The headwinds are different for brands operating multiple labels. Menswear-maker Duckie Brown is launching Duckie Brown Gentleman at Nordstrom next month, which will sell Italian-made suits for $900 (a jacket from the brand's full-priced line can run for that much). One half of the label's design duo, Daniel Silver, said it's difficult for a company with such small production to lower its prices.
"We'd like Duckie Brown to be more for everybody and we're trying to do that," said the company's other designer, Steven Cox, ahead of its spring show.
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FIT's Quan said quality is always the sacrifice, as designers have to cut corners to lower production costs. For example, Nicole Miller's lower-cost J.C. Penney line—which at $60, sells dresses for a fraction of the price of her regular label—will occasionally use polyester instead of silk to make lower prices feasible.
"Sometimes it can be a challenge finding the right fabrics," Miller said backstage at her show. "But I feel like I can put my taste level and my prints [into the line] ... I don't think it's taboo like it used to be."