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The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

Everyone's talking about: Limited edition luxury

By
  • Imran Amed

Walk down Madison Avenue in New York, the Bund in Shanghai, and avenues Montaigne and Georges V in Paris, and you will see the same luxury stores teeming with the same luxury products. No matter where you go, there are Balenciaga bags, Jimmy Choo shoes and Dior Homme suits on offer.  It's no wonder then that everyone's talking about limited edition products from established companies like Neiman Marcus and Martin Margiela to start-ups like 20ltd and couturelab. Customers, it seems, are looking for something a little bit special.

The phenomenon has the fashion business media chattering too. The Financial Times covered the phenomenon over the weekend with a particular focus on men's luxury products and this week, WWD gave us a laundry list of limited edition collaborations to show the degree to which scarcity is proliferating as a perceived selling point for luxury brands. The Business of Fashion has been in the fray as well, exploring the renaissance of haute couture and the unappealing ubiquity of Tory Burch and Goyard in Upper East side styletribes.

So, is there a viable business model here?

Some of the limited editions are part of an entire concept dedicated to the notion of planned scarcity, like internet site 20ltd, which offers only 20 items on its website at any given time.  All the products are produced in limited runs and are not available anywhere else. When the model is a focused one like this and scarcity is part of the raison d'etre, customers are more likely to buy into the value being offered. Furthermore, beautiful bags from upstart designers like Katherine Kwei in New York and Aseef Vaza in London also give people access to designers who may not be household names, but who are creating beautiful products that are covetable and exclusive for the very reason that relatively few people have heard of them.

On the other hand, when Neiman Marcus uses its buying clout to get 20 of its huge vendors to create one-off items to celebrate the Neiman Marcus 100th anniversary, the limited edition approach seems a lot more gimmicky. These Prada shoes, for example are not going to be appealing to people who find even one logo over-the-top. Since when does someone want to walk around with both Neiman Marcus and Prada emblazened on the back of their shoe?

Photos courtesy of 20ltd (Katherine Kwei purse £550, Oliver Goldsmith glasses £680, and Stephen Webster cufflinks £3,500) and WWD.

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