Diffusion collections used to be all the rage. Dolce & Gabbana had its D&G collection – until 2011 when Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana folded it into the main collection. Marc Jacobs had Marc by Marc, but that followed a similar path on the heels of failed attempts at a revamp. Prada had Miu Miu – and still does, but has repositioned it as less of a secondary brand than a more stand alone “little sister” one. And until today, Burberry had Burberry Brit and Burberry London, the "lower end" alternatives to its main, Burberry Prorsum collection. Its reportedly even dropping the "Prorsum" moniker in favor of a simpler "Burberry" name, in a move to to make it easier for customers to understand its product offering.
And as of today, Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative and chief executive officer of Burberry, announced in a press conference that he will oversee the consolidation of all Burberry labels under one core Burberry brand. The Prorsum collection, which is the one we see on the runway each season - will reign supreme, albeit without the Prorsum name. Far from just a cosmetic shift, Bailey said the change will be "huge" and "will make it simpler and more intuitive for our customer." This is interesting, as it proves that the anti-diffusion collection trend is still alive and well. Maybe even more interesting is its fall from grace in favor of this new penchant for structural simplicity.
Not too long ago, diffusion collections were touted as profitable, must-have vehicles for luxury brands to earn much needed revenue – a way for them to reach a different market with relatively affordable versions of their brands’ main collections and ideally, without tarnishing or diluting their main collections. Moreover, they offered brands an opportunity to beat the rapidly expanding accessible luxury brands – think Michael Kors and co – to the punch by offering consumers, who are either one step below their main customer or on the same level but in search of an instant gratification buy, with something to buy into. Hence: the secondary line.
While it seems that these secondary collections prove a more useful tool now that brands like Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Coach, Rebecca Minkoff, and maybe even J. Crew, if we consider the more high end aspects of the company (think: its "Collection", which consists of $700 leather trousers, $3,200 python jackets, and $700 embroidered dresses) are dominating the market, they are just not terribly appealing anymore. Instead, brands are streamlining; they are opting to put forth a more united front - one collection per house. In this way, it seems the runway trend of minimalism is permeating the business and branding aspects of things, as well.
In theory, this general move toward unity that we have been witnessing makes quite a bit of sense. Brands are simplifying to put forth stronger main collections; this is a good thing. As for how they will all be able to seamlessly incorporate multi-price point goods into that one main collection is still to be seen, as will its effect on existing licensing agreements and the revenue they bring in. If nothing, it will be interesting to watch this new trend unfold.