Gap turns to big name designer for small customers

Mara Zepeda Mar 15, 2012

Tess Vigeland: High-end designers have partnered with mass market stores for years. Target started the trend back in the early 2000s with Isaac Mizrahi. Fast forward to last fall and the craze over affordable collections from Missoni, and more recently, Jason Wu; Nanette Lepore is partnering with JC Penney; you can find Jimmy Choo and Versace at H&M. Now, GapKids and babyGap are jumping on the trend with a collection by Diane von Furstenberg at 240 stores around the country.

Mara Zepeda takes a look at the retail battle for the youngest fashionistas.

Mara Zepeda: The line launches today. But one store in Los Angeles had it a bit early. And Karla Frieders was there, clutching a heap of tiny clothes.

Zepeda: Tell me what you have in your hands.

Frieders: Anything really. I’m looking for any little girl that I know. I don’t even have kids, but I always love when these brands do these collaborations with designers ’cause I feel like you get that designer feel — but it’s like at affordable prices for everybody. So I think it’s great.

Frieders spent more than $300 on von Furstenberg merchandise. Everything from bathing suits and leggings to mini versions of the designer’s signature wrap dresses. That, says Art Peck, the president of Gap North America, is one of the main reasons the company is collaborating with Diane von Furstenberg.

Peck: Both of us obviously have a commercial interest in this as well. She’s in it to make money and so are we.

The collection is just for little girls. But the idea, says Peck, is that it will also appeal to the real consumers: their moms.

Jamie Katz is an equity analyst with Morningstar. She says building a mother/daughter bond to a specific brand is a growing trend.

Jamie Katz: It builds an interesting kind of brand loyalty when you have kids in the mix that young. If have 8 year olds wearing this, children will start becoming familiar with the brand very early on and then will likely stay with it when they have the ability to make their own decisions.

And Gap could use some shopper staying power. The company has been struggling for years through an endless stream of management shake-ups, store redesigns and merchandise makeovers. It’s early yet, but here in L.A. the generational approach seems to be working.

Deborah Brehe is shopping with her daughter and two granddaughters.

Deborah Brehe: You know, generationally I think it’s fun that I was able to say to them “I used to have a Diane von Furstenberg dress.” so that was fun for me and for them too.

And Brehe has something else in common with her 6-year-old granddaughter Lily.

Brehe: I think when I bought my wrap dress in the ’60s, I think it was about $89, which was a lot of money.

The price tag on that white eyelet DVF wrap dress Lily picked out? $75.

In Los Angeles, I’m Mara Zepeda for Marketplace.

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