The Silk Rush: Life’s Little Luxuries Burgeon In A Challenging Economic Climate

When bonuses are cut and income is not quite so disposable consumers are turning to the smaller luxuries in life to spoil themselves with an extravagant treat. It’s a trend we’re seeing at Fox & Rose as customers choose to invest in higher value luxury lingerie pieces over functional everyday underwear. Opting for a sumptuous flash of leavers lace coupled with top quality silks designed by the likes of Stella McCartney and La Perla as opposed to traditional high street brands has provided a much needed pick me up in recent times for British women.

I like to call it the Silk Rush. During the 2001 recession Leonard Lauder, then chairman of Estée Lauder, noticed a similar trend and coined the phrase “The Lipstick Effect”, when he noted that during periods of crisis consumers still liked to treat themselves. However rather than purchasing more expensive clothing they turned to the all important lipstick to lift their mood.

The Financial Times recently covered the phenomenon in an article entitled “Fancy Pants”, quoting my theory that designer lingerie was the new ‘lipstick effect’ for 2012. Worn closest to the skin, good underwear can make or break an outfit. Lift or dampen the mood. Be that frivolous gift without tipping into debt.

In gloomy financial times it’s the smaller luxuries that come into their own as consumer spending is cut in most all other sectors. From the weekly food shop through to the luxury car market, as belts are tightened spending is squeezed. However the lingerie sector is bucking the trend again as it continues to outperform it’s sister sectors. When asked by a Monocle journalist to explain the psychology behind the trend, I thought at length about why this could be and have come to the conclusion that, among other factors including the ‘silk rush effect’ explained above, 2 overriding elements were influencing the luxury lingerie market:

1) Choosing to say at home over going out: the ‘staycation’. Dining at home instead of a restaurant. Nights in over nights on the town. During a recession people spend more time at home. And with it, they look to accessorise accordingly. Hence the success of meal deals by all top supermarket chains. Services catered specifically for home entertaining. And, of course, looking good while lounging in the house. If you’re not spending on Oscar worthy dresses for events, why not splash out a little extra on designer underwear to look spectacular at home?

2) British women are catching up with their European counterparts in the lingerie department. Once the domain of Marks & Spencers, underwear shopping has changed forever in the UK now with the arrival of smaller brands, M&S competitors and a slew of newcomers to the market which was once (and in fact still is) presided over by the high street chain. British women are paying more attention than ever to wardrobe detail. Why invest in a super glamourous suit or dress, knowing that underneath is a 5 year old faded underwear set?

I spoke with some very inspirational women at a recent DLDwomen conference in Munich. Many of them agreed that wearing the right underwear could make them feel more powerful, confident or lift their mood in the same way as going to the hairdresser would.

To end I re-quote Martin McCarthy, Worth’s business developer, who said of the trend: “I don’t think it’s about men, it’s about women wanting to feel good.” I couldn’t agree more.

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