This holiday season, with uncertainty prevailing in the global economy, shoppers may be searching for cheaper alternatives to the high-end fashion houses, while still wanting to retain a feel for their favorite brands.
Luxury fashion houses are tapping into this sentiment through less expensive, secondary lines that allow them to reach out to a younger consumer, without compromising their reputation. The "main line" or "first line," which establishes the brand, is usually much pricier than the second line or even third line. Often the second line will contain many similarities to the main collection, but be produced in a different country and overseen by a different designer.
Luxury retailers are also continuing the trend of collaborating with more affordable stores, offering a taste of their brand to a wider consumer segment.
Click ahead for some of the best luxury for less items available this holiday season.
By Bianca Schlotterbeck
Posted 12 December 2011
Parent brand: Balmain
This Parisian fashion house founded by Pierre Balmain in 1945 was the label of choice for legendary style icons such as Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot. In the past few years, under the helm of Christophe Decarnin, Balmain has developed something of a cult following among well-heeled rock stars and “It girls,” success that looks set to continue under the brand’s new creative director, Olivier Rousteing. With ornately embellished dresses, such as this one worn by model Alessandra Ambrosia, selling for upwards of £20,000 ($31,120), Balmain is not for those on a budget.
This Christmas, the fashion house will come down to earth slightly with a new diffusion line available in December under the name of Pierre Balmain. Prices will start at £104 ($163) for a T-shirt, rising to £795 ($1,247) for eveningwear. The label will be targeted at a younger customer and will be created by a new design team. Alain Hivelin, chairman and chief executive officer of Balmain, said at a recent press event, “The Pierre Balmain collection translates the codes of Balmain in a more casual and relaxed manner.”
Parent brand: Matthew Williamson
MW by Matthew Williamson is the designer’s recent lower-priced collection, following closely on the heels of his one-off Macy’s Capsule Collection.
The designer describes it as “less red carpet, less glamorous, less jet set, than all those DNA qualities of the main line (worn here by actress, Sienna Miller). “They’re there, but they’re in much more subtle form, and it’s more about a day wardrobe for a more urban, contemporary, younger customer,” the designer said. The range, which will be made in Italy, starts at £98 ($153) for a necklace and goes up to £497 ($779) for a coat, and is available to buy online.
Parent brand: Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen set up McQ in 2006 as a denim-focused fusion line, and it has recently been taken back in-house and is now overseen by Creative Director Sarah Burton (famous for designing Kate Middleton’s wedding dress). The line — which includes items worn here by actress Emma Watson — is designed by Pina Ferlisi, whose past posts include designing for Marc by Marc Jacobs, Coach, and Gap, and who has successfully overseen the reinvigoration of the label.
In February 2012, McQ will show at London fashion week and shortly afterwards open its flagship store on London’s Dover Street in Mayfair. It features clothing and accessories for men and women at a more affordable price point — around £95 ($148) for a shirt and £1,640 ($2,561) for a coat — than the mainline label, which will continue to show in Paris. Burton recently told reporters: "McQ should be about the things that are very connected to the roots of early McQueen, incorporating those house signatures that come from the street, but it has to be delivered in great fabrics, and great cuts."
Parent brand: Versace
High Street store H&M’s latest designer collaboration with Versace launched on Nov. 17. Worn here by U.S. rapper Kanye West at the Victoria Secret fashion show, the autumn/winter collection sold out in almost 30 minutes in some stores, with people lining up all night to be the first in the store. Clothes from the first collection are now available only on eBay for up to five times their original price, which was from £20 ($31) for accessories to £200 ($312) for a leather coat.
Those who missed out on autumn/winter line will be able to get their hands on the cruise collection, which will arrive in January. This will be followed in March by a new H&M collaboration with another well-loved luxury Italian fashion label, Marni.
Parent brand: Giambattista Valli
In October, Macy’s launched the fourth of its limited edition designer capsules created exclusively for its Impulse department. The collection by Italian designer Giambattista Valli — whose main line inspires an A-list following including the likes of Charlize Theron and Natalie Portman — brought clothes for the jet set to the everyday.
“This collection is a passport into my world and a chance to experience my Couture House and Paris itself,” Valli told reporters when the line was launched. “Each dress is a collector's piece and an invitation to join my exclusive group of ‘Valli girls.’ " Priced on average between $50 to $150, the line features cocktail dresses, flirty skirts, feminine blouses, and lightweight jackets. The line is being sold in approximately 225 Macy’s stores nationwide and online.
Parent brand: Michael Kors
Launched in 2004, in more than 350 concessions across the U.S., MICHAEL Michael Kors is a refined diffusion line from all-American designer Michael Kors. The MICHAEL label gives Kors' signature luxe sportswear a cool downtown makeover, with embellished totes, python-print clutches, and sequined dresses with prices that range from £40 ($62) for accessories to £995 ($1,555) for a suede jacket. It puts the trademark Kors glamor within the reach of an audience who might not be prepared to spend £1,200 ($1,871) on a jumper dress.
Alongside department stores, Michael Kors has also created several lifestyle stores, which hold more of his less expensive line and are designed to appeal to a younger customer. The MICHAEL shoes pictured here were worn by actress Victoria Justice to Teen Vogue's 8th Annual Young Hollywood Party.
Designer: Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld, the creative designer behind Fendi and Chanel, will launch a new affordable line at Paris Fashion Week in January. The brand, called Karl, which will be available online from Net-a-Porter starting Jan. 25, is a 100-piece collection which the designer described as “rock” and “street,” and which will contain a lot of denim and leather.
Prices will range from £60 ($95) to £286 ($450) and will offer many accessories and a new logo — Lagerfeld’s sunglasses and ponytail profile — embedded into the K. There will be complete Lagerfeld saturation to support the Karl line, with pop-up shops in major cities and a revamped website.
Parent brand: Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs has managed to set up an enduring and highly regarded extension with Marc by Marc Jacobs, pictured here. Although the difference in price from his original line is minimal, from £30 ($46) for accessories to £705 ($1,102) for a dress, the collection, which originated in 2001, offers good-quality, everyday pieces.
Parent brand: Chloé
Another brand that successfully introduced a sister line back in 2001 is Chloé. See by Chloé plays up the casual side of the French fashion house, although customers can expect to shell out up to £740 ($1,158) shopping the line at Net-a-Porter, Neiman Marcus, or Saks Fifth Avenue. This is definitely a markdown from the several thousands of dollars for a Chloé original, such as this one worn by actress Olivia Wilde.
Parent brand: Valentino
Romantic Eccentric Dress, or RED, Valentino launched in 2004. The Valentino diffusion carries all the romanticism of the brand but with a more contemporary feel, as seen here on actress Sofia Vergara. Expect to pay anywhere from £63 ($100) to £1,020 ($1,600) for the line at RED Valentino boutiques, Net-a-Porter, and high-end department stores.
Parent brand: Zac Posen
Zac Posen’s Z Spoke collection, worn here by singer Taylor Swift, premiered last year with prices ranging from £49 ($78) all the way to £430 ($675), and is available from Saks Fifth Avenue. The designer describes the line as "the day component, or casual component," of his fashion brand: "They're for the hipster who has grown up and gone to work.”
Parent brand: Preen
British design duo Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, whose Preen label, worn here by Gwyneth Paltrow, is already a big hit, launched their diffusion line in 2008 to allow them “to show the two different sides of the label.” Fans of the brand will find more of its immaculate style closely resembling the main line, but at a slightly more affordable price. A dress from Preen will set you back around £800 ($1,250), whereas a similar dress from the Preen Line will cost about £400 ($625).