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Michael Kors Ads Showcase 'Fashion's Cruelest Means Of Trickery'

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Image via <a href="http://destinationkors.michaelkors.com/runway/ad-campaigns/spring-2013-ads/">MichaelKors.com</a>
Image via MichaelKors.com

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Does Michael Kors's expensive, jet-setter lifestyle that's depicted in its glossy ad pages reflect the brand's actual customer? The New York Times doesn't think so. Reporter Ginia Bellafante examined who was buying the brand on a day-to-day basis in NYC and as it turns out, it's not the jet-setters.

"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," Bellafante writes.

That midpriced line attracts quite a different customer then what's depicted in Michael Kors's ads. "In marketing terms the bags belong to a category known as 'affordable luxury,'" Bellafante explained. "Some of them are heavily logoed; others, simply shaped leather satchels and totes, bear a single more discreet emblazoning of the designer's name or initials in gold lettering. 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."

The brand's ad campaigns, on the other hand, often feature white models living it up on yachts, private jets, and shiny new convertibles. Inside the store, Bellafante noted that the bags were typically locked up. The Macy's salesperson she talked to credited the locks to the brand's clientele. "The purses themselves signal the country club and luncheon life; their display, bound together by wire, suggests the fears and prejudices of the elites whose lifestyles the products encode," wrote Bellafante. "Duller Calvin Klein bags are liberated, but the popularity of Michael Kors bags brings concern, the saleswoman said."

According to Bellafante, the Michael Kors ad campaigns are symbolic of one of fashion's deepest cruelties. "The irony, of course, is that the kind of woman the ads depict is not the kind of woman who is going to buy a $300 bag, because she has a closet full of $5,000 ones at home," she wrote. "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."
· Michael Kors's Locked-Up Luxury [NY Times]
· This Retail Consultant on Forbes Thinks Michael Kors Will Fail [Racked]
· Roberto Cavalli Accuses Michael Kors of 'Copying Everything' [Racked]