At Ralph Lauren, it's not the high end that makes the money, but myriad ancillary lines that sell in department store chains, like Macy's Inc. (M).
Calvin Klein rakes in cash hocking fragrance, underwear and denim. It soon hopes to take advantage of the demand for accessories, too.
For now, accessories are the real stars of the fashion world, with clothes serving as a backdrop or as the supporting cast. A buyer can still carry the "it" bag of the moment whether he or she is short or tall, thick or thin. The products all come in one size, and can be easily identifiable through design and name brand, a billboard advertising one's affluence. The labels feed the narcissism of contemporary consumers encouraged by social media, according to Bud Konheim, CEO of fashion apparel company Nicole Miller.
And in a global marketplace, where regional dress can greatly vary between Europe, the Middle East and India, accessories are an easier sell, said Mortimer Singer, CEO of Marvin Traub Associates.Finding the next fashion hit takes more than slapping a high price tag on a hunk of leather or bolt of fabric. And some companies just never make it. According to one industry banker, many of Kering SA's (formerly PPR SA) investments in younger brands have not translated into good investments. The company remains largely reliant on flagship brands, like Gucci, while Alexander McQueen, for example, has potential with global recognition, but its sales remain small, the banker said. The company's latest investment is in Altuzarra, helmed by Joseph Altuzarra, one of the hot young emerging designers of his generation. Singer pointed out that luxury conglomerates' need for growth is driving investment in increasingly smaller brands. Beyond the giants, some investors may believe -- erroneously -- that fashion is easy. Prominent examples of new designers quickly becoming superstars can create the impression that money and slick marketing will guarantee bright lights and glitzy parties. The prestige of investing in a hot luxury brand exerts a magnetic pull. For every success, however, there is a fashion graveyard filled with hundreds of labels that never find a market.