Monday, 23 August 2010

The end of the affair - Selfridges and Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana fall 2010 via
It was a beautiful relationship. But apparantly one of the UK's highest profile luxury goods department stores and the sex bomb's label of choice have had a "giant falling out".
It's hard to work out exactly what happened, neither side is being particularly forthcoming, but it seems that Selfridges wanted to move the D&G and Dolce & Gabbana lines to new areas of the store and the label was less than happy about the suggested arrangement.
Forgive me for a being a little bit of a sceptic here but this sounds quite unlikely to me. There must have been a bit more to it, no? I'm hedging my bets on a major personality clash that has turned something quite small and easily resolvable into a battle of the egos.
I know where a label is placed in a shop as big as Selfridges is mightily important, but not important enough to scupper and extremely beneficial arrangement. Dolce & Gabbana are, after all, both the kings of leopard print and satin (also polka dots and lace and the jackets and knickers look this season) AND one of Selfridges biggest sellers, especially in Manchester if Twitter is to be believed. They're an extremely valuable label for Selfridges to have in its mix, which veers toward the more commercial side of high fashion than, say, Liberty which is all about slightly more challenging and niche designers. And Dolce & Gabbana need Selfridges even more than it needs them. They fit in there perfectly and reach hundreds of thousands of consumers as a result.
Can we glean anything from the newspaper coverage of this fracas to help us make this odd situation a little less opaque?
The Evening Standard has quoted industry sources saying that Dolce & Gabbana were "furious" about the department stores decision to move the lines. Hmmm, were they suggesting moving them to the food hall? It still seems a little far fetched.
They've also quoted a 'leading fashion executive' (don't you love this vagueness? I do, it's very useful for my job to be able to quote people anonymously like this because you can beef up a slightly watery story quite easily this way by making someone sound more important than they perhaps are or get someone quite important to say something juicy that they wouldn't usually say if their name was attached to the quote). But the same quote is attributed to a 'co-owner of a premium brand' in the Telegraph and a line from it is also attributed to 'industry sources' in the Times. This is where the "giant falling-out" phrase appears to have come from.
Selfridges has batted all this off quite bruskly with some very non-commital quotes about "seeking to improve the diversity and presentation of our brand portfolio" and being "unable to accomodate Dolce & Gabbana and D&G in our mix going forward".
I like this quote. It's very snooty, very 'we think we're on the higher ground here and we're going to taunt you from it'.
The Times turned to Liberty's managing director, Ed Burstell, for another point of view. "There are certain stores in every country that set the tone for a global commercial brand," he said. "And it is vital that in those certain sotres the brand looks prmoinent and is placed in the best possible location. I think it's a little bit foolish on their [Dolce & Gabbana] part."
This, to me, is a rather honest and also wonderful quote. He's admitting that Selfridges, a major competitior in extracting money from fashion lovers, are quite important. And he's also basically saying that Dolce & Gabbana have thrown all their toys out of the pram and will probably have to go back and come to some sort of compromise.
Only time will tell, but I can't be the only one fascinated to see what happens next. Could Dolce & Gabbana be the ones to prove that they don't need traditional retail to be a commercial player in the UK? Or will they be back in Selfridges in time for the Christmas gifting season? Place your bets now...

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