How the Contemporary Market Got Its Groove Back
The "contemporary" moniker used to have a negative connotation for fashion labels, but a new class of buzzy brands at approachable price points has helped change that.
Comb through a street style gallery from any one of the recent fashion weeks around the world and you'll no doubt spot a few pieces making recurring appearances: Shirred Ganni dresses in eye-catching prints; ruffled Maggie Marilyn blazers; checked, broad-shouldered Tibi suits; and Staud bucket bags in every shape and color.
In fact, a cadre of mid-price brands are breathing new life into the contemporary market, a tier once dominated by names like Vince, Alice + Olivia, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Theory that's largely struggled in recent years with declining sales and over-distribution.
"It is more about an aesthetic and an attitude," says Natalie Kingham, fashion and buying director at Matchesfashion. "Contemporary collections are no longer just diffusions of mainline collections — the brand mix we have curated within the contemporary edit all have strong brand image and identity."
She points to Ganni's dresses in particular as runaway successes, with many selling out within a week of launch. Today, you can name any of the best fashion retailers — from 200-year-old department stores to cutting-edge boutiques — and odds are, they carry Ganni.
Its biggest challenge now? Competition.
"If you're a new brand and you price yourself too high, then you will lose out to the competitive set," says Steve Frank, CEO of Launch Collective, a company that advises emerging brands on strategy, marketing and operations. "For the same price point, why would someone buy you as opposed to someone with a more established brand name?" Millennials, he adds, often "don't see the value in designer at very high-end price points — it doesn't necessarily mean as much to them as it means to older generations."
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