Luxury Brand Names – Extensible Everywhere?

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by: John Caddell

For as long as there have been luxury brands, they have been trying to expand from their original niche to related – or unrelated – product areas. Remember Pierre Cardin cologne? It was a mainstay of TJ Maxx, a US discount store, back in the 1980’s.

The owners of today’s luxury brands will tell you they won’t repeat the mistakes of the past, where licensing mania resulted in the above-mentioned cologne and plenty of other failed products. Yet as described in this Wall Street Journal article, "Like Our Sunglasses? Try Our Vodka!" by Christina Binkley (link – $$), they’re at it again. Roberto Cavalli Vodka, Ferragamo watches (no, you don’t wear them on your ankle), Bulgari hotels. There’s no limit to what designers and their bankers will put their name on.

The designer-store trend helps to urge fashion companies to diversify. How else to fill up all those shelves and give people the opportunity to indulge in accessories to go with the outfit?

This trend, too, will peter out. The Bulgari hotels will become Hiltons, Ferragamo watches will take their rightful place on the shelves of TJ Maxx. But as long as it lasts, designers can luxuriate in seeing their names plastered over all kinds of random goods. And who wouldn’t like to see her name on a fine bottle of premium vodka?

Friday bonus quiz: Which of the following items are actual designer (or designer-licensed) goods?

  1. Versace dog collar
  2. Bill Blass Lincoln Continental
  3. Fendi litter box
  4. Burberry dog collar
  5. Louis Vuitton dog collar
  6. John Varvatos aftershave
  7. Marc Jacobs pop-up tent
  8. Gucci dog collar
  9. Armani keychain

(answer: all but 1, 3, 7.)

(Photo: Marc Jacobs canvas backpack via

(Disclosure: I have just learned that the author of the WSJ article, Ms. Binkley, formerly wrote for the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader. My wife grew up in Wilkes-Barre, PA.)

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