Marc Jacobs hearts our GFs. (really)

21 Oct 2007

hey Mickey You're So Fine
Marc Jacobs now has 3 stores on Bleecker street and makes $20 million annually on items priced under $25. And yet with this, and Marc by Marc Jacobs, Mr. MJ magically has not diluted his brand.

How has MJ retained value while selling $10 wallets? Well in a world of brands cloying to be your friend, Marc Jacobs actually succeeded. And you value things made by your friends.

We’ll start with the fact that his women’s clothes look great in reality, not just on the catwalkers. But this is just Step 1. MJ connects not only with the body of his consumer, he connects with her mind – the brand’s face is often Sofia Coppola and Kim Gordon – ladies known best for their artistic prowess. Since MJ is proud to have them on his team, and dresses them well, this makes his brand a destination for the creative/thinking woman, a mental space not previously courted in lux fashion.

And these open arms even trickle down to the salespeople, who buck the fashion stereotype of insulting potential customers with snide looks. On the flipside, both MJ & his people are happy that YOU walked in the door – and think you’ll look ace in their clothes. (word on the street is that he flies every employee to NYC for his annual Halloween bash, not a bad way to court fealty)

And so by valuing his customers, the customers returns the favor, ascribing value to even the ‘cheap’ items. A $10 wallet is perceived not as a scrap tossed out for the masses, but something fun made by our buddy Marc Jacobs. And that wallet retains a slice of lux mindshare. Heartshare too…


Jacobs’ brand may soon go even one step further, as he and business partner Robert Duffy have an eye toward creating a 3rd line that would compete with Gap/H&M. The LVMH brass aren’t too keen on it – they are, after all, a Death Star Lux brand – so we’ll see what happens. Will that dilute the brand? TBD. Vera Wang did Kohl’s and Proenza Schouler did Target successfully, MJ might just be the guy who can take it to the next level, Magnolia cupcake in hand.


  1. 22 Oct 2007 shahzad

    Your point about $10 MJ wallets is what I took away most from this – rather than being seen as cheap – they are seen as a “fun” extension to the luxury brand. Next time I walk into a clothing store, particularly the higher end, I’ll probably consider that more.

    I was shopping with a friend recently at The Gap. She considered a 4 dollar tank top with frills. I don’t know that she decided purchasing it in relation to the brand so much as on the price, but the same thing at Express (etc.) for 8 dollars, I think she would have picked up as a deal also, and felt more value from it due to the brand (even without a logo). That’s a little away from where you were going, but it does create something more to consider in the budget space.

    There’s also the factor that having the $10 “toy” at checkout will be picked up as a gift for someone else – in some sense, everyone wins in the purchase – the customer feels like they found something cool and exclusive (as in MJ stores), the giftee feels like they are invited to that club as well (and subsequently picks something up from the store in the future), and the company takes in a decent profit (probably) and adds to their base.

  2. 29 Oct 2007 Haute Concept

    Agreed on the “special items” being seen as covetous. The man has 3 stores on one street and telling from a weekend jaunt in the area, the stores are madhouses. So, it seems that business is doing rather well.

    As for his “3rd line”….well, that will be most interesting in terms of how his investors at LVMH embrace it and how the public embraces it.

    Guess time will tell!

  3. 3 Nov 2007 Jamie

    I really like what you wrote- it hit the nail on the head. I especially agree about the people who work at the MJ stores- they are definitely not stuck up assholes, but very friendly and non-judgemental. I also agree agree that MJ is an aspirational brand, but unlike fashion brands with high-falutin (sp?) images, she who loves the Marc Jacobs look aspires to be someone unconventional and artistic.

  4. 3 Nov 2007 TG

    this is great. and very accurate.

    I think it’s worth making the distinction between the Marc Jacobs
    line, sold on Mercer rather than Bleeker, and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
    The grown-up collection is informed by a much more fluid and less
    predictable aesthetic, changing pretty dramatically from season to
    season. You might be able to guess it’s Marc Jacobs, but you can’t
    really guess what he’s going to do with it next. By contrast, the
    Marc by Marc stuff looks basically the same from year to year, or at
    least it gives the impression of looking the same while actually
    evolving in fairly subtle ways to embrace shifting trends. Jeans are
    more narrow, but not outrageously skinny; sweaters are bigger and
    slouchier, but still festooned with tongue-in-cheek graphics or bows.
    But the pretty frocks with slightly high waists and subtly puffed
    sleeves are still there, as are the kids-style sweaters and cords with
    large plastic buttons. What this means, for me at least, is that you
    can think that you have either outgrown or grown tired of the concept,
    and yet find yourself going back there and buying more stuff because
    it’s become a source of staples — old favorites and new pieces that
    give a nod to what’s happening in more drastic (and harder-to-wear)
    fashion elsewhere.

    I think it’s also worth commenting on the fact that the appeal of Marc
    by Marc has always been that it’s pretty and demure and funky and
    cheeky all at once, whereas most other fashion, especially when Marc
    by Marc first became popular, aspires to sexiness or elegance or
    minimalism, and does so without being cool enough to comment on
    itself. Marc by Marc is like ironic dancing — it’s fun and it looks
    good while rolling its eyes at the inherent silliness of the whole
    venture. The weak spot in this facade is the childishness. “demure
    and pretty and funky and cheeky” is basically a perfect description of
    how under-eight girls look in a dress. Certainly, it’s how most of
    the affluent white girls who buy Marc by Marc now looked when they
    were under-eights in the eighties. And this may explain the $10
    wallet success. It’s all part of the same, jokey, “kids playing dress
    up/adults playing dress down” fantasy, and so they don’t seem cheap in
    the way that a $10 keychain from Guess would. The idea of younger or
    less moneyed girls buying a small piece of the party doesn’t seem
    tacky or sad, because everyone in there is essentially buying into the
    illusion that we’re younger and less moneyed than we are.

    It might be reasonable to ask when we’re going to grow up. Or, in the
    case of those of us who’ve been going to that store since we were
    young 20s and are now approaching 30, when we’re going to accept that
    we already have. And whether, if we do, it’s going to have a trickle
    down effect so that younger women start wanting something a little
    less cute, and more fierce. Is this what happened to, say, DKNY?

    It might also be reasonable to compare the welcome one receives in
    Mercer St. compared to the friendliness on Bleecker. It’s definitely
    haughtier in Soho, which makes perfect sense, but it’s also a reminder
    that the heart of the MJ empire is as exclusionary as Louis Vuitton.

    that’s probably more opinion than you were after. I like the piece
    very much. The picture’s great, too.

  5. 4 Nov 2007 Glenn

    I agree with your post, and as a side note, I abhor what brands like Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren are doing to the urban landscape of the village and even nolita, as we see more and more large brands gobbling up real estate (3 stores on one block?) and smaller retailers and merchants being squezed out of the equation. More and more, New York is losing its charm and individuality.

    We live in a consumer driven society that isn’t embracing uniqueness, but falling for the lowest common denominator of “sameness.” Note the depletion of local bodega’s on every block (they used to be everywhere) and the growth of brands like Duane Reade…seemingly everywhere (starbucks to go with your Gap anyone?).

    Even in this city it would appear we’ve become too lazy to even cross the street or walk an extra block to find what we need, instead we need one of these stores on every (or every other) block.

    While Marc may have had a great idea by creating an MJ hub in the village, I am fearful it is nothing more than empty consumerist excess.

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