The high-end French designer brand, Yves Saint Laurent, was first introduced to me when I was a young girl. I still remember the day I tried to put on my mother’s Opium YSL fragrance when she was getting ready to go out. Being attracted first to the bottle of the perfume and then, of course, the scent, I have been wearing this fragrance everyday ever since. The label was first founded in 1961 by Yves Henri Donat Matthieu-Saint Laurent, who passed away from brain cancer in 2008, and his partner Pierre Berge. In similarity to Louis Vuitton’s abbreviation “LV,” the brand was easily recognized by its initial “YSL.” It has been a true fashion icon globally over the years. After Hedi Slimane has taken over the new directorship in 2012, Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) has shortened the label’s name to Saint Laurent Paris (SLP). Offering lines both for women and men the brand now produces ready-to-wear collections, handbags, leather goods, shoes, accessories, makeup as well as fragrance.
Saint Laurent said his goal was “not just to make women beautiful, but to reassure them and give them confidence”. Throughout the years, Saint Laurent designed endless “hot” items for all seasons. Some articles were known for their longevity and would not be out of trend. This is one major reason why customers choose luxury goods over low-end brands. There are a number of stores and websites people can visit and make purchase. Thanks to the rapid growth of Internet, online shopping has made it easier and more convenient for customers to shop. Not to mention, it is easy to find Saint Laurent under feature designer in high fashion websites such as Neiman Marcus, Net-a-Porter and Saks Fifth Avenue.
The official SLP website has made it easier for customers to search for particular items. The website divided collections into different categories. Such categories including “Spring Summer 15 – New Collection”, “Psych Rock Collection”, “The Permanent Collection”, “Gifts for her” etc. However, it took a while for customers to get used to the new name “SLP” and its new edgy style of collections. I remember a salesman told me that the bag I was checking out was going to be the very last design of YSL. In other words, the new line would no longer design the same bag. The style of Saint Laurent Paris collections was gradually adjusted by Hedi Slimane, who used to be in charge of SLP men’s wear. In comparison, a brand new image has shifted to a younger market and different looks.
SLP has a specific target audience. It is upper class customers who are able to afford expensive items. For example, SLP handbags have a price range from $1000 to $3000. During the last season, SLP was popular for designing the Sac de Jour tote. It has received the most positive feedback and had very good sales. Made of smooth grained calfskin leather the Sac de Jour shoulder handbag has a Saint Laurent logo at flap front and a protective metal feet at base; inside there are several slip pockets. The SLP Sac de Jour tote is a hit for several reasons. First, it comes in three sizes, which are big, medium and small; second, it comes into many different colors, which increases its attractiveness to various customers; third, the bag design gives a hint at the Hermes’ iconic Birkin bag but of much lower price; fourth, it has a long strap so women can carry it in different ways. The bag was definitely a hot pick for the last season.
Celebrities loved it too and they carried it in different sizes and colors. For example, Rosie Huntington Whiteley was captured on a casual day wearing a medium size black SLP Sac de Jour tote. Hilary Duff was seen wearing a medium size one in red on an outing with her son. Angelina Jolie keeps carrying a beige number with all black outfits. Jessica Alba travels with a big size one in red. Saint Laurent did not have to try hard to create a big exposure to its target audiences. The SLP Sac de Jour tote has already raised a lot of attentions. After being extensively used by celebrities, it has attracted many customers to buy the product. Due to many choices in size and color, it attracted various customers with different style and taste. Some like dark colors, which are easy to wear. Some like neon colors, which allow it to pop up if paired with neutral outfits. Therefore, it did not come as a surprise that SLP sales were great during the last season. I have known people who wanted to purchase the bag because their friends had bought it. There can be a huge influence from friends in terms of what they buy and what they use. The reason that customer want to buy the same bag as their friends could be that they want to gain identity to the group and to be alike even though they may not like the item that much. With a large number of sales, a purchaser for department stores such as Barneys New York is likely to buy more from the designer. The SLP Sac De Jour bag has created a lot of positive and negative responses on the Internet among bloggers. On the forum discussing the SLP Sac De Jour bag one blogger quipped, “It’s too much Birkin wanna be,” whereas another replied, “I don’t think it will ever come near a Birkin, but it is a nice bag I have to say I do like it…”. Although it was criticized for being Birkin lookalike, many bag-obsessed ladies received it nonetheless.
In terms of commercial advertisement, traditional mass media such as television are not as much effective for Saint Laurent as fashion magazines because the audience is too diffused and the brand is not able to influence its target audience of financially well-off people. Saint Laurent has a strong presence in fashion publications such as Vogue, Elle, and others. Targeting its audience is efficient in places where potential or existing customers may occur. To this effect, billboards in fashionable areas of megapolices can promote the brand extensively. Cooperation with large fashion website such as Style.com is effective.
There are many communication channels design brands could use. Saint Laurent has Facebook and Pinterest accounts, which are important markers for luxury brands. Being strongly present on Twitter, with Saint Laurent having 2.32 million followers and Salimane 49.2 thousand, Saint Laurent is surprisingly absent from Instagram, an extremely popular communication channel. The reason why Instagram has been popular is because it is easy and convenient to use. Sometimes, pictures can tell everything. In addition, you can add captions and hash tags to your posts. The reason I mention about Instagram is because there are some few popular fashion bloggers who are followed by millions people. I am going to talk about Chiara Ferragni, an Italian blogger who has done a broad array of fashion collaborations with leading designers. There are many pictures of her carrying Sac De Jour bag in different settings. Her blog was named the Best Personal Style blog. Another fashion blogger is Chriselle Lim from Korea. She is known as a top fashion expert on YouTube and a creator of the popular style blog The Chriselle Factor. She also carries Sac De Jour bag in her pictures. The fact that Chiara is a Westerner and Chriselle is an Asian allows both of them to attract different followers and gain a larger exposure for the brand. There are many sharing and people can tag their friends to see the picture on Instagram. Many users like to post what items they use as well as their outfit of the day. The hash tag for outfit of the day is “#ootd”. On Instagram, users get to see a lot from what their friends or strangers buy and use. Therefore, designer brands are able to raise a larger exposure in this case. As I have mentioned, the fact that Chiara and Chriselle are of different nationalities means that there is no difference among cultures as to which bag to use.
Apart from the popularity of Sac De Jour bag, Saint Laurent has created a numerous hit items that many customers like. For example, the Saint Lauren Classic Tribute 105 Sandal has been well known for many years. They are pairs of classic and signature sandals. The reason for its popularity is similar to the Sac De Jour bag. There are many colors including dark and light as well as different materials due to different seasons. They also come in different heights, which are suitable for different customers. It has been well known for how comfy they are. I personally have bought four pairs of these because they are the most comfy sandals I have ever had. They are suitable for different occasions e.g. daytime vs. nighttime. These sandals can never be outdated. The latest new colors are grey and red. YSL is also famous for its lipstick and lip-gloss. It has received many positive reviews on the Internet. Lately, in a popular Korean drama “You who came from the stars”, the main character put on lipstick 52, which raised a crazy amount of her fans to buy the lipstick. Lipstick 52 was shortly lack of supply. It was on the newspaper and many people have heard about it.
Apart from the traditional marketing channels such as free giveaways to celebrities and advertisements in mass media, Slimane engages his own interest in music and photography. The SLP website informs about it on its front page under the heading “Saint Laurent Music Project” enlisting a list of musicians the company collaborates with such as Joni Mitchel, Daft Punk, Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson to name a few photographed by Salimane in black and white mode. The logic behind this decision is obvious: “who would sell luxury leather jackets better than a bad boy playing guitar?”. The stores and the official website received a new design as well. It is streamlined and minimalistic in black and white colors.
Saint Laurent has surely gained a huge success in different ways with numerous of popular items. Staying in the same high-end segment of the market on par with Chanel, Valentino, and Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent has moved toward more edgy and modern style changing its whole marketing strategy accordingly.