Accessories: Fashion Design's Cash Cow

by Sarah Clark
Fashion School Review Columnist

April 13, 2007

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Some say fashion design golden child Olivier Theyskens lost his position at Rochas because he neglected accessories in favor of haute couture. Why are handbags, perfume, and earrings so important for successful careers in fashion?

How to Design a Successful Fashion Business
Accessories play a crucial role in the fashion industry because they offer the biggest profit margin. According to The New York Times, Proctor and Gamble acquired Rochas for its perfume line, which enjoyed consistently strong sales. Focusing on this revenue producer, P&G allowed the couture side to languish, finally cutting loose the young and talented Mr. Theyskens.

Tom Ford's career in fashion, unlike Theyskens, is defined more perhaps by his shrewd marketing instincts than a genius for couture design. He turned Gucci's sales around through sharp attention to marketing, packaging, and product placement.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to the astute fashion design consumer. After all, what do the names Gucci, Chanel, and Prada call to mind? Most of us think of expensive makeup, luxurious handbags, perfumes, and colognes.

Theyskens' Lesson for Young Fashion Designers
Theyskens and Tom Ford represent two types of careers in fashion. One would, perhaps, regard Theyskens as more artistic and revolutionary and Ford as more prosaic in his unrelenting focus on bottom-line results. Theyskens has, after all, has since bounced back from his split with Rochas and introduced a well-received collection under the aegis of his new employer, Nina Ricci.

The tale of these two fashion designers presents a dilemma all emerging clothing designers will face: whether to heed their business instincts or stay true to their creative calling. Will fashion design be a way to the executive board room, or an artistic pursuit that changes the way we dress?

Or perhaps there's a third option. With the right approach, the intrepid clothing designer can strive for the best of both fashion worlds: cutting-edge fashion that sells. All valuable food for thought for those attending fashion design school.

About the Author
Sarah Clark is a freelance writer specializing in career development and postsecondary education.

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