March 23, 2017  ·  meta  ·  style

When Brands Are Obsoleted

Sometimes previously-useful brands are rendered obsolete. It could be attributable to external market forces, to their own inability to adapt, or more commonly both in varying degrees. Looking through the Unrefinery archives one can observe the frequency in which certain names appear gradually decreasing and ultimately halting entirely. A couple of examples:

Banana Republic

What they were good for: Affordable, trim-fitting basics like merino sweaters and casual shirts.

What happened: Uniqlo, mostly, who did everything BR did well with higher quality, a lower price point, and in 12 colours. The Banana seems to be in the same downward death spiral as parent company The Gap, with 40% discounts even on new arrivals a not-uncommon occurrence.

John Varvatos

What they were good for: Tasteful (usually) twists on classic forms, mod wear, and indestructible leather goods.

What happened: This one hurts, because JV himself is an extremely cool guy and everyone at Unrefinery is a fan. The big problem here is that the brand's aesthetic has grown too narrow. A typical piece on the website is modeled by a slender reed of a man with long hair and cultured stubble... and his style and occupation make him one of maybe a few thousand people who are going to wear what is essentially offbeat rock'n'roll stagewear in their daily lives (and if then, maybe only at the club). Varvatos' pieces are typically well-made with beautiful materials but because of their narrow appeal and the equally narrow acceptable age for wearing them they don't make good investments. The kids will probably view these styles as wearable for a year or two and thus will hit Zara for disposable alternatives.

Hugo Boss

What they were good for: Sophisticated sportswear, refined outerwear and affordable suits of reasonable quality.

What happened: This wound was largely self-inflicted, as Bauhaus-inspired knitwear with fine details and textures gave way to gaudy prints and logo-branded polos. Their suiting, mass-produced and burdened with fused jacket construction, veered into trendy tiny lapels and actually bumped up to the $900-$1,000 range just as Suitsupply came along with fully canvased offerings for hundreds less—and with a much more timeless and sophisticated aesthetic. Their coats are still OK, but unless there's a sale on, you can probably get one made to measure elsewhere and spend less in the process.

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