What’s in a meme? A look at Gucci’s newest ad campaign

Anyone who uses social media is familiar with the concept of memes. But, no one expected to see memes created and published by an esteemed high-end retailer in lieu of a traditional ad campaign.

According to Google, a meme is “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” Earlier this month, luxury brand Gucci began utilizing memes to advertise their newest campaign, dubbed #TFWGucci. (For those of you who are not social media savvy, “TFW” is an acronym meaning “the feel when.”)

A scroll through Gucci’s Instagram profile (@gucci) reveals a slew of popular memes repurposed and aimed at its luxury consumers. Many followers were slightly shocked to see Gucci’s memes on their Instagram feeds.

After all, “it’s kind of a well-known fact that the fashion world, particularly the luxury goods industry, has been slow to adopt technology. And then it moved at a snail’s pace to get on social media,” according to Dash Hudson, a company that focuses on Instagram return on investment (ROI) for many big-name brands.

“Luxury labels have been getting by on these platforms thanks to name recognition, but as Instagram evolves and various content trends come and go, it is indeed becoming increasingly imperative for them to start shifting their thinking toward devising social-first strategies.”

By implementing this unique strategy, Gucci instantly set itself apart from its competitors, who do not keep up with social media content trends, such as memes.

“A lot of luxury brands don’t really appear to have a concise social strategy in place and just go about it according to their HQ’s marketing activities,” Dash Hudson continues.

Luxury fashion brands tend steer clear of mainstream trends, on social media or otherwise, in order to maintain their aloof, exclusive personas. So, it is no surprise that it came as, well, a surprise, with the Italian fashion house took on the quirky trend full-force.

[source: Dash Hudson]
The second post of Gucci’s entire meme campaign features a watch showing through a torn suit sleeve, captioned “When you got that new watch and have to show it off.”

With an engagement rate of 1.34 percent, according to Dash Hudson, this post sits in second place among the Gucci account’s top 4 highest performing posts of all time–second only to another #TFWGucci post. The third and fourth place posts are not associated with this campaign.

Gucci’s highest performing post of all-time, by a margin of .21 percent, is a close-up shot of a female model adorned with what appears to be Gucci-inspired temporary tattoos. Her hand and face are covered in drawn-on tags: an Instagram feature used to identify who’s who in a given picture.

“The top 2 memes from the campaign actually became [Gucci’s] top 2 most engaged posts of all-time, dethroning [a snapshot of] the Obamas,” according to Dash Hudson.

[source: Dash Hudson]
Followers are obviously responding well to this unconventional ad campaign, but, like the old phrases says, no good deed goes unpunished. Or, in this case, uncriticized. Fashion enthusiasts all over the world took to social media (of course) to speak out on Gucci’s new campaign.

“I’m not upset that Gucci is making memes now. I’m upset because the memes are bad,” @robesman writes via Twitter.

“These Gucci memes are not funny [and] really not relatable,” adds @erikabowes.

“I’m sure it sounded dope when they were brainstorming, but Gucci’s meme campaign is one of the lamest things I’ve ever seen,” @Sipho_Says writes.

Still, some fans of the brand are unsure how they feel about its new ad campaign.

“Gucci made itself a meme account, and I can’t decide if I love it or hate it,” @rubykburns tweets.

Exploring the garment gap: why high fashion brands sell more accessories than clothes

If you take a walk on any college campus, you will notice one thing for certain: a plethora of young women who tote designer handbags and trek in name-brand shoes, yet sport low-end loungewear in terms of clothing. And, it is no accident that a large percentage of young women dress this way. Their style, or lack thereof, is evidence of the garment gap: the phenomenon in which luxury clothing brands sell exponentially more accessories than actual garments.

“For me [producing every single look from the runway for retail] is absolutely necessary,” Dries Van Noten told The Talks in 2015.

Per The Fashion Law, the Belgian designer’s sentiment “sheds light on his ongoing resistance to conforming to a larger practice in the fashion industry,” i.e., “brands’ reliance on the sales of non-runway–and in many cases, non-garment–goods to derive the majority of their profits.”

There is no question that many big-name designers (think: Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent) sell more handbags, shoes, even makeup and fragrance than they do clothing. In fact, “leather goods represent over 50 percent of the €7.9 billion that the conglomerate’s luxury division earned in revenue for the 2015 fiscal year,” while “ready-to-wear accounted for only 16 percent,” according to The Fashion Law.

“At Louis Vuitton–by far LVMH’s most valuable and recognizable brand, accounting for no less than one-third of total group sales and almost half of its profit–bags play a significant role,” The Fashion Law Continues.

“[Louis Vuitton’s] current roster of bags and related accessories includes upwards of 850 products,” while “shop-able womenswear collections consist of just over 380 products.”

To anyone with fair reasoning skills, it may seem pretty pointless, for lack of a better term, for luxury fashion brands to design clothes anymore. After all, both the amount of effort and the cost of putting together just one fashion show are extremely high. But, high fashion has never been logical or practical–quite the opposite, in fact. The Fashion Law lists two major reasons high-fashion brands continue to show garments on the runway, despite the fact they never make the transition to retail:

“The first [is] that runway garments are simply not meant to represent marketable items but instead, serve a different purpose.”

“One could argue that modern day couture and ready-to-wear shows, in many cases, are more akin to large scale marketing events for brands–for the purpose of enabling and/or maintaining lucrative licensing deals–than buying opportunities for clients.”

When you think this through, it actually makes a lot of sense in today’s society. Fashion shows once served as buying opportunities for clients, as The Fashion Law states, but today, Fashion shows are more like pseudo-events. That is, they exist purely for publicity.

Chanel Fall/Winter 2017/2018 at Paris Fashion Week, March 2017 [source: Fashionisers]
“Over-the-top shows serve as an opportunity for brands to market themselves as luxury fashion brands,” The Fashion Law continues, bringing us to the second reason.

“The second reason centers on the tactic of putting runway garments on the back-burner in favor of brands more strongly pushing runway accessories and derivatives thereof–namely, bags and sometimes, shoes, [as well as] watered down garments, as these have proven to be key sources of income for brands.”

Plainly, this means clothes just aren’t selling for most high-end designers.

“For luxury brands, it is about licensing and handbags with nearly everything else taking the form of marketing,” according to The Fashion Law.

Thanks to Paris-based brands like Saint Laurent and Vetements, “the most recent rise of ‘it’ items…are not limited to bags.” Ultimately, when it comes to Saint Laurent, you think biker jackets, not purses. And, when it comes to Vetements, you think hoodies, sweats and activewear–definitely not handbags.

“Hoodies, bomber jackets, statement jeans and other eye-catching garments have taken center stage in street style shots, in Gucci stores, in editorials and elsewhere.”

But, this is a rarity and, not to mention, an extremely new phenomenon in the fashion industry.

“Most runway pieces never get produced. They’re marketing exercises. The legacy brands aren’t in the fashion business anymore. They’re selling handbags and lipstick,” Cameron Silver, founder of Decades, the posh Los Angeles vintage clothing store, told The Daily Beast last year.

Saint Laurent Fall/Winter 2017/2018 at Paris Fashion Week, February 2017 [source: Fashionisers]
“According to a report released by Exane BNP Paribas, accessories– namely, handbags–dominate in the luxury market. They represent one of the few categories with high sales densities and full-price sell-through rates,” according to The Fashion Law.

“As of 2016, they account for almost 30 percent of the total global luxury market, up from just 18 percent in 2003.”

So, why isn’t high fashion selling?

Silver has an answer: “Luxury brands have alienated the luxury customer.”

“Bloggers and celebrities, who either borrow or get clothes free, have replaced paying customers in the hearts, minds and front rows of fashion’s nabobs,” according to The Daily Beast.

Blogger Jetset Justine carries a Neverfull by Louis Vuitton and wears sunglasses by Ray-Ban [source: jetsetjustine.com]
“Runway clothes are made for magazines or loans,” Silver continues.

“Customers are low on the totem pole and they’re starting to rebel. It started in the mid-’90s with the red carpet and celebrities. Who wants to pay $250,000 for a couture dress they’ve seen loaned to some actress six months earlier?”

But, it’s not only couture that is failing to sell. Fast fashion has also taken its toll on ready-to-wear sales.

“Thanks to the Internet, [ready-to-wear] is also now instantly over-exposed,” writes The Daily Beast.

“By the time it’s in stores, it looks tired,” says Silver.

“The quirkiness of luxury, the artisanal experience, has largely been lost.”

Bloggers Chiara Ferragni and Aimee Song, among others, sit front row at Tommy Hilfiger’s Fall 2015 fashion show [source: runwaynewsroom.tommy.com]

Louis Vuitton x Supreme collab reinforces idea that high fashion needs streetwear

Last month famed French fashion house Louis Vuitton debuted its highly anticipated collaboration with streetwear brand Supreme. The high fashion label–which is known predominantly for its signature luggage–included six handbags, a backpack, a messenger bag and a holdall in its Fall/Winter 2017 collaborative menswear collection with the Manhattan-based subculture clothier.

Streetwear staples like denim baseball jerseys, jackets and scarves, emblazoned with a mix of Louis Vuitton and Supreme logos, turned heads as they casually made their way down the catwalk, according to fashionista.com.

Other noteworthy garments included oversized sweaters, sport coats and trousers, as well as clean-looking sneakers, eye-catching keychains and various styles of outerwear. As it is a fall/winter collection, many of the looks featured several layers of both solid and printed pieces, in fresh, muted hues. Pops of candy apple red and bright white added a youthful vibe that did not overpower an otherwise neutral color palette.

While the fashion show itself took place in Paris, Vogue claims it was a “celebration of the style of New York in all its artistic, eclectic, sybaritic, and liberated variousness” that was “inspired by the artists and parties that have shone brightly in the city…crammed with elegantly expressed underground references.”

In other words, Louis Vuitton’s quality craftsmanship and timelessness took the form Supreme’s alternative style–and vice versa–without a single comprise to either brands’ distinct aesthetic. Think: Parisian artistry with a New York attitude.

Also extremely popular over the past several months is Vêtements’ Thrasher hoodie, a hybrid of another French luxury brand and a San Francisco-based skater magazine. In terms of entirely collaborative collections, however, Vêtements worked with Champion to design high fashion sweats and activewear. Ranging in price from $540 to $810 on NET-A-PORTER, it is safe to say these pieces are meant to be worn anywhere but the gym.

In addition to buzz-worthiness (high fashion/streetwear collabs are big this year!), Louis Vuitton x Supreme has plenty of longevity. For one reason, it’s actually wearable. Runway styles often get a bad rap for being impractical, but Louis Vuitton x Supreme is the complete opposite. It maintains street style ease and comfort without jeopardizing a luxurious, high fashion feel.

The collection also draws in a ton of attention from teens and young adults, who typically favor streetwear over high fashion. If runway designers want to remain relevant in a society consumed by fast fashion, collaborating with streetwear brands may be the way to go.

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