The New York Times is on a roll today!
In an interesting article called, ‘Michael Kors’s Locked Up Luxury‘, writer Ginia Bellafante explored the dichotomy between Michael Kors’s handbag advertisements and some of the brand’s core customers.

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While Bellafante hypothesizes that Kors’s most avid handbag consumers are low to middle class women of color, Kors’s advertisements promote an unabashed luxury, enjoyed exclusively by the well heeled, exceedingly rich, white 1%–a lifestyle that most Kors fans can’t realistically enjoy. She explains, “Over the past year, I have noticed on the subway during rush hour, or in less precious quarters of Brooklyn or the Bronx, or around community colleges and public housing complexes, that women, both young and middle-age, are often carrying Michael Kors handbags — those from the designer’s midpriced line, which typically cost no more than a few hundred dollars. At the Macy’s in Fulton Mall in Brooklyn, all Michael Kors bags are extremely popular, a saleswoman told me, and they are bought almost exclusively by women who are not white.”

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Edwina of Versicolor Closet

By contrast, she says, “Michael Kors ads unabashedly worship moneyed glamour. It’s the 0.01 percent lifestyle the images convey. The men and women in the ads are rarely resting quietly. They are forever traveling or disembarking from helicopters, yachts and planes in which legroom does not appear to be an issue. No one in a Michael Kors ad flies commercial. Women are occasionally pictured on the phone — perhaps calling the Beijing office — and they are always in control.”
She also notes that though many women covet these bags, which ring in at a couple hundred dollars, several stores keep the pocketbooks chained down. She likened this practice to keeping lower classes out of the Country Club.
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She ends her piece saying, “One of fashion’s cruelest means of trickery, one of its prevailing intoxicants, is to offer the illusion of wealth when the reality is too distant to inhabit.” Her conclusion sent comments ablaze.
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Erika from Atlanta typed, ” Ms. Bellafante is acting like this is something new – people buying a trendy item that may stretch their finances and enrich an entrepreneur/business which may not cater directly to them. (Do we really think Apple cares about us?) She implies these bags are something that not a single one of the buyers she saw in the mall or on the street can actually afford and might have budgeted for. I mean, some of them had CHILDREN in tow – gasp! It doesn’t make sense and it’s never made sense, but some people – of all economic groups and all races – buy what they want and what they think will impress others. Some can afford to do this. Some will go into serious debt doing so. Welcome to America!”
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Erika hit the nail on the head: American consumerism is all about portraying a luxurious lifestyle, persuading people to spend beyond their means in pursuit of ‘the dream’. But the contrast of the Michael Kors ad and the supposed core Michael Kors consumer does present a new truth: it really doesn’t matter if you don’t see yourself reflected in an advertisement. If the price is right and the quality is good, you’ll buy it, regardless of who the brand’s target demographic seems to be.

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Weesha from the blog

At any rate, do you buy Michael Kors bags? Do you find it problematic that his ads don’t typically reflect some of his most loyal customers?
Read the full New York Times article here.


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