have the ability to buy and wear $900 pants, $1,000 blouses. After all, I had to represent the brand for which I was working. But over time I started to pay more attention to the push pull inside of me every time I put my credit card on the counter. In order to continue to stay current season after season, it seemed I 'required' more. Another pair of shoes. That dress. Yes, it was fun at first. But over time all of this started to feel deeply 'out of proportion' - it was all out of proportion with what it meant to me as a human being. Was that blouse really worth $1,000? Even if I could afford it, did I WANT to??? Didn't I want to put some of my income towards other important things in my life??
I was starting to have a harder and harder time connecting this level of continuous consumption to my personal values. And my personal barometer is not purely a financial one. A woman like me can be brought to her knees by beautiful craftsmanship, beautiful quality, great fit and fabrication. I started to entertain the thought that I might have to leave this industry that I love in order to reconcile my inner voice with my outer world. It was terrifying, but I had a hunch that there must be a way to have a luxurious experience without the high price of entry...
It was in the spring of this year that I met Adam Lippes. We met casually one evening over a glass of wine, and we spoke about the future of fashion. He was in the throes of building his own fashion house. After years in high end as the Creative Director for Oscar de la Renta, Adam left to start his own brand, ADAM-Adam Lippes, formerly known as adampluseve. Listening to his inner voice he wanted to create the perfect line of luxury basics - t-shirts and underwear. His business exploded, and he expanded the collection to include fashion for men and women.
After I met him, I went online , placed an order, and fell in love. Quite by accident I had found perfect luxury in a soft, refined and well fitted t-shirt. Something clicked in my brain. We continued to speak. He needed a brand President, and the day I visited his showroom to see his fashion - second click. This was new. The fabrics were beautiful, the fashion was fresh, and I could not believe the price points.
This was a more modern, more sophisticated idea of luxury, in that it was not connected to big dollars. I realized that it's possible that real luxury is about the product, and not just the price tag connected to a thing. In the past, if you paid a premium for something you could be pretty sure you were buying quality. Today, it's very possible to pay a premium and get a very average product. In the case of fashion, it's about the fabrication, the workmanship and quality, the fit, the feel. What had I been looking for and wanting to believe in all along? All of the above at understandable prices. I believed that fashion should be fun, easy - not heavy - a form of self expression, and therefore egalitarian. And that speaks to my values.