Luxury Brands on LSU’s Campus

Andrew Hendrickson, Kennedi Edney. Collin Gelpi. Alyssa Mulligan

To many students on LSU’s campus, the luxurious brands of clothing they wear every day projects wealth or status.  Athletes around campus earn celebrity status through their positive performance for their respective teams, therefore they influence clothing trends across campus. Pictured in Figure 1: Devin White, Arkansas Game Day, Devin sports a Gucci Belt, a very common trend on campus at LSU. The image, taken from and Instagram post, represents the social media influence athletes have on campus. Although often forgotten, LSU athletes are students when they are off the field. Their celebrity status often fades as they grow older and hang up their uniforms, should they not be fortunate enough to continue their athletic careers professionally. Many athletes simply express a sense of wealth in order to meet the expectations of those who look up to them. Although college athletes influence style on campus, many students look to other sources for influence, like national social media. Celebrity influence on style is vast, yet the motivation for their style choices differs from LSU athletes. Celebrities wear designer brands as an endorsement for the brands themselves, promoting an exuberant lifestyle that appeals to college students. Luxury brands appeal to human desire to display status, but many companies such as Gucci appeal to consumers for the brand logo printed across the product. The quality of the materials they use have little influence on many consumers purchasing such products, because the recognition of the brand itself on the clothing fulfills the feeling of status.  As students continue to spend money on expensive luxury items, the feeling of prominence remains associated with these items. Social media and celebrities influence younger consumers by associating particular brands with status and influence. Others wear these clothes because they believe the cost linked with them ensures a quality product made with finer materials. This is often the case, but many high-cost clothing brands rely on the name itself to create value for customers. Often, a large following of young people gravitate towards trends set forth by wealthy or famous people. This comes from a desire for them to feel as though they share the same social status as their fashion influences. Although it seems as if this trend eliminates individuality, the limited quantity and high cost of the luxury products creates a niche market for wealthier clientele. Often, lavish brands transcend time through their storied histories of producing the finest products for the wealthiest people. The brands many people’s grandparents may have purchased 30 or 40 years ago remain symbols of affluence and social hierarchy.

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Figure 1: Devin White, Arkansas Game Day

Wearing designer brands didn’t always appear as often as it does in today’s society. The trend of wearing designer brands began in the late 1970s and the early 1980s when people began to wear designer jeans that sold for excessive amounts compared to what a plain pair of Levis sold for. For example, there was a brand called Sticky Fingers that sold jeans for $29.00 in the late 1970s and Levis sold their jeans for $13.50 (Lowbrow). The brands were recognizable because the designer’s label was visible and part of the clothing item. In today’s society, there are many students on this campus that wear specific brands to keep up with the fashionable trends. Some of the brands we see on campus are Gucci, Hermes, and Lululemon. Gucci originated in Florence, Italy and founded by Guccio Gucci in 1920. The first Gucci store opened in 1921 on Via Vigna Nuova and then later Via del Parione.  Compared with Gucci’s beginning, the style of their products differs from the way they are today. Beginning with the design of the bag having the classic red and green colors with the double G interlocking logo, to the classic double G interlock print handbag, to the Bamboo type print which became popular during the war because it was easily imported to Italy, the Gucci brand serves as a symbol of wealth and status throughout history. In present day, Gucci has branched out into selling bold and bright colors along with extremely new neon age styling. Their bags come with unique prints of floral sprouts and pastel colors. While keeping the double G interlock style on the bag, they have added plants and birds as well. Now they make clothing and shoes for men and women that have become popular in society today. Hermes was established in 1837 by Thierry Hermes as a harness workshop. He created some of the best harness’s but over time, the company developed into one of the most famous saddlery retailers and began to sell leather bags to feed horses. After the launch of the first leather bag, they then introduced women’s couture apparel, a silk scarf which became a huge hit with celebrities and launched a perfume line. In recent years, they entered the luxury belt market and created serious competition for companies like Gucci. Lululemon was founded by Chip Wilson in Vancouver, Canada in 1998. It is a yoga- inspired apparel company for women and men. In November of 2000, it became a standalone store on West 4th Avenue in Vancouver’s Kitsilano. The first design was intended for women to wear during yoga. After getting feedback from guests, ambassadors and elite athletes, they now design for yoga, running, cycling, training and most other athletic activities pursued by women and men. Figure 2: Early Lululemon Retail Store displays the welcoming environment of their stores that helps to draw in younger clientele and continue growing the business.

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Figure 2:  Early Lululemon Retail Store

The quality of the materials used in clothing can be a key part of what separates the luxury brands from the generic ones. Customers tend to associate the material quality of clothes with things like durability, class, and style. For example, a brand like Gucci is well known for their genuine Italian leather. Gucci began in Florence in the early 1920s where it started out making luggage and horse-riding gear (Hill). The company has established a name for itself by continuously producing high quality, and genuine goods and their prices equally reflect their quality. Some vendors try to take capitalize on this by producing a fake or knock-off product that imitates that of the actual luxury brands, while still charging the same high price, but “Imitators generally produce imitations of the original that are obviously imperfect” (Barnett 1383). Figure 3: Real vs. Fake Gucci Logo shows a comparison between a genuine and a knock-off Gucci bag.  Focusing on very minute details such as the angles and depths of thread patterns, knockoff vendors will go to great lengths to try to convince consumers of their legitimacy. On the more generic side of the market, a leather jacket from a big retailer like Target won’t claim to be genuine leather at all. Typically, large retailers will use faux leather. Since faux leather is a much cheaper synthetic imitation of leather made up of mostly fabric and wax, it is cheaper for both the retailer and the customer, and still gives off the same look and feel of genuine leather. This example is a clear separation of luxury from generic brands. However, some brands considered to be “luxurious” are not different from their generic counterparts in terms of materials.  Lululemon, a company that specializes in women’s activewear, is considered one of the top luxury brands for things athleisure. They charge about ninety-eight dollars for a pair of yoga pants. Some people claim that their clothing is more comfortable than a cheaper brand’s alternative. Lululemon uses their own specially branded material known as Luon to make most of their active wear. Luon is a material made of  “86 percent nylon and 14 percent Lycra” (Bhasin). However, Gap Inc.’s Athleta brand of yoga pants uses “88% nylon and 12 % Lycra” (Peterson). They are not infringing on the Luon trademark because technically the material ratio is different, but the slight difference between that and Lululemon pants would not be detected by customers. In terms of price, they charge twenty dollars less than Lululemon for a pair. Still, many customers are willing to spend more money on the yoga pants that are made of virtually the same thing. This shows that it’s not always the material that makes a product luxury, but sometimes just the name itself is enough to separate one company from the rest.

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Figure 3: Real vs. Fake Gucci Logo

Celebrity influence and social media have shaped how students perceive brands by displaying their favorite athlete, singer, or model wearing and suggesting it will raise their social status.  Brands gain popularity when a celebrity is photographed wearing the designers’ logos. Social media has only escalated the power of celebrity influence as now the pictures are seen on timelines and liked thousands of times. In the 21st century, students are more acceptable to influence as apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat increases the amount of pictures celebrity and their peers alike post. As shown in Figure 4: Kim Kardashian West, Wearing a Hermes Belt, celebrities are photographed wearing designer brands which make most people start to associate the brand with high social status.

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Figure 4: Kim Kardashian West, Wearing a Hermes Belt

Kardashian West has over a hundred million Instagram followers, so a single picture of her wearing a brand name item is enough to make it trendy. The constant social media posting makes designer brands even more desirable as they have become a way to brag to their peers about their influence and affluence.  Women are more likely to wear luxury brands because they want to “self-promote” themselves and compete with other women (Mehta). The competitiveness of social media has brought a new wave of popularity to designer brands. Companies like Hermes, Gucci, and Supreme flaunt their logo on all their items because they know that consumers admire and want to show off the label. Designer brands with flashy logos give their customers the desired effect of bragging to others about their clothes, shoes, and other items. Almost everything nowadays can have a designer label as students can show off with their bookbags, jackets, shirts, belts, purses, shoes, and pants and demonstrate that they have wealth (Johnson). Men and women alike are influenced by celebrities and athletes in their outfit choices whether they are trying to compete or attract others. Designer brands have become trendier as it is easier to see what others are wearing through social media. Photographs of celebrities and so-called style icons wearing a certain brand or holding a bag of clothes has the potential to skyrocket a company. In Figure 5: Kate Middleton, Carrying a Lululemon Bag, Middleton, a member of the British Royal Family, has the affluence to make a brand and clothing trendy.

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Figure 5: Kate Middleton, Carrying a Lululemon Bag

On college campuses, it is clear what is trendy as there are no school uniforms, so students wear what they believe will raise their social status. In each classroom, someone can pick out the trends of the time as most men and women will be following it. Brands like Lululemon, Patagonia, and Supreme are visible in almost every college classroom as they have become trendy. Trendy items constantly are changing, but most designer brands have stayed affluent as they stay relevant with celebrity endorsements and paparazzi photos. Luxury brands have become the trend through the rise of social media and the celebrity.

Luxurious clothing and accessories maintain popularity through celebrity influence and a quality appearance. Social media influences people from many age groups, but specifically younger people. As students continue their education and eventually graduate, the desire for social status will remain an important part of many people’s lives. But it must be noted that many people will grow to define themselves through the joy of family and friends rather than a wealthy appearance. By developing a stronger sense of self-identity, they will create a personal style less influenced by outside sources. But quality products that maintain their value and appearance over the span of many years hold a strong grip on the clothing and accessories market.

Works Cited

Barnett, Jonathan M. “Shopping for Gucci on Canal Street: Reflections on Status Consumption, Intellectual Property, and the Incentive Thesis.” Virginia Law Review, vol. 91, no. 6, p. 1383, October 2005. JSTOR.

Bhasin, Kim et al. “Here’s What’s So Special About Lululemon’s ‘Luon’ Fabric.” Business Insider, 19 March 2013, businessinsider.com/what-is-luon-2013-3, Accessed 27 November 2018.

Figure 1: Devin White, Arkansas Game Day, Instagram, 20 November 2018.

Figure 2: Lululemon, Lululemon store West 4th Avenue. Lululemon, Web, 30 November 2018.

Figure 3: Real vs. Fake Gucci Logo. Pinterest, Web, 29 November 2018.

Figure 4: Kim Kardashian West, Wearing a Hermes Belt. Pinterest, Web, 28 November 2018.

Figure 5: Kate Middleton, Carrying a Lululemon Bag, People. February 21, 2016. Web. 28 November 2018.

Hill, Diane. “What Is Guccissimo Leather?” LEAFtv, Accessed 27 November 2018

Johnson, Catherine M. et al. “FROM GUCCI TO GREEN BAGS: CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION AS A SIGNAL FOR PRO-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR.” Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice, Vol. 26, no. 4, Fall 2018, pp. 339-356. Academic Search Complete.

Lutz, Ashley “The top 15 apparel brands for millennials” Business Insider, 15 June 2015,   businessinsider.com/top-clothing-brands-for-millennials. Accessed 21 November 2018

Mehta, Vinita. “What Do Your Designer Clothes Say About You?” Psychology Today, 23 June 2014, psychologytoday.com/us/blog/head-games. Accessed 20 November 2018

Peterson, Hayley. “Lululemon’s Pants Aren’t Worth That Much More Than The Competition.” Business Insider, 24 September 2018, businessinsider.com/why-lululemons-pants-are-so-expensive. Accessed 27 November 2018