Tuesday, 8 March 2011

D&G diffusion causes confusion

Interesting story on WGSN yesterday about rumours that Italian house Dolce & Gabbana may be considering ditching its diffusion line, D&G, and folding it into its main line.

According to those in the know the secondary line, given its similar name, is often confused with the main collection and the positioning of the two is not distinct enough. See our two pictures from the recent Milan A/W 11/12 shows (D&G is at the top) - the playfulness of the D&G handwriting is certainly present in both, but the Dolce & Gabbana line always remained slightly more sophisticated and tailored. (I recall visiting the D&G London showroom some years ago now to have someone explain to me that you could tell a D&G dress from a Dolce & Gabbana one because the house animal print for D&G was ocelot and not leopard, which seemed a rather subtle difference that could be lost on the customer, particularly as price points at the top end of D&G edge into Dolce & Gabbana territory.)

To compensate for the removal of the D&G line, the plan is apparently to introduce more lower-priced lines to the main line, which they would certainly have to do since D&G (which makes up 45% of sales for the group) is the main wholesale brand and those boutiques that are perfectly positioned to sell the younger line may not be quite so well suited to selling the main line. And, more to the point, would those stores (typically stellar department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Harrods - D&G fell out with Selfridges last year over floor space and is no longer sold there - and premium indies such as Matches) that sell the main line be happy to see all the wholesale accounts pick it up? Given the competition for brands, I'm guessing they may not.

One of the joys of having a second line (or even third like fellow Italian house Moschino) is that you can please a wider wholesale base without having them tread on each other's turf. So doing that juggling with just one will be a challenge.

Significant wholesale accounts for D&G in the UK include independent etailer My-Wardrobe.com and York super-indie Sarah Coggles along with Bernard of Esher in Surrey. Net-a-porter too stocks a wide range but that's one place the main line would certainly look and feel at home.

Despite the issues around positioning, I'll feel quite sad to see D&G go, if that does prove to be its fate. Its menswear show this season was brilliant and its footwear is always strong and accessible from a price perspective. Let's hope for the customers and the retailers that any merging of brands or repositioning works in their favour.

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