August 28, 2008
Hope you’re having fun and getting ready for the last party of the summer!
I recently received my September issue of Vogue, and — at a voluminous 798 pages (seriously) — it made my wrist throb as I read it for 20 minutes while sitting on the beach last weekend. It actually hurt to hold the magazine. I should point out that the fall issue is traditionally one of Vogue’s biggest, but good Lord — the Editor’s Letter (a mainstay at the beginning of every magazine) doesn’t appear until page 312! The advertisers paying a small fortune to appear in the first 311 pages got me thinking. Yes, we’re in a down economy, but clearly there’s still a market for products that make us feel good. Maybe it’s because we’re stuck in such an economic maelstrom. I read an article in the “Money” section of USAToday last week that noted “sin” items — liquor, cigarettes, etc. (or, as I call them, “NECESSITIES”) always surge in a bad economy because people want an escape from dour news.
As I’m the girl who thinks a glass of water is a waste of a good tumbler of Goose, I say bring me the sin, the bling and the brands!
Remember Julie Andrews’ Maria in The Sound of Music, singing about her favorite things? Yeah, well, that was always lost on me:
“Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudel,
Doorbells and sleigh-bells and schnitzel with noodles,
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings,
These are a few of my favorite things…”
Schnitzel with noodles??? Seriously? No offense to Rodgers & Hammerstein, but I think they were smoking funny things. Here’s my version:
“Pink-colored Pradas and black leather Blahniks,
Dolce and Gucci and Choos that are size six,
Grey Goose that’s chilled and a Tiffany ring,
These are a few of my favorite things…”
Until recently, the luxury industry appeared immune from the weak economy. Not so much anymore, where in the U.S. the big luxe brands like Gucci, Fendi, Chanel and the rest of the Vogue darlings are all feeling the pinch of tightening belts. A recent study by the firm Unity Marketing says that out of 1,281 luxury consumers (average income $155,700; average age 46.6 years), two-thirds stated they’re worried about the economy. Consequently, they spent less, decreasing luxury purchases in the second half of 2007 by 20% (from $29,307 to $24,301), Unity says.
So where’s the ray of sunshine amongst the black clouds of doom? Look no further than the CW network’s pop-tart, brain-candy show, Gossip Girl, which starts its new season on Monday, 9/1, at 8:00 EST. If you haven’t seen it (because, let’s face it, the show’s fan-base is giddy 14- to 20-year-old schoolgirls who send text messages using acronyms like “OMG” and “BFF,” teetering around on stilettos with annoyingly haughty attitudes — and, well, me… who, at the age of 41, does all of those things) it’s about a group of wealthy high school teens behaving badly in Manhattan, sporting the trendiest wardrobes and accessories from the top designers. Truly, the cost to outfit these kids would be upwards of six-figures annually — and I’m being conservative (a first).
However, the show has become a pop culture zeitgeist — Sex and the City lite — with legions of rabid fans watching the show and teens saving their money, in fact picking up extra jobs, just to buy the $800 Jimmy Choo stilettos seen on the show. This sort of behavior confirms that there are people out there willing to spend on items — even the pricey ones — they covet and feel a connection to. And I believe that that same principle applies to this industry as well. If you can make people connect to your products and your brand, they’ll buy.
I will tell you that I saw an ad for a Frank Gehry-designed Tiffany necklace in Vogue a few issues back and became so obsessed with it that I knew I had to have it. Was it a practical purchase? Nope. But it makes me happy every time I wear it and the cost never once crosses my mind… Or, as my managing editor Joe Haley, star of The Joe Show, puts it: “You’re not married and you don’t have kids… All your money is disposable income with which to feed your indulgent whims — you’re like Lovey Howell — accessorizing your own fantasy world!” You betcha, Joe-Joe, and I’m loving every minute of it!
And speaking of indulging my whims, I’ll be on vacation next week, disgracing myself in my beloved beach town, Avalon (or, as we call it, Babylon…), NJ. Lucky you. In my absence, Tim Andrews, ASI’s president and CEO, will be filling in for me on our weekly ASI Radio Show (every Tuesday morning, from 10:30-11:00 EST). As Editor-in-Chief Melinda Ligos told me, “we need a loudmouth to replace your loud mouth, Michele!” Tim certainly fits the bill and will be in rare form, I’m sure!
Guest-blogging for me will be Ron Ball, ASI’s vice president of supplier sales, my “work husband” and the company’s reigning “character-in-residence.” To portray Ron as a “pistol” would be the understatement of the millennium. I asked him to step in for me because the thought of his wacko insights and musings spilling out, unfiltered, in a blog just makes me giggle with devilish delight. He tells me he’ll be calling his guest-blog, which will be posted next Wednesday morning, “BallBuster.” God help us all… ; )
Have a fan-frakin’-tastic Labor Day weekend and I’ll be back posting again the week of 9/8.