The Jakarta Post | Tue, 07/29/2008 3:10 PM |
Nothing on earth empties our purses and wallets as quickly as splurging on the finer things in life. People spend beyond their means, that’s a fact. Luxury brands are priced beyond most people’s means, that’s another fact. But a puzzling reality is the young people in their early twenties carrying thousand-dollar totes or wearing gold cufflinks. Maggie Tiojakin sits down with some dedicated followers of fashion.
What is in a name? For wealthy fashionistas like “Irene” and “Karina”, a name is worth, literally, millions. And the items they purchase, bearing those names, are priceless.
is a 21-year-old heiress to a multinational company whose monthly fashion
budget is a cool Rp 12 million, higher than a manager’s salary in most
daughter of a billionaire, she likes to spend her weekends in
“Fashion is important to a lot of people, not just women,” says Irene. “I think different brands speak for different people, but the one thing these brands have in common is prestige. When I have my own boutique, I want my customers to feel like they are worthy of what they wear.” “Because, ultimately, that’s what we buy. More than the clothes or accessories themselves, we buy an image. That’s what makes these luxury items so special.”
is a 25-year-old entrepreneur who runs a franchise business in downtown
“Before I left for college, I couldn’t care less about fashion,” says Karina. “Things began to change when I lived abroad. I paid more attention to what I was wearing and what other people were wearing. The rest is history, which you can look up on my credit card bills.”
Irene and Karina are not typical of young women everywhere, who, most likely, can’t afford a Vera Wang dress or a Carolina Herrera handbag. Back in the days when the youth market was dominated by Gap, Benetton and Giordano, the significance of a luxury brand was still a privilege that exclusively belonged to thirty-something business executives and the over-forty affluent. Today, however, the youth market is a grab-for-all that gushes profits.
difficult is it to be a millionaire in this day and age?” asks Johan Darmala, a
marketing staff member at MGI, a brand consulting agency located in
In 2006, market research by ACNielsen found Armani, Gucci and Versace were the three “most coveted” designer brands. The research involved 21,000 online participants in 42 countries over the period of one month. Thirty-percent of the participants were between the ages of 22 and 35 and, given the choice, they stated they would go with Armani “if money was no object”.
Ah, yes, money. For those who are less wealthy, but not necessarily poor, who possess the same brand-drive as Irene and Karina, the hunt for a seasonal handbag or pair of high heels may force them to save for months on end. Sometimes, even up to a whole year. Why go through all the trouble?
“Some invest in real estate, I invest in shoes,” says Poppy Komang, 26, a real estate agent who earns Rp 16 million in a good month, and about half that on a quiet turn of the calendar. Her heart belongs to Manolo Blahnik. “I just love shoes. I can’t control the urge to buy them. That’s why I choose to control the urge to buy everything else, so I can save for my Manolos.”
For Yosef Haryadi, 25, a finance analyst at a business consulting firm who earns about Rp 10 million a month, purchasing a luxury brand is his way of rewarding himself for all his hard work. “I work hard, I play hard,” he says. “When you do what I do, meet the people I meet, you lose the freedom to have bad taste in couture. That’s just not an option. In my circles, who you wear is who you are. Sure, it’s a little conceited, but isn’t the whole world like that? Isn’t that what brand management gears up for?”
Of course, brand management is all about product marketing. Even the smallest, most insignificant products like adhesives rely on brand management to bridge the gap between manufacturers and consumers. Multiply that by a thousand, and you can begin to imagine the type of brand management powerhouses that Armani, Oscar de la Renta and Givenchy employ to reach out to their worldwide clientele.
Now, more than ever, luxury brands are taking what they can, when they can out of the available markets. Celebrity branding is a recent tactical move by powerhouses to represent their designs, targeting the sophisticated and the wealthy, but most importantly, the young. Dunhill features Jude Law as its ambassador of choice, Jimmy Choo has enlisted Nicole Ritchie and Marc Jacobs brilliantly places Dakota Fanning front and center.
campaigns among the competing luxury brands are fierce and oddly pleasant to
watch with the endless flaunting of
As they say, after euphoria comes release. The release, for some people, involves the type of Sunday afternoon both Irene and Karina love to spend together, going from mall to mall and coveting the newest line of luxury items. When asked if they had ever been exposed to peer-pressure in their quest for must-haves, the two women look at each other.
“Well, fashion is about being up to date,” says Irene, holding a Dolce & Gabbana shirt she has been eyeing for the last hour. “There is pressure, of course. You can’t be a fashionable person if you don’t keep up with the latest and trendiest, you know?”
Karina is a bit more thoughtful in her answer. “I guess, sometimes, there is pressure. I don’t pay attention to it, because once I do, it’s never going to stop. There are dozens of luxury brands in the world; I can’t possibly buy everything they have in the stores.”
Thus, the quest continues. Youth may be inexperienced, even gullible, but for all that, they know one thing for sure: a name is never just a name.
“It’s everything,” says Johan. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, five years from now, six year-olds come into a classroom for the first time, all clumsy and awkward, but with apparel by Max Mara, accessories by Gucci. I’m telling you, it’s going to happen, if it hasn’t already.”