Marc Jacobs is betting big on accessories — this time under the label’s new one-brand, multiple price points approach.
With a spring collection exhibiting a new double-J signature hardware bit applied to a wide range of functional shapes and sizes in brightly colored fabrications – the majority of which will be priced under $500 – the Marc Jacobs brand, like many in fashion, looks to generate the majority of its sales in the category.
Chief executive officer Sebastian Suhl said that ideally, the label’s leather goods will account for 70 percent of the brand’s overall sales, while footwear would represent an additional 15 percent share. Such a proportion of accessories would even exceed Michael Kors’ current sales breakdown, which in 2015 owed 68.4 percent of brand sales to accessories.
The focus on accessories fits in with the company’s goal of one day going for an initial public offering, hoping to mirror Kors’ success on the stock market. No time frame has been set for a possible IPO, though.
“Accessories are our biggest category without question – they are a top priority from a business perspective,” Suhl . Presently, leather goods account for about 60 percent of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand’s sales.
Marc Jacobs found immense success through the early Aughts with bags boasting its signature oversize push-button hardware. The designer’s spring assortment, which rolled into stores late last week, is the first collection to exhibit the label’s restructured pricing approach and new logo. The label would fold its diffusion Marc by Marc Jacobs label into its higher-end one to create a unified brand with varied pricing.
The CEO said that 70 percent of the brand’s spring accessories assortment is priced under $500 – a ratio that will continue in future collections. However, special pieces constructed of exotic skins and boasting elaborate embroidery can be priced in excess of $5,000. As observed at the brand’s 163 Mercer Street store, the varied price points are merchandised beside one another without differentiation.
Included in the new assortment is the brand’s new “Gotham” leather satchel collection, priced between $300 and $600. Each has a woven strap. The “Snapshot” range of camera bags comes in bright leather ($295) and checkered sequin fabric ($550). A more ladylike “J, Marc” range of shoulder bags is styled in aged, embroidered python for $5,500, as well as simple black leather with a chain handle for $490.
Suhl said of the new “J, Marc” embellishment — two linear “J” letters that connect in a loop: “It doesn’t look like a logo per se; it’s an interesting, simple embellishment.”
Jacobs explained of the designs: “We approached everything – shoes, bags – in the same way. They needed to have an authenticity and integrity of what they should be. Everything is very considered. From the sole of a shoe to the stitching on the sole of a shoe, and it doesn’t matter whether it was a shoe made in China or a shoe embroidered in France and made in Italy. There was the same amount of attention to detail in every single thing.”
“It’s a unique selling proposition,” Suhl said of the brand’s “democratic” approach, which he says has been intrinsic to the Marc Jacobs label since its inception.
But with this broad range, what will incentivize high-end consumers to buy into the brand’s more expensive products when $300 merchandise sits beside them on a shelf?
“It’s a totally different product,” Suhl said of the higher-end designs. “The bag we have at $5,000 is crocodile and has all kinds of embroidery. In any industry, any brand will have different price points – like with cars you have one [model] for $200,000 with one next to it priced at $30,000. If you do it right, it should be obvious why one is more expensive than the other.”
He was resolute that “this is not what other brands are doing. We are not about taking a super commercial bag and trying to make a few more expensive bags to up our image. It is something the [Marc Jacobs] brand has been doing naturally for 15 years.
“Marc Jacobs is the first designer fashion house that offers a significant portion of product at democratic prices,” said Suhl. “We are definitely doing a designer story in terms of positioning and how we present ourselves in department stores.”
Though the brand’s prior duality when it operated the Marc by Marc and Marc Jacobs labels allowed it representation on both the designer and contemporary floors of department stores, Suhl said that the new unified brand will look to designer real estate in third party retailers going forward. This same designer mentality will apply to the label’s markdown approach, which will now operate on a semi-annual schedule, rather than in a constant flux as often happens in the contemporary market.
“[Our department store placement has] shifted quite a bit. We were very much on the contemporary floor and will be shifting to the designer positioning It’s a designer brand. It’s one that, again, is the only designer brand able to market most of its product at a democratic price point.
“You will see us positioned in a designer environment…we don’t want to confuse the consumer by putting ourselves amongst brands that have nothing to do with us,” said the CEO.
Suhl, who joined Marc Jacobs from Givenchy in July 2014, said that when reviewing the brand’s analytics, he felt that, “We are a very unique American fashion house in the sense that less than half of our business is in the U.S.”
The label’s geographical reach is evenly spread between Asia, Europe, and the Middle East — and is locally merchandised to suit cultural preference.
But there is one overall common thread, seen in the brand’s online traffic. “If you look, we have a very strong Millennial female base – 80 percent of our customer online is a women between 18 and 36 years old,” said the CEO. “The majority of what we are doing is a young trendy person.”
The demanding age group “expects much more of a [brand] world, it necessitates a proper collection,” Suhl said, when asked if the label is on a quest to produce a new “It” bag.
“We are not working to create an ‘It’ bag; we are working to create a collection of product that stands for something, for Marc Jacobs specifically, with designer quality, designer experience, at mostly democratic prices. We are after more of a perennial approach. We are not looking for a short one-off,” he said.
With an overall accessories market that’s in a state of muddled confusion that reported last week, Suhl still feels that Marc Jacobs can accomplish success in the category. “I think for sure what’s been missing [from the market] is that there has never been a brand able to bring a designer sensibility with a democratic price point with attention to function and merchandising. I know it’s unique. We are definitely doing that.”
Contributor: Misty White Sidell