Recollection - Michael Kors

Fashion retail field research was conducted over a two week period in London and Paris. Store layouts, salespersons interaction with clients, merchandise display and variety across strategic locations were noted in order to decipher what sort of image a brand seeks to establish.

This paper is a suggested rebranding strategy for Michael Kors, with a focus on sustainable business practices, written during a field trip to the London College of Fashion in 2016. 


Introduction

Michael Kors is a fashion brand under the direction of the American designer Michael Kors. The brand launched its womenswear collection in 1981. Currently Michael Kors has three sub brands: Michael Kors Collection; Michael Michael Kors Men’s; and Michael Michael Kors, which includes a children’s accessories line. By far the most recognized lines by the brand are Michael Michael Kors accessories and Michael Kors Collection, which houses the “luxury” end of the brand. This report will focus on the revitalization of the premium label Michael Michael Kors in the European, Asian, and North American markets.

Michael Kors began to slip as a premium exclusive brand that catered to a luxury lifestyle when Michael Kors Holdings Limited went public in 2011 and thus widened their customer base. The expansion of 231 stores in 2011 to 509 in 2015 opened Michael Kors to fashion overexposure, and ultimately to luxury populism (Kapner, 2014). More specifically the popularity of Michael Michael Kors weakened the market shares of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., as their products became distributed in more locations. Specifically, the overstock of the Michael Michael Kors handbags resulted in more sales to make room for new season collections.  As the volume of product in the sales started to take up half the retail floor space, the status of the coveted Michael Michael Kors label became attainable to those living in a lower income bracket that strived to own a trendy brand name at a sale price (Kapner, 2014). With a market popularized by the jet-setting young woman, how can Michael Kors cater to a burgeoning social market of nostalgic millenniums that have grown in a world where the importance of sustainability is the theme of every action?

Many of the problems that have weakened the market shares of Michael Kors is the overstock of products in too many store locations. The growth in the past five years has reallocated up to half of the brand’s retail floor space for discount priced items (Kapner, 2014). Perhaps the overstock of designer product is opposed to the newest form of luxury: Bespoke fashion. The ostentatiousness of fashion prior to major market crashes in 2008, pivoted fashion from know-all by perception to in-the-know through understated luxury (Carreon, 2011). For example, a suit designed for one’s body type- with personal details specified and from the fabric one orders with ultimate finishing and construction- is bespoke luxury. The one-of-a-kind attitude behind bespoke fashion products is what elevates luxury from premium products. After all, it is the personal connection between the consumer and the product that sells a brand (Crane, 2013). If the Michael Kors label could adopt a successful made-for-you attitude about their premium products, the brand will be able to reclaim their value as the next heritage American brand in the fashion market.

The bespoke fashion market sounds like a daunting venture when mass production is a fast and thus easier way of product distribution and volume sales. However, burgeoning markets in Asia and the Middle East can be penetrated with a bespoke approach (Spears, 2012). When one considers that people invest in their emotional needs and not in products, bespoke may be the solution to product overpopulation (Spears, 2015). For example, according to the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards (CAFA), the emerging luxury fashion brand Greta Constantine credits much of their company growth and sales to the Eastern market (2015). Volume sales can also tarnish a brand: Tommy Hilfiger became overexposed in the 1990s after the brand went public, similar to the predicament that Michael Kors is currently facing.

Although there are other fashion brands that sell products based upon their client specifications, competitors of Michael Kors- such as Coach, Burberry, and Ralph Lauren- do not offer such personal services (Allerup et al. 2016). It has been observed by industry guru Judd Crane, director of womenswear at Selfridges that shoppers “want personal connection to their purchases”  (Crane, 2013). There are several companies working on a strategic level to fulfill the made-for-you market.

Unmade is a strategic, custom-made knitwear company from the United Kingdom, donned to the fashion world after the 2012 Olympics in England. The brand creates unique jumpers based on client specifications. The client can arrange graphics over a digital model outline of a jumper, and each jumper is knit with personal specifications for the purchasing individual (Unmade, 2016). In this way, the brand caters to a couture sentiment for their clients. Their production costs are also minimal; instead of paying for a minimum 110 garments produced in a factory, Unmade can produce their own garment numbers specific to each order (Hawkins, 2015). Unmade bridges the disconnection between factory production on their flatbed knitting machines, and the product personalization for which the public shops. They are able to loop in client sentimentality to their orders- the first step to a nostalgic purchase.

Topshop is another global company that is embracing a made-to-order practice. The 52-year-old brand’s strategic branding becomes operational with in-store customization options (Topshop, 2016). Clients can personalize their purchases with embroidery, stamps, patches, etcetera (see Figure 2). Topshop is keeping up to their client’s uniqueness with such direct marketing services, adding the bling in-store upon request, however online personalization is not yet available. Although Topshop still has a deep and wide fashion product assortment in store, they are able to tether the sentimentality of their client through such customization of their existing products. The mega-brand is incorporating boutique style marketing practices to connect to their individual clients through this direct in-store marketing.

Both Unmade and Topshop are gaining recognition for their praise of client-individuality whilst keeping customized production low, as each brand’s unique customization service is made to order. The comparable difference between personalization at Topshop versus Unmade is the in-store inventory. Although Topshop is building connections with their clientele via optional product personalization, they still retain a deep product range in-store, which leaves some inventory to be put on sale racks at the end of the season or trend. The almost non-existent retail stock at Unmade means that none of their designs are on sale, according to their website unmade.com. If Michael Kors combines strategic and operational personalization methods demonstrated by Topshop and Unmade, they can reduce their product depth in store, and build sustainably conscious brick and mortar interiors that act as Michael Kors showrooms. Michael Kors e-commerce and Michael Kors brick-and-mortar locations may be used for clients to imagine their individual pieces that will be made-to-order.

The Recollection of Michael Michael Kors

As it is well known that the fashion industry is one of the biggest vandals of natural deconstruction, it would be proactive and responsible for Michael Kors to consider how they are constructing their products and brand image to reduce waste via overproduction, which discounts the brand. Presently, Michael Kors Ltd. partakes in charitable and sustainable causes and foundations. The brand is involved with causes surrounding AIDS and HIV, autism, the well-being of children, conservation, environment, health, hunger, mental challenges, and poverty (n.a., 2016). Aspects that could be further developed via Michael Kors is number 12 on the list of the United Nation’s 17 Steps of Sustainable Development goals (see Figure 3). The list has been created as short term global goals that look to rectify consumption and inequality, between person and person, and person and globe. At the current rate that we consume and grow as a global society, the estimated global population of 9.6 billion by 2050 will require two extra planets to sustain our current lifestyles (n.a., 2016). Through Responsible Consumption and Production practices, Michael Kors may impose their newest sub-brand focused on accessories: Michael Kors Recollection (see Figure 5).

The stability of Michael Kors depends on the resilient, sentimental connection they can create with their clients. As defined by the Cambridge dictionary, nostalgia is the loop that connects a period of the past through sentimentality to the present, and thus the future (2016). According to Google, the term “nostalgia” has gained popularity in the English vocabulary since the 1950s and has steadily climbed into the early 2010s (see Figure 1). One may conclude that nostalgia is a popular sentiment amongst the millennial, a generation that looks to the past as security against global dystopia. Tapping into the nostalgia one has for a mother’s closet (her Michael Kors loafers, bags, and accessories), is what connects one generation to the next of the American heritage brand Michael Kors. After all, nostalgia is a recollection.

As the namesake brand was established over 30 years ago, Michael Kors is now a vintage brand that can incorporate pre-loved pieces from Michael Kors into select new designs. Michael Kors Recollection incorporates up-cycling design practices whilst acknowledging the need for sustainability and sentimentality, or nostalgia. To connect the past to present, clients can submit their used Michael Kors handbags to a brick-and-mortar location for a revamp, in person or via mail. From select designs, the client can “design” a refurbished handbag constructed from archive Michael Kors pieces with their submitted Collection or lifestyle piece.

Differentiators between Michael Kors Recollection and other comparative brands that practice customization are Michael Kors’ up-cycle practices and personal connection with their clients via nostalgia (see Figure 4). Clients who choose to send in their pre-used Michael Kors leather accessories have the option to include a favourite jet-set memory that they had with the specific bag; when the up-cycled Recollection product is finished, the client will have a bag of memories under their arm. Each Recollection purchase will include the submitted stories of the bag it used to be. In this way, Michael Kors becomes the brand that has been there in one’s most memorable times, and will be there for the next generation of jet-set lifestyle. The knock into nostalgia and personal connection secures Michael Kors as a notable brand, and not simply a product.

As the term “bespoke” is any product made to order, Michael Kors may also implement sustainability into their current production process by allowing clients to pick the colour of their bag purchase, including the lining and any monogramming, to make a personalized item. Practicing made-to-order production will lessen current overstock of store product. The production of goods based upon specific client order means that production costs will not be spent on handbags that will be sold at a discount price in store. The personal adjustments to existing styles will also make Michael Kors a stylish brand to own, and distance the incorporation from a brand that designs to follow trends to one that designs for personal style. This will solidify Michael Kors as a global, classic American brand name. Michael Kors can benefit as a heritage brand name, whilst reducing sale stock at the end of a season or trend. With each uniquely nostalgic made-to-order Recollection handbag, Michael Kors Recollection is a proactive, stylish, exceptional, sustainably aware, and accessible American brand.

Further areas of brand marketing for participation with global issues may be reached through other collaborations with the United Nations, including their STG Compass, UN Global Reporting (GRI), and through the UN global Compact. Michael Kors may also lessen their product overexposure by conducting their brick and mortar locations similar to an exclusive Michael Kors showroom, with shallow product depth and width. The product in these store showrooms are available for purchase online or in store through virtual customization of bag details, as mentioned in Michael Kors Recollection, Michael Kors Collection and Michael Michal Kors. If clients prefer Michael Kors Collection or Michael Michael Kors as opposed to a Michael Kors Recollection accessory, they may order an item of new material that will be made-to-order, as mentioned above.

Michael Kors’ declining market in North America is combined with the introductory market in Asia, and the mature market in Europe. While Michael Kors Recollection is marketable to the declined North American market, the project heightens the value of Michael Kors on a global scale in Asia and Europe as a heritage American brand. For the jetsetter who wants stylish, classic accessories for everyday use, Michael Kors Recollection offers unique, sustainably conscious designs. Unlike made-to-order brands, Recollection has a nostalgic connection with their clientele.

 

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