We are believers in Michael Silverstein's Trading Up, Trading Down: The New American Luxury when it comes to the spending habits of the aspirational middle market in which he posits that upper middle market consumers scrimp on basics to buy aspirational goods like handbags. But in our current climate the middle market that has sustained the boom of mass merchandised luxury diffusion goods is at an end. Of course, luxury consumers still exist as the rich are still nominally rich.
With that in mind we wonder where does J.Crew stand with its new luxury J.Crew Collection? We personally think it will do just fine. It isn't the sort of collection that the middle upper market would aspire to anyway as they go for the more obvious status symbols. That market is not going to be buying as many Coach bags. But people that appreciate good design and still have the means to purchase it exist. And we see no reason that they wouldn't seek it out at J. Crew or any other retailer that focuses on quality. Educated consumers of luxury do not decide on brand alone. Special well designed products from a big company that is trading up seems tricky but we trust that J.Crew can make it work.