Luxury Outlook | Survival of the fittest

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PARIS, France - Even as America teeters on the brink of economic armageddon, fashion week has continued on in full force here in Paris. But, between all the comings and goings, the drama and parties, many designers, buyers and editors have had their eyes and ears tuned into what is going on Stateside, trying to make sense of the ever-changing news.

So what should luxury retailers and brands do in troubled times like this?

The days of unfettered consumption are over. Multi-thousand dollar canvas bags and poorly made clothes with staggering prices which are designed to last only one season will be a tough sell. More than ever, for consumers, every purchase now will involve the price/quality calculation that constitutes value. Consumers will ask themselves, how long will this last? How long can I wear this before it goes out of style? How versatile is this?

Only the fittest, most innovative players who who change with the times will thrive and survive. News today that the UK subsidiary of Energie, purveyors of expensive distressed denim and trend-driven fashion, has gone into bankruptcy protection is perhaps only the first sign of things to come for those brands who don’t offer the value consumers will increasingly expect. Even some of the most prestigious luxury companies have begun to tread into unbelievable waters. This $490 plush toy from Hermes is just one example of just how out of hand things have become.

On the other hand, those with the ability to evolve and innovate will make it through just fine. Monday’s announcement that Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter, and Jonathan Akeroyd, CEO of Alexander McQueen, have teamed up to offer a capsule Alexander McQueen collection exclusively online and ready to deliver within 24 hours is the perfect example of the ability to evolve and change with the times.

A quick check of the McQueen/Net-a-Porter micro-site reveals that many sizes in the nine pieces available for sale have already sold out. Clearly there are still some people shopping and Net-a-Porter and McQueen have made it easy (and discreet) for them to do so.

Hermes baby gift photo courtesy of BusinessWeek.