The evolution of DKNY continues to surprise and baffle many. Since the crew from ultra-hip Public School came on board, the image of the DKNY consumer has dramatically changed, alienating many of its long time customers and media-fans in the process. If the SS17 collection is any indication, Donna Karan's DKNY is dead and buried. The question is, how long are investors willing to wait for a resurrection?
There’s no doubt that Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow of Public School are the cool kids of fashion bringing credibility to what was essentially a mass-market, Mall-brand generating millions in sales from monogrammed merchandise and better-quality-basics. Many complained however, that the brand had become too high fashion with ready-to-wear price points there were out of reach for the average DKNY customer.
While a steady decrease in sales heralded the need for change, the brand’s unceremonious dumping of its long-time consumers and supporters had more of an effect than they perhaps anticipated. Overnight DKNY’s revolutionary, award-winning social media channels — run by former SVP of Global Communications for Donna Karan International Aliza Licht was killed off — so too was the goodwill she had spent decades creating with editors, bloggers and consumers.
Overnight the legacy brand that had spent millions in advertising, outreach and marketing to be seen as your “new best friend” became that bitch-at-the-club-who-says-you’re-not-on-the-list. Media who engaged with the brand daily, now received radio silence. Editors who had covered the shows for years were no longer cool enough to attend. While this may have been the clean cut DKNY was after, its impatience to rebuild and shape the next generation soon showed.
Despite the need for innovation, there is power in a legacy brand, just ask LVMH who bought DKNY’s trademark for $450 million in 2000 and sold it for $650 million soon after the duo came on board — a move that seemed to damn the rebrand further.
The new “Yeezy meets Adidas” vibe that Chow and Osbourne have created is a far cry from the DKNY of the past where playful silhouettes and everyday office wear ruled the runway. It’s an attempt to corner a younger target market — a noble goal — the problem is, that target market has grown up in the world of fast fashion. They Instagram an outfit and never wear it again. They look to the runway for trends then purchase from H&M who can churn out replicas faster than you can say “in production.” They are not investing in good quality pieces. They are paying off student loans.
Does that mean DKNY doesn’t need a facelift? Of course not. My point is cool doesn’t necessarily equal commercial success. Loyal customers do. In a world were fashion is owned by investment bankers will Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow be given the time they need to build their market and realize their vision? Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you like or hate the collection, the success of a brand such as DKNY is based upon whether the masses embrace its aesthetic and price point. — ANGELA GILLTRAP