Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Alexander McQueen: From Beyond the Grave


I would not consider myself a fashonista. At best, I am a sort of “clothes horse,” and like to present the illusion to those around me that I actually know what I’m doing when I get dressed in the morning.

Because of my disconnect from the fashion industry, news of Alexander McQueen’s suicide last week hardly moved me. Popular media also seemed to be aloof of what the fashion world viewed as the loss of a young superstar. Mentioning it to my friends, especially the male ones, his name seemed familiar, but nothing of note.

McQueen was a young designer who was working with Gucci when he died. He rose to fame in the 1990’s for his edgy style, and later collaborated with several very prominent brands, including Puma and Louis Vuitton, before being bought up by Gucci to begin his own line of couture products. He was said to have broken up with a boyfriend, whose name is tattooed on his arm, a factor which is believed to have led to his suicide. Other rumors claim it was the recent death of his mother.

This week, Gucci announced that it will carry on McQueen's brand, and holds strong prospects for its success. But is it possible to carry on this brand without its brains? Robert Polet, Chief of the Gucci Group subsidiary, commented that, "Lee (Alexander) is of course irreplaceable."

To me, the idea of carrying on without the primary designer is not absurd at all. After all, McQueen had years (almost two decades) to establish his brand and style. The real question I am asking is why would Gucci want to continue it?

McQueen’s brand, though highly respected and influential, never actually moved a lot of products. Though Gucci might want to remember a fallen hero by continuing his legacy, it might not be the best thing for their income statement. Last year, though doing better then expected, revenues dropped over 3%. Dropping revenues does not imply that the company should be throwing money at a largely commemorative brand that will (probably) ultimately make no money.

From the Gen X perspective, however, this might be marketing gold. The two things I appreciate the most from a company is vision and honesty. To me, continuing McQueen’ s legacy, instead of throwing away his high-brow wearable art, shows that Gucci is committed to both of those ideas. It is apparent from this action that Gucci values its vision over its balance sheet, and though this might mean the company losses value as an equity investment, it is benefitting its overall brand image and reputation.

Respect, Gucci. Mad respect.


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  1. i think that Gucci is planning to carry on the Alexander McQueen brand because the sales have increased by 1400% (at least that's what all the sources I've seen have said but it does sound insane) since his death. Also, his spring 2010 collection, which showed in September 2009, received some of the best feedback that the brand has ever gotten. If his Fall 2010 collection is even half as iconic as the spring 2010 collection, Gucci will be making even more money from his death.

    I wish Gucci was just doing it because they respected the art form but unfortunately, I don't think that's the case.

  2. As with the death of any artist, the interest and value of his work will inherently increase after his death, especially if it is dramatic, like a suicide. The 1400% increase is an interesting statistic, but you have to remember that Gucci is huge. PPR, its parent company, had a revenue of around 20 billion euro in 2008. Though I'm unable to find exact sales revenues for McQueen's brand, I know that despite huge growth from the brand in 2009, it was not enough to pull Gucci's finances out of the red. To me, this indicates that the McQueen brand is not large enough to really make a substancial difference monetarily for Gucci, but is simply a profitable marketing tool to put Gucci products on the backs of celebrities like Lady Gaga.


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