Fashion victims have an easy time of it. If the brand image of their favorite label is strong enough, the product line expands like tentacles outwards, seizing ever greater chunks of life. In this way, major fashion chains are constantly penetrating new markets. They transpose their carefully nurtured brand image, established down through the years, as a good dose of feel-good onto new areas, such as body care, interior worlds, or other everyday and consumer scenarios. "We are creating a new and better nation" was recently one of the key claims underpinning such an image, one that stands for a specific mindset and set of desires. In the corresponding campaign, which for all the irony has a serious core, pretty young girls bask on a Caribbean beach, enjoying a party that promises a whole new world and is expected to found a new happy nation, free of eco-damage and in fact free of any of the disadvantages of our otherwise so miserable reality.
What ever's happened to the spirit of innovation?
The island of blissful dropouts is a "Diesel" projection. In the strict sense, it markets blue jeans and denim. But the "Diesel" Empire has long since been expanded. The claim is thus deployed to power an image that likewise applies to "Diesel" shoes, "Diesel" perfumes, "Diesel" bicycles, "Diesel" sofas, "Diesel" tables and "Diesel" standing lamps. The quality on offer is shored up by the alliance by "Diesel" with renowned furniture makers Foscarini and Moroso, although this leaves on wondering. What has happened to the wish to innovate otherwise so highly praised in the design scene, that drive which would turn the ideas of the two Italian companies into something more than brand-compliant fashion gags?
Nothing is impossible if called "fashion"
Fashion labels can unite under their one roof what would otherwise seem irreconcilable. Body care and good food, prêt-à-porter and living-room sofas - nothing seems impossible and everything just a matter of marketing. "Camper" fans can now encounter their shoe brand in Berlin or Barcelona as a hotel operator. Aficionados of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana can enjoy the glamorous dolce vita of their fashion label when glancing at the menu in Milan's "Gold" restaurant: Mediterranean cuisine, "home-made tagliolini", selected ingredients. "Armani" has not only fashion classics to offer, but also chocolate and a comprehensive Casa program. And "Joop!" has managed to straddle bathrobes and bath tiles.
The trend was certainly not as expansive when it started: Some labels fielded perfumes and sunglasses, accessories and cosmetics, showing both how fluid the market's outer limits are and that it was possible to accompany clients on their travels. Textiles for living rooms then entered the picture, supplementing the market segment for the large chains. For example, as was to be expected the introduction of "H&M Home" sparked a storm of enthusiasm among teenagers. Esprit for the home hit the shops running with "design carpets" and "Zara Home" has since opened its first stores in Germany. Of late, the label's "décor trends", or rather a "fashion format" (that the press release says is specialized in "the latest trends in interior design") can be inspected on Frankfurt/Main's Rathenauplatz. They include ethno and country styles for bedrooms, "Albert" curtains and "Ramos" doorstops in a "Baroque style". And the bird-cage-shaped "Yune" mirror is ostensibly a "must for this season". Cross-selling makes its mark if marketed accordingly via established sales channels. Thus, the It-Bag can mutate into an It-Armchair, and seasonal fashion waves ripple through interior dreams with very short half-lives. The future promises even more. Perhaps we will soon be working at a "Zara" computer? Perhaps the tea kettle will no longer be a "Porsche" design, but an "Armani" cut? Perhaps there will be "H&M" autos - probably designed by Tokio Hotel or Lady Gaga?
Do we need the fragrance that fits the armchair?
"Let us turn your house into a home" is one of the slogans with which the fashion brands are with great self-confidence conquering the world of interiors. It would seem harder to make inroads going the other way, from furniture to fashion. One timorous attempt has been made, not into clothes but into perfumes: Three years ago, Artek fielded a "Standard" fragrance, nothing extraordinary, nothing special, simply standard and thus attuned to the understatement typical of the Finnish furniture makers, who loves celebrating simplicity. Developed in cooperation with Christian Astuguevieille, the "nose" of "Comme des Garçons", the fragrance relies on fennel, ginger, citron, musk and saffron on a base note of linnaea definitely fits the Artek furniture world better than any other perfume. The interior ambience to go with the fragrance already exists. Now all that is missing is a collection of plain suits or twin-sets with a touch of Scandinavian timelessness. But the vision of an Artek brand life is still in the stars. Thank God.
Text: Sandra Hofmeister