Fashion Fundamentals

10 Questions to determine whether you have what it takes to be a Successful Online Luxury Fashion Brand?

Luxury is something that you don’t need at all but is so exceptional that it makes you want to indulge in. 

It’s arguable that whether or not Internet is the right channel to sell Luxury goods because the conventional wisdom says that if something is too accessible, it can’t be Luxury whereas Internet by its very nature is a channel to make things accessible and easy.

When Oscar de la Renta, launched their e-commerce store for the first time, it was expected that people will buy inexpensive products such as belts & perfumes. To their surprise, they were able to sell even their most expensive items on their website,  including a $80,000 sable coat.

And now Brands like Burberry have proven that E-commerce is a reliable Marketing & Sales Channel for Luxury Brands as their Digital Channels (Website & Mobile Applications) played a major role £1,999 M revenue in the 2013 Financial Year. Source

While values of luxury consumers is shifting, the Internet is undoubtedly a major marketing & sales channel for all luxury brands.

However, if we talk about Start-up Luxury E-commerce Brands, there are many small luxury boutiques selling Luxury items in physical retail spaces and on their website. These brands fall in the semi-luxury & luxury category based on their quality & pricing. Having worked with a few start-up brands which fall under this category, we have seen that although they’re able to sell their items well through physical retail network, these brands struggle to drive sales from their own e-commerce website.

The bigger reason why e-commerce does not perform so well for many start-up Fashion Retailers as compared to their physical retail network is that many of these retailers don’t apply the same rules of luxury from physical retail space to the Online environment. And even if they do, they don’t communicate the essence of luxury in their brand communication on their website.

So, what makes something luxury?

In this article, let’s go beyond the price factor and try to understand the true essence of Luxury and see where your brand stands for each of these 10 aspects of Luxury.

It will help you determine whether the products that you’re selling or perhaps the way you’re selling – how close is it to being Luxury? So, if you too are selling luxury on your website, we hope that the 10 questions below will help you find your missing pieces of your puzzle.

1) Does your brand have a Heritage?

Great Luxury Brands have a legacy – A story behind the brand. This history gives the brand a unique culture which reflects in all the areas of the brand.

Burberry’s Heritage
Burberry is largely luxury because of the story behind the brand. The company began by making outerwear that became a staple in the British military. During World War 1, Burberry first designed the beloved ‘Trench Coat’ for British Military officers. They have a history to be know for their attention to quality and luxury at every level of creation, production, and distribution of their products.

Levis is an example of a non-luxury Brand with a solid heritage.

2) Do you have an innovative design?

There is a big connection between innovative design and luxury. Luxury brands have a legacy to design innovators. They start new trends, new styles that are first of its kind. Does your core product category have an innovative and the first of its kind design?

Coco Chanel & Innovation

Little Black Dresses (LBD): An earlier study presented at the recent Global Fashion Conference in Porto, Portugal (Finn & Finn, 2010), discusses this in more depth but for clarity, some key points will be made here. The designs of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel first gained recognition in the 1920s, notably her design for the Little Black Dresses in the late 1920s and the Chanel Suit in the 1930s. Her innovative use of cutting, and particularly her use of wool jersey for the haute couture market is well documented (Davis, 2007; Haedrich, 1972). The re-emergence of the designer in the 1960s saw the Chanel Suit re-designed for a 1960s market with a shorter skirt length and innovative in the use of tweed wool fabric for the luxury fashion market. Again, the re-birth of Chanel under the leadership of Lagerfeld in the 1990s saw the Chanel Suit (now designed for a younger market) gain popularity once more. [Source]

 3) Is there any such factor that makes your products less attainable?

Easily attainable do not qualify as a luxury product. A luxury product is rare, exotic, hard to find and even harder to attain. The attainability in some cases is natural. For example – if your product is made from rare or seasonal raw materials; Luxury brands tend to glorify product ingredients and their sources. In some cases, it’s brand induced when brands make some of their categories less-attainable by launching their products as a limited edition. Talking about your brand, is there any such factor that makes your products less attainable?

4) Do you sell any ‘Made to Measure’ products on your website?

Made to measure products historically have been signature of luxury – when something is made ‘specially’  for a customer. It makes a customer feel special and worthy.

Made to Order – Offline Service

Made to Order – Online Service


5) Are your products extremely high quality & sustainable?

Premium brands strive to build products that are not only extremely high quality but sustainable too. Luxury products are sold as an asset, an investment. And this quality & sustainability is communicated loudly in the brand communication.

6) Are your products timeless?

Apart from being sustainable, a luxury product should not follow fashion waves.  It is something that remains just as special in the future as it was in the past.

7) Does your brand have a Core Product?

All great luxury brands have a core product category on which they as a Brand remain absolutely focused on. So, while they may sell other things, they master any one product category. This product category itself is the Core Strategy that helps them to not only be sustainable but also relevant to their customers for such a long a time.

For example, Burberry was born from coats more than 150 years ago and it still is their core product today when more than 50% of their revenue comes from selling coats. Another example of Core Product is Louis Vuitton’s luxury bags.

8) Is your brand Narcissist?

Luxury brands talk more about themselves than the benefits to the customer. They glorify the origin, creator, and craftsmanship behind the product & brand. Their brand communication is about the product’s uniqueness and not on how it can benefit the customer. Does your brand reflect Narcissism in your brand communication?

9) Do you sell a dream lifestyle?

Luxury is also an art of creating & selling dreams. It caters to dreams. Where do dreams come from? These dreams come from brainwashing content that these Luxury Brands serve to their potential customers.

For example – People buy a piece of a Jet Set LifeStyle from Michael Kors which they heavily promote in the Promotion Campaigns.


This is an image of the kind of what we think about Michael Kors. Our advertising tends to be, what we call WWW or wings, wheels, and water. We are a very aspirational brand. This is obviously the water view, but this is the image of what we want people to think about for Michael Kors.
Joe Parsons – Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, COO & Treasurer at Michael Kors

10) Do you offer extremely good customer service?

All customers expect good customer service; but when they buy luxury, they expect the customer service to be extraordinary. Their customer service expectations are directly proportional to the money they have spent to acquire the luxury.

So, as you can see from the list of questions above, Luxury brands & products have some common DNA pattern. 

1) HeritageDoes your brand have a Heritage?
2) InnovationDo you have an innovative design?
3) AttainabilityIs there any such factor that makes your products less attainable?
4) BespokeDo you sell any ‘Made to Order’ products on your website?
5) High QualityAre your products extremely high quality & sustainable?
6) TimelessAre your products timeless?
7) Core ProductDoes your brand have a Core Product?
8) NarcissismIs your brand Narcissist?
9) DreamDo you sell a dream lifestyle?
10) Customer ServiceDo you offer extremely good customer service?

Take a moment and rate your brand on the above traits. It can give you a better idea of the areas in which you as a Brand need to integrate into your website’s user experience (products, website design, copywriting, pictures etc).


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